Impact of Water Cycle Process on Farming

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Life will not exist without water. This is true for all – for plants, animals, and people. The productivity of our land depends on how much water we have, how we use this water, and how many people, plants, and animals it can support. Water cannot be created or destroyed. There is a finite amount of water on the Earth that flows in a cycle. This is commonly known as the water cycle process.

Climate change impacts when, where, and how much water is available on Earth. Subsequently, extreme weather such as heavy precipitation and droughts severely influence the resources of water. There will lead to an increase in the frequency of these extreme conditions of weather. It can cause flooding, lack of adequate water supplies, or water quality degradation.

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All these factors have impacted civilization in the past, and it is assuming threatening proportions. These challenges can affect the usage, economy, energy production, agriculture, human health, transportation, natural ecosystems, national security, and recreation. Therefore, it becomes imperative to understand the Water Cycle process.

What is a Water Cycle Process?

The Water Cycle process is also commonly known as the hydrological cycle. It describes the material water flow throughout our Earth. It has a series of steps explaining how water moves across the Earth and changes various forms.

These steps result in the water circulation between oceans, land, and the atmosphere. The water cycle process involves natural phenomena such as precipitation, runoff, and storage and, finally, returning to the atmosphere.

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The precipitation occurs in rain or snow, and water returns to the atmosphere by evaporation and transpiration. The natural water recycling through various locations on the Earth. Therefore, it means that the amount of water has been more or less constant.

The Constituents of Water Cycle Process

The water cycle process has two primary components in the form of movement and storage. The storage component deals with where water in the system resides as it moves from one water body to another. 

This can be illustrated with an example where water storage in a lake occurs through some movement, like rain. Once the water enters the lake, it stays there for some time in its storage period. Eventually, the water moves out by evaporation into the atmosphere, discharge into a river, or migrate below the surface groundwater system.

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It is vital to note that water changes state from solid to liquid and from liquid to gas. Water requires energy to change its state. The transpiration and evaporation from continents and water from the oceans are critical components of the water cycle process. These involve energy input and a change of state. Since nature follows the law of energy conservation, the energy to fuel this cycle comes from the Sun.

Water Cycle Process – Water Storage

The storage of water in the water cycle process is an essential component. Water storage takes place in three main places: underground, on the surface of the Earth, and the atmosphere.

These water storage areas are collectively termed reservoirs, and they include oceans, lakes, glacier ice, groundwater, rivers, soil moisture, and the atmosphere.

Collectively, all the water storage areas constitute the hydrosphere. Ninety-seven percent of the world’s water is in the oceans in the form of saltwater. As most water is in oceans, it must be seen as the beginning and ending point of the water cycle.

Water starts from the sea evaporates up into the atmosphere, and most of it falls back into the ocean as precipitation. Additionally, a much smaller amount falls onto land as rainfall.

Water transfers from one reservoir to another via various transport mechanisms. However, it can stay in storage for different periods. The water movement can be pretty erratic, and it varies from place to place, but trends are available for how long certain reservoirs retain water.

The average length of time that water remains in any pool is known as the residence time. The moisture in the soil lasts for a couple of months, whereas renewal of water in the atmosphere happens every fortnight.

Water replenishment in lakes happens every 50 to 100 years, whereas groundwater lasts anywhere between 100 years to many centuries. The ice caps hold water for the most prolonged period, with residence times of up to 200000 years.

The geologic features related to the soil and underground rocks present at the storage locations decide the type of storage on the land surface and below the ground.

Water Cycle Process – Water Movement

There are various ways in which water moves across the planet in the water cycle process. All of these different movement methods are essential in maintaining water levels in other locations around the globe.

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Evaporation

The Sun’s rays heat up ponds, oceans, rivers, lakes, and other water bodies. Water evaporates and rises as water vapor into the atmosphere. 97.5% of the Earth’s water is in the ocean. Consequently, a large amount of water enters the atmosphere through evaporation occurring at the ocean’s surface.

Evapotranspiration

When water vapor leaves a vegetated surface, it is usually difficult to distinguish between evaporation from the soil surface and the transpiration from plants. Consequently, these combined processes are commonly termed evapotranspiration.

Impact of Global Temperatures on Water Cycle Process

The Water Cycle process largely depends on the solar energy received by the Earth. Higher temperatures result in higher humidity, more evaporation, and precipitation.

Global warming is significantly affecting the Water Cycle process due to the emissions of greenhouse gases. As a warmer Earth means a moist atmosphere, the Water Cycle process will become more and more intense in the coming years. Subsequently, the precipitation and river flow will increase by 10% to 40% in the tropics.

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Additionally, the forecast points to a precipitation decrease in up to 30% in dry locations. Consequently, floods will become a regular feature in areas with more rain. Simultaneously, droughts will affect the arid regions. There will be an increase in the frequency of hurricanes, and typhoons is very likely to increase.

Role of Water Cycle Process in Farming

Some portion of the precipitation infiltrates into the soil. It is perfectly fine for the rainfall intensity to be more than the infiltration rate of the soil. In such circumstances, the excess precipitation becomes runoff, which is one of the two leading causes of soil erosion.  Hence soil conservation is very important. Not all runoff reaches the ocean.

Some of the runoff evaporates while some are collected in different size impoundments. Some runoff infiltrates into the soil, and the vegetation uses some portion of it. The water used by plants may disappear quickly, or it becomes part of the plant processes. Water can remain in plants for long periods, but it eventually returns to the water cycle. With the use of green technology in agriculture the water usage in farming can be optimized.

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The precipitation that infiltrates into the soil also takes different paths. Some fall on areas of deep soil and percolates deeply into the Earth. Some of the infiltrations may reach an impervious layer close to the surface and starts moving horizontally at a fast pace.

The underground horizontal movement will end at surface water or flow out of the ground as a spring or an artesian well. It may finally land up in the ocean. Horizontal movement through the soil may be prolonged at the rate of few inches per year. Once the water reaches the sea, it gets evaporated by the heat of the Sun, and the cyclic process begins again.

Water Conservation and Water Cycle Process

You can use the water cycle process to explain the importance of the conservation of water. Activities such as dam building and pumping change the direction and amount of the flow of water.

Any amount of the water captured by a dam reduces the amount of water available to downstream users. Subsequently, it changes the amount of water that evaporates into the atmosphere and infiltrates into the soil. Contamination, in the form of silt, chemicals, and so forth, added to the water at one point in the water cycle may remain in the water. This contamination becomes a source of problems for users.

Farming practices may also have negative impacts on water quality. Improper farming methods can increase concentrations of nutrients, fecal coliforms, and sediment loads. Increased nutrient loading from animal waste (or agricultural waste management) will lead to eutrophication of water bodies, eventually damaging the aquatic ecosystem.

Conclusion

Water influences the intensity of climate change and variability. It is the primary cause of extreme events such as floods and drought. Its timely delivery and abundance are crucial for meeting the needs of ecosystems and society.

Water usage for industrial applications, drinking, irrigation, waste disposal, hydropower, and recreation has reached catastrophic proportion. It is imperative to protect our water sources both for the health of ecosystems and human uses.

There is a chronic depletion of water supplies in many areas due to pollution, population growth, and development at an alarming rate. The situation gets worse by variations in climate and changes that affect the water cycle process.

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