Government of New Brunswick
Water Cycle

Water is always moving, wherever it is: through the air, on the earth's surface, or under the ground.

The five stages of the water cycle are noted in the image below. Mouse over each of them or scroll down to learn more.

 
  1. Precipitation: Water falls to earth from the clouds. It may come as rain, hail, sleet, or snow, but all precipitation is water in one shape or another.
  2. Run-off: During the cold winter, most of Canada’s precipitation is stored on the ground as snow and ice. When it melts in the spring, a lot of water is suddenly set free and we can get a heavy run-off of water into the rivers and lakes.
  3. Infiltration: A lot of rainwater (or melted snow) infiltrates or sinks into the ground. The roots of trees and plants take up some of this water; the rest keeps moving downward. The water finds its way into tiny spaces between bits of soil and into the cracks in bedrock.
  4. Condensation: Water vapour rises into the sky and forms clouds. Clouds can travel a long way, blown by the wind, carrying water from one part of the world to another. Sooner or later, though, the water in the clouds will change its form again. Condensation happens when the water vapour cools down and turns into liquid water. Too heavy to stay up in the clouds, the raindrops fall...and the “water cycle” starts all over.
  5. Transpiration/Evaporation: Up on the earth’s surface, the sun heats up the water in puddles, rivers and lakes, and even the surface of the ocean. As water gets warmer, it begins to evaporate into the air as water vapour. Trees and plants give off water vapour, too, through transpiration from their leaves.