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Surface Water

Surface Water Movement

Water Cycle
Earths water supply is recycled in a
continuous process called the water

Water molecules evaporate from a body

of water or the surface of Earth
Condense into cloud droplets
Fall as precipitation back to Earths
Infiltrate the ground

**The cycle repeats

Runoff: water flowing
downslope along Earths surface
Runoff might reach a stream,
river or lake, it might evaporate,
or accumulate as puddles and
infiltrate the ground
For water to enter the ground,
there must be large enough
pores in the soil and rock
Stream: a body of water, confined to a channel, that runs downhill
under the influence of gravity

3 functions of streams:

Goal of a stream is to get water to BASE LEVEL

Lowest erodible point (sea level, resistant rock level)
Stream Systems
Tributaries: rivers that flow into other streams
Example: The Ohio River is a tributary of the
Mississippi River

Watersheds and divides

Watershed: all of the land area whose water drains into a
stream system
Can be large or small

Divide: a high land area that separates one watershed from


In a watershed, the water flows away from the divide, as this

is the high point of the watershed
Stream Load
Stream Load: the material that a stream carries
1. Materials in suspension
- Sediment light enough to be carried by the turbulence of a streams moving
- Silt, clay, & sand size particles
- Rapidly moving water carries larger particles in suspension than slowly moving
2. Bed load
- Large, heavy particles that travel on the streambed
- The faster the water moves, the larger the particles it can carry
3. Materials in solution
- Materials are dissolved in a streams water
Stream Carrying Capacity
Carrying Capacity: the ability of a stream to transport material
Slope, depth, and width all affect the speed and direction the water moves

Discharge: the measure of the volume of stream water that flows past a
particular location within a given period of time
Usually expressed in cubic meters per second (m3/s)

Discharge = average width x average depth x average velocity

As a streams discharge increases, it capacity also increases

Flood: when water spills over the sides of
a streams banks onto the adjacent land
Floodplain: the flat area that extends out
from a streams bank and is covered by
excess water during times of flooding

Floodwater carries along a great amount

of sediment eroded from the stream
As floodwater recedes, the sediment is
deposited and over time accumulates and
creates natural levees
Formation of Levees
Stream Development
Stream Channels
Headwater: the region where water first
accumulates to supply a stream
Usually high in the mountain
Stream Channel: narrow pathway carved into the sediment or rock
by moving water
Channel widens and deepens as more water accumulates
Stream Bank: Sides of channel, holds water within channel
Mouth: the area of the stream that leads into the ocean or
another large body of water
Formation of Stream Valleys
The driving force of a stream is gravity
Energy of a stream comes from the
movements of water downslope
Stream gradient: downhill slope of the streambed
Steep gradient = rapid moving stream
Gradient gradually decreases downstream
Gradient depends of base level
Base level: the elevation at which a stream enters
another stream or body of water
Lowest base level possible is sea level
Stream Development
Supply of Water
Precipitation (rain)
Underground deposits

As a stream develops, it changes in

width and size and shapes the land
over which it flows
Young steams actively erode a
path towards base level
As a stream approaches base
level, it has less energy, so it tends
to erode at the sides of the stream
(broad valleys with gentle slopes)
Stream Erosion
Streams are actively eroding a path through the sediment, and
forming a V-shaped valley
Steep sides
Example: Colorado River & the Grand Canyon

Channel shape and roughness

Anywhere the water touches the channel,
there is friction
Wide or bumpy (more friction) = slower
Steeper or smooth = faster
Types of Streams
1) Straight: narrow channel, high velocity, high erosion, not much
Seen in mountains
Moves large boulders
Types of Streams
2) Braided: wide, shallow channel with bars (deposits of sediment) in
center of stream
Occur in deserts and mountain regions with snow
Types of streams
3) Meandering: narrow, deep channels with pronounced sinuous
Bending and curving in stream channel
Max velocity is in the deepest sections
(located on outside of bend)
Outside of the curve erodes, inside
deposits sediment
Creates cut banks (erodes) and point bars
Meandering Rivers
Meaner cutoff: after enough winding, it is common for a
stream to cut off a meander and flow along a straighter path
Oxbow lake: the blocked-off meander
Stream Deposition
The velocity of a stream determines how much sediment it
can transport
Rapid flowing streams have more energy transport larger
Slow flowing streams have low energy minimal transport, more

Depositional Features:
1. Bars
2. Alluvial Fans
3. Deltas
An elevated region
of sediment (such as sand
or gravel) that has
been deposited by the flow
Bars are typically found in
the slowest moving,
shallowest parts of rivers
and streams, and are often
parallel to the shore
Alluvial Fans A triangle-shaped
deposit of gravel, sand,
and even smaller pieces
of sediment, such as silt
Usually created as
flowing water interacts
with mountains, hills,
or the steep walls of
The triangular deposit
that forms where a
stream enters a large
body of water
Water and sediment
leave the river mouth
and enter slower-
moving or standing
Lake: body of water surrounded by land
Lakes form in different ways in surface depression and in low

Cut-off meanders
Sediment blocks from landslides or other sources
Glacial lakes (glaciers carved out the land during the ice
Moraine dammed lakes
Kettles melted blocks of ice in an outwash plain
An area of land that is covered with water for part of the year

1. Bogs:
- Not stream fed, receive water from precipitation
- Waterlogged, acidic soils

2. Marshes:
- Form along the mouths of streams
- Lush growth of marsh grasses

3. Swamps:
- Low-laying areas located near streams
- Can develop from marshes that are now filled with shrubs and trees
Wetlands and Water Quality
Wetlands play a vital role in
improving water quality
Serve as a filtering system
that traps pollutants,
sediments, and bacteria
contained in water sources
Vital habitat for wildlife
From the late 1700-mid
1980, the US lost about
50% of its wetlands