Environment Impact of Hydrological Cycle

Environment Impact of Hydrological Cycle (view with images and charts)


The hydrological cycle is usually called a recurring consequence of different forms of movement of water and changes of its physical state on a given area of the Earth. The role of different processes in the hydrological cycle and their description depends on the chosen spatial-temporal scales. The terrestrial hydrological cycle is of special interest as the mechanism of formation of water resources on a given area of the land. The main processes of this cycle include: precipitation; formation of snow cover; snow metamorphosis and formation of ice; melting of snow and ice; interception of precipitation by vegetation cover and storage in land surface depressions; infiltration of water into soil and vertical transfer of soil moisture; evapotranspiration; recharge of groundwater and ground flow; river runoff generation; and movement of water in river channel systems. The global hydrological cycle is produced by water exchange between the atmosphere, the land, and the oceans, and its main components are precipitation on the land and the oceans, evaporation from the land and the oceans, and runoff from the land to the oceans. Current scientific understanding of main processes qualitative peculiarities, and models of components of the terrestrial and global hydrological cycle are considered. The peculiarities of the modeling of the hydrological cycle of a river basin is demonstrated, taking into account the lack of measurable characteristics of environment. Estimations of influence of irrigation, land treatment, deforestation, and other human activities on the terrestrial hydrological cycle are presented. The role of the terrestrial hydrological cycle in the global climate system and global change is examined. The possible hydrological consequences of human-induced climate change are also discussed.

What is the Hydrological Cycle?

The values for stored water given above are for natural, static, water storage in the hydrosphere. It is the amount of water contained simultaneously, on average, over a long period of time, – in water bodies, aquifers and the atmosphere. For shorter time intervals such as a single year, a couple of seasons or a few months, the volume of water stored in the hydrosphere will vary as water exchanges take place between the oceans, land and the atmosphere.

The total amount of water on the earth and in its atmosphere does not change but show that rain and flowing rivers must be a motion that transfers water in a never-ending cycle. Oceans, rivers, clouds and rain, all of which contain water, are in a frequent state of change. This circulation and conservation of earth’s water as it circulates from the land to the sky and back again is called the ‘hydrological cycle’ or ‘water cycle’.

How does the Hydrological Cycle work?

The stages of the cycle are:

  • Evaporation
  • Transport
  • Condensation
  • Precipitation
  • Groundwater
  • Run-off


Water is transferred from the surface to the atmosphere through evaporation, the process by which water changes from a liquid to a gas. The sun’s heat provides energy to evaporate water from the earth’s surface. Land, lakes, rivers and oceans send up a steady stream of water vapour and plants also lose water to the air (transpiration).

Approximately 80% of all evaporation is from the oceans, with the remaining 20% coming from inland water and vegetation.


The movement of water through the atmosphere, specifically from over the oceans to over land, is called transport. Some of the earth’s moisture transport is visible as clouds, which themselves consist of ice crystals and/or tiny water droplets.

Clouds are propelled from one place to another by either the jet stream, surface-based circulations like land and sea breezes or other mechanisms. However, a typical cloud 1 km thick contains only enough water for a millimetre of rainfall, whereas the amount of moisture in the atmosphere is usually 10-50 times greater than this.

Most water is transported in the form of water vapour, which is actually the third most abundant gas in the atmosphere. Water vapour may be invisible to us, but not to satellites which are capable of collecting data about


When the air currents reach the cooler layers of the atmosphere, the water vapor condenses around and clings on to fine particles in the air. This step is called CONDENSATION. When enough vapor attaches itself to tiny pieces of dust, pollen or pollutants, it forms a cloud. Clouds do not last forever. Old clouds constantly re-evaporate and new ones form, creating ever-changing patterns in the sky.


The primary mechanism for transporting water from the atmosphere to the surface of the earth is precipitation. As the air gets more and more moist, the droplets that form the clouds grow larger and larger. Eventually they will get so big that the swirling atmospheric winds can no longer hold them up. The droplets then fall from the sky as PRECIPITATION. Precipitation can be in the form of rain, snow, sleet or hail depending on other atmospheric conditions such as temperatur

When the clouds meet cool air over land, precipitation, in the form of rain, sleet or snow, is triggered and water returns to the land (or sea). A proportion of atmospheric precipitation evaporates.


A considerable portion of river flow does not reach the ocean, having evaporated those areas with no natural surface run-off channels. On the other hand, some groundwater bypasses river systems altogether and goes directly to the ocean or evaporates Some of the precipitation soaks into the ground and this is the main source of the formation of the waters found on land – rivers, lakes, groundwater and glaciers.Some of the underground water is trapped between rock or clay layers – this is called groundwater. Water that infiltrates the soil flows downward until it encounters impermeable rock and then travels laterally. The locations where water moves laterally are called ‘aquifers’. Groundwater returns to the surface through these aquifers, which empty into lakes, rivers and the oceans.

Under special circumstances, groundwater can even flow upward in artesian wells. The flow of groundwater is much slower than run-off with speeds usually measured in centimetres per day, metres per year or even centimetres per year.


Once the precipitation reaches the ground, several things can happen to it. First, it might be re-evaporated. For instance, we’ve all seen the mist rising off hot roads after a summer shower. If it isn’t re-evaporated, much of the water will become RUN -OFF that goes into streams and rivers as it flows back to the ocean.. When the entire area below the ground is saturated, flooding occurs because all subsequent precipitation is forced to remain on the surface.

Different surfaces hold different amounts of water and absorb water at different rates. As a surface becomes less permeable, an increasing amount of water remains on the surface, creating a greater potential for flooding. Flooding is very common during winter and early spring because frozen ground has no permeability, causing most rainwater and meltwater to become run-off.

This entire process repeats as illustrated in Figure 1.

The stages of the Hydrological Cycle ( Figure1)

A Water Balance

A considerable portion of river flow does not reach the ocean, having evaporated those areas with no natural surface run-off channels. On the other hand, some groundwater by passes river systems altogether and goes directly to the ocean or evaporates.

Every year, the turnover of water on Earth involves 577,000 km3 of water. This is water that evaporates from the ocean surface (502,800 km3) and from land (74,200 km3). The same amount of water falls as atmospheric precipitation, 458,000 km3 on the ocean and 119,000 km3 on land. The difference between precipitation and evaporation from the land surface (119,000 ?– ?74,200 = 44,800 km3/year) represents the total run-off of the Earth’s rivers (42,700 km3/year) and direct groundwater run-off.

Water Distribution

Most of earth’s water is in the oceans, and most of the fresh water is in ice and below ground (groundwater). Very little water is available for human use. For example, only 0.91% of all earth’s water is available as fresh ground water or surface water. Only 0.009% (3% times 0.3%) is available in lakes, rivers, and swamps. Most of the fresh water available for human use is ground water.

The problem with water is, it is not uniformly distributed. It is not often available where it is needed. Globally, there is enough precipitation to serve 6.5 billion people.

But many people live in desert regions or in densely populated regions, leading to water

shortages in these regions.

Therefore if we want to understand water use on land, we must focus on groundwater, even though rivers and lakes are much more visible. Most people get water from wells. Roughly half the population served by public water systems use ground water

Environmental Impact of Hydrological Cycle

The hydrological cycle is usually called a recurring consequence of different forms of movement of water and changes of its physical state in the nature on a given area of the Earth (a river or lake basin, a continent, or the entire Earth). The movement of water inthe hydrological cycle extends through the four parts of the total Earth system—atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere—and strongly depends on the blocal peculiarities of these systems. The terrestrial hydrological cycle is of a special interest as the mechanism of formation of water resources on a given area of the land. The global hydrological cycle is also often considered, taking into account its role in the global climate and other geophysical processes. It is obvious that the role of different processes in the hydrological cycle and their description have to depend on the chosen spatial- temporal scales. The main components of the terrestrial hydrological cycle and the global hydrological cycle are presented in Figures 1 and 2.

Figure 1 Global hydrological cycle are presented.

The generation of precipitation is commonly considered as the beginning of the terrestrial hydrological cycle. The precipitation may be in the form of rainfall or snow. The falling snow forms the snow cover where the snow may change its properties and may partially transform into ice. The rain or melt water may be intercepted by vegetation cover or detained by land surface depressions, may infiltrate into the soil, or may run over land surface into streams. The infiltrated water may store in the soil as soil moisture or may percolate to deeper layers to be stored as groundwater.

During cold periods a portion of infiltrated water may freeze in the soil. A part of water intercepted by vegetation, accumulated in the land surface depressions, and stored in the

soil, may return back to the atmosphere as a result of evaporation. Plants take up a significant portion of the soil moisture from the root zone and evaporate most of this water through their leaves.

Beside water which travels to the streams over the land surface, the stream runoff also includes water which moves to the streams through the upper soil horizons, flows out from deep layers as springs, and seeps directly in the river channels. The water collected

in the river channel systems flows to lakes, seas, and oceans.

When we consider the global hydrological cycle, the principal process is water exchange between the atmosphere, the land, and the oceans. In this case, the main components are the precipitation on the land and the oceans, the evaporation from the land and the oceans, and the runoff from the land to the oceans. The movement of water in the hydrological cycle is linked with erosion and transport of sediments and chemicals. The erosional and depositional effects of streams, waves, and ice have produced a diversity of Earth’s landscapes that make the Earth’s surface unlike that of any other planets. For understanding, we can divide two types of hydrological cycle that influence on our environment. These given below;

1. The Terrestrial Hydrological Cycle:

The key component of the terrestrial hydrological cycle is generation of river runoff and movement of water in the river networks. The main land area units where this process occurs is the river watersheds. The sizes of these areas vary from tens of to 6900 square km (the Amazon River catchment area). Within these areas, distinct spatial differences, in topography, geology, vegetation, soil properties, land use, and meteorological conditions may be well-expressed even on small scales. The land surface heterogeneity may be essentially strengthened by human activities, that can cause a significant modification of the characteristics of the natural landscapes. Therefore, to describe the terrestrial hydrological cycle it is important not only to single out the main processes, but also to take into account the relevant topographic, geological, vegetation, and soil parameters that control runoff generation conditions and give an opportunity to represent the land surface heterogeneity.

1.1. Precipitation:

Precipitation is the principle source of the Earth’s water supply and may occur in liquid (rain) and solid (snow) forms. The production of the precipitation results from condensation of small water vapor droplets around available nuclei, or from ice crystal process in the clouds. Water droplets are increased in size by means of collision and coalescence until they attain approximately 2 mm in diameter; under action of gravity they then begin to descend to the Earth’s surface forming the rainfall. Ice crystals may also collide and stick to one another, forming snowflakes. These snowflakes can reach the ground in the form of snow or rain, depending on the temperature of the lower atmosphere. For the condensation of water vapor or the creation of ice crystals, it is necessary for the moist air to cool to a sufficient extent and generate lift. Precipitation can be classified into four main types according to the air lifting mechanism: (1) frontal precipitation, where the lifting is due to relative movement of two large air masses; (2) precipitation caused by horizontal convergence; (3) convective precipitation; and (4) orographic precipitation. Each type rarely occurs alone in nature, but some may dominate under certain conditions.

Frontal or cyclonic precipitation occurs at convergence of air masses of various character and at different temperatures. A warm front is formed when warm air rises over the cold air at a relatively gentle slope of 1:100 to 1:400. The precipitation zone extends 300–500 km ahead of the warm front. A cold front is formed when cold air moves under a warm air mass forcing the latter upward. A steeper sloping interface (1:25 to 1:100) is observed. The precipitation zone is limited in this case to about 80 km ahead of the front. The horizontal convergence of air into a low-pressure point results in vertical displacement of air, which may lead to condensation and precipitation. Such meteorological processes commonly occur on or near the tropics as northern and southern components of the trade winds and easterlies. The cold air that commonly prevails over warm oceans in the lower latitudes during the latter part of summer causes tropical storms during which enormous wet air masses pulled in the lower layers rise in the upper atmosphere. The resulting rains fall mostly near the trajectory of the tropical storm center.

Horizontal convergence may also occur as western and eastern sides of two adjacent low-pressure cyclones meet. Frontal and horizontal convergence commonly generates precipitation of moderate intensity. Convective precipitation is caused by local differential heating of air masses, leading to air instabilities and upward movement of air. Instability showers often occur when cold air moves over a warm surface. Air-mass showers is the name of convective rains that are not associated with a pressure system. These showers commonly have relatively low intensity and small areal coverage. In many regions, a significant part of precipitation is caused by thunderstorms. These convective storms have high intensity and short duration. Thunderstorms develop in three stages. During the first stage, which lasts 10–15 minutes, cumulus cloud formation is observed. Simultaneously, upward air flows at velocities of up to 60–70 km per hour and a significant horizontal inflow of air into convective cells occur. The vertical air movement may reach heights of 7–8 km. The second stage lasts 15–30 minutes and is characterized by strong lifting air movement at velocities to 110–120 km per hour and high rainfall intensity. At heights of 1.5–2.0 km, descending air movement begins. During the dissipating stage, descending air movement predominates until the convective cells disappear.

Orographic cooling occurs when air masses are forced to rise over an obstruction, like a mountain ridge. The result is condensation and rain on the windward side of the mountain, with contrasting dryness on the lee side of the mountain. The amount of precipitation at the orographic cooling is roughly proportional to the windspeed up the slope and to the amount of moisture in the air. Mountains are not so efficient as cyclonic systems in removing the water from a given air mass, because the rising of the moist air caused by mountains is usually less than in cyclonic systems. However, orography is a constant factor in the cause of precipitation at the same place. Regions with orographic effects exhibit relatively high precipitation accumulation, as well as increased frequency of events (for example, some mountain regions of Mediterranean area, the region of the Cascades in the northwestern United States, and some coastal regions of Japan). Time-spatial distribution of rainfall, especially of storm rainfall, is important for many hydrological events. Storms generally exhibit one or more centers of maximum depth. The difference between the area-averaged depth and the storm-center value increases with increasing area and decreases with increasing total rainfall depth. For storm rainfall in many regions, stable depth–area–duration relations exist. In many cases, it is also possible to construct the dependencies between rainfall frequency, its duration and its average intensity.

1.2. Snow Cover and Ice:

Permanent snow cover is formed on about 20 percent of the Northern hemisphere and about 15 percent of the Southern hemisphere. A significant part of the land is covered by snow several times during the cold period. Changing the heat balance of the land, the snow cover has a considerable effect on the climate. The presence of snow cover on a

drainage basin also greatly influences runoff generation. In many parts of the world, river runoff consists mainly of water yielded by the melting of snow. The snowmelt spring runoff of most large plain rivers of Russia and Canada exceeds half of annual runoff; at the same time, the portion of snowmelt runoff from mountain areas in the arid regions can be significantly larger.

Snowfall over an area is more uniform than rainfall, however; snow accumulation is largely a function of elevation, slope, exposure, and vegetative cover. Snow spatial redistribution is strongly affected by the interaction of wind and topography as well as by interaction of wind and vegetation. Gullies and surface depressions are filled up by snow first of all and can accumulate a considerable portion of the total river basin snow resources (in some parts of Russia, the snow in rills and gullies consists of about 30 percent of total river basin snow resources). In forests, much of the intercepted snow is blown off and accumulates on thesoil surface. The snow retention coefficients (the ratios of snow catch in the surface in question to the accumulation in an otherwise virgin soil) vary from 0.4 for open ice surface and 0.9 for arable land, to 1.2 for hilly district and 3.2 for edges of forests. During blowing and transport of snow significant evaporation(sublimation) may occur (the evaporation losses may reach 40–50 percent of annual snowfall). The snow water equivalent (the depth of water which would result from the melting of the snow) in forest areas is usually 10–40 percent more than in the open areas (in some cases, a general increase of precipitation in the forest is possible). Snow accumulation generally increases with elevation because of the combined effect of the prevailing lower temperatures and the increased frequency of precipitation events caused by orographic effects.

The small-scale variations of snow cover, caused by spatial change of terrain, vegetation, and local meteorological conditions, are superimposed on large-scale variations associated with physiographic and climatic zonality. This leads to very large spatial variability of snow cover characteristics, and they are often considered as random values. The coefficients of spatial variation of the snow water equivalent range from 0.15–0.20 in the forest zone to 0.30–0.60 in the steppe zone. To describe spatial variability of the snow water equivalent one commonly applies the lognormal or gamma statistical distributions.

After snowfall, the snowpack undergoes essential transformation (metamorphosis) caused by compaction, action of the thermal gradients, and change in the crystal structure resulting from interactions of ice, liquid water, and water vapor. Because of migration of water vapor and the freezing together of the small particles of ice, the average ice particle size increases and to the end of winter a snowpack commonly consists of uniform coarse crystals (the process of the formation of coarse snow crystals is called riping). The metamorphosis of snow produced a significant change of density and other physical properties of snow. Snow at the time of fall may have a density as low as 0.01 to as high as 0.15 gcm-3; snowfall in the form of dry snow may vary in density between 0.07 and 0.15 gcm-3; average wind-toughened snow has a density about 0.28–0.30 gcm-3. Ripe snow has a uniform density of 0.4–0.5 gcm-3. The greatest density that can be attained by shifting the snow grains around is about 0.55 gcm-3. Further densification, which can occur under action of deformation, refreezing, and recrystallization, produces a compact, dense material called firn. At a density of between 0.82 and 0.84 gcm-3, the air spaces disappear and the material becomes impermeable to air and water.

This material can be defined as ice. The old ice has a density about 0.90 gcm-3; the theoretical density of pure ice is 0.92 gcm-3Accumulation on land of ice resulting from recrystallization of snow or other forms of precipitation leads to the formation of glaciers. Typical peculiarities of the glacier are the presence of an area where snow or ice accumulates in excess of melting, and another area where the wastage of snow or ice exceeds the accumulation, as well as a slow transfer of mass from the first area to the second. Glaciers exist in a wide variety of forms. They range in size from ice masses occupying tens of square meters to the great continental ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland. On the Earth’s land there are 140 glaciers with areas of more than 1000 square km; at the same time, only on the area of the past Soviet Union are there about 30 000 glaciers of size less 0.1 square km.

A significant amount of ice can accumulate in the ground. If the climate is very cold, a layer of frozen ground may be formed which persists from year to year. The surface layer of this ground (the active layer) normally thaws during the summer and refreezes during the winter, but the ground below remains frozen and impermeable. Such ground is called permafrost and occupies about a quarter of the Earth’s land. In areas mantled with peat or a dense mat of living vegetation, the active layer is generally thin and permafrost occurs close to the surface. In areas of bare gravel or exposed bedrock, the active layer may be quite thick. Permafrost is more widely and continuously distributed in lowlands than it is in the mountains in spite of lower temperatures prevailing in the mountains. Lakes, reservoirs, and large ponds produce a warming effect on the ground increasing the depths where lies permafrost.

The water frozen on the land surface and in the ground may form icings which cover considerable areas. In the northeast part of Russia, icings occupy 7–10 percent of area and accumulate 200–300 mm of water.

Being a porous medium, the snowpack has much in common with the soil. In the dry snow, liquid water retains mostly by film tension and capillary forces. The porosity of snow varies from 0.80–0.87 (for new snow) to 0.50–0.70 (for old coarse-grained snow). The liquid water-holding capability of snow (the maximum value of liquid water content beyond which water will drain by gravity action) is about 0.13–0.15. The movement of water through the snowpack begins when the snowpack is saturated by liquid water more than to these values. In the period of snowmelt, a part of the liquid water may refreeze.

The rate of snowpack melt is determined by the incoming heat. The energy budget of the snowpack includes: the net shortwave and longwave radiation; the turbulent exchange of heat in the atmospheric layer above the snow surface (sensible heat); the latent heat consumed in evaporation and sublimation; the heat delivered to snowpack by precipitation; the heat exchange at the land surface; and the change in heat storage including the heat released by freezing of liquid water content. The net shortwave radiation is the most dominent energy component during snowmelt. In the process of metamorphosis and riping, the snowpack decreases its reflected capability (albedo) and absorbs the most part of shortwave radiation during snowmelt. The new snow has the albedo 0.75–0.90, and after riping the albedo can reach 0.35–0.40. The empirical dependence can usually be constructed between the albedo and the snow density as a characteristic of snow riping. A close relationship commonly also exists between albedo and the accumulated daily maximum temperature after the last snowfall. The sensible heat is the second important energy budget member. Sometimes, the precipitation heat can be a considerable contribution to positive snowpack energy balance. However, in most cases effects of rainfall on the riping snow and a decrease of albedo are more important. The most simple and informative index of the snowmelt rate is the air temperature. The relation between these values can be presented as

M = a(Ta ? Tb )

where M is the snowmelt in millimeters per day, Ta is the air temperature in degrees Centigrade, Tb is an air temperature below which no melt occurs (it is commonly 0– 2°C), and a is an empirical coefficient (degree-day factor) which can be interpreted as the snowmelt per day at change of air temperature per degree. The degree-day factor varies depending on climatic and physiographic conditions, but in many cases variations are possible to classify according to the latitude, topography, and vegetation. Because forest cover has a significant effect on many of the variables affecting snow cover energy exchange, there is an essential difference in degree-day factors for forest and open areas. The typical degree-day factors for mid-latitude open areas are usually 4– 5mm/day °C; for deciduous forest the figure is 3–4 mm/day °C; for dense coniferous forest 1.5–2.0 mm/day °C.

Differences in aspect are also important. At open mountain areas the degree-day factors reach 5–6 mm/day °C. Melt factors in Arctic areas tend to be smaller than those at lower latitudes with similar physiographic conditions, mainly due to lower radiation intensities and relatively little wind during the melt season. Windy areas typically have higher melt factors than areas where calm conditions prevail. In many cases, the degree-day factors increase during the progress of snowmelt as a result of the decrease of the snow albedo, soil warming, and increasing solar radiation. For example, the degree-day factor averaged for Finland is 1.45 mm/day °C at the beginning of the snowmelt period, and 4.75 mm/day °C at the end of the snowmelt period. The maximum values of the degreeday factor reach 80–90 mm/day °C. The main difference between the melting of snow and ice results from the low albedo of ice. Typical mid-latitude degree-day factors for ice melting are 5–10 mm/day °C. In investigating mass balance of the glaciers, it is more suitable to measure the ablation (that refers to all processes by which solid material is removed from the glacier) instead of the melt. Because evaporation from the glacier surface is small, in temperate climates the values of the glacier melt and of the ablation are close. In some high Arctic regions, appreciable snow and ice are removed by wind erosion. Most ablation occurs on the surface of a glacier. During the ablation season the surface level of a glacier drops, not entirely due to ablation, but partly due to compacting, or densification, of the snow layers beneath. Thus, in order to measure ablation, one must easure the thickness and the density of a surface snow layer at each time of measurement.

1.3. Interception and Depression Storage:

Before reaching the land surface, a part of the precipitation may be intercepted by vegetation and/or other types of surface cover. A portion of intercepted rainfall evaporates and the other portion may flow down on vegetation stems. Rainfall interception varies with species composition, age, and density of vegetation cover. A dense conifer stand usually intercepts to 25-–30 percent of the rainfall at the stem flow of 5–7 percent. The net rainfall interception by hardwood stands is about 15 percent for the period with leaves and about 7 percent for the period without leaves. According to the detailed measurements carried out in the Central Amazonia, the net interception in the tropical rainforest is approximately 10 percent of rainfall. The rainfall interception losses for dense grasses and herbs is as great as for deciduous trees. Interception can be also be significant in large urban areas. The urban landscape includes flat rooftops, potholes, parking lots, cracks, and other rough surfaces that can intercept and hold a significant amount of water.

Interception of snowfall by vegetation may lead to direct sublimation of snow and significant redistribution of snow by wind. The interception of falling snow by conifer forests often reaches 30–35 percent. Snow interception in hardwood stands is about 7– 10 percent.

1.4. Infiltration of Water into the Soil and Vertical Movement of Soil Moisture:

Infiltration is the flow of water through the soil surface. The rate and volume of the infiltration depend on the conditions on the soil surface, soil properties (texture, structure, and chemical peculiarities), and soil moisture content. At the bare soil, a surface crust may develop under action of raindrops. The impact of raindrops breaks down soil crumbs and aggregates, and the particles of silt and clay penetrate previously existing pores, clogging them, and greatly reducing infiltration. The vegetation protects the soil from rainfall action and increases entrance permeability resulting from root activity and increment of the organic content. Root systems perforate the soil, keeping it unconsolidated and porous. The organic matter promotes a crumb structure and improves permeability magnitude. During short high-rate rainstorms, most of the rain quickly travels through macropores to the lower layers of the soil, and only a small fraction of the rain is absorbed by the soil matrix. During lowrate storms, a greater fraction of the rain is adsorbed by soil matrix and soil swells reducing the width of the macropores. The swelling soil after drying may also form a surface crust.

Soil texture is determined by the size distribution of individual particles in the soil (the percentages of clay, silt, sand, and coarse fragments more than 2 mm). Soil structure depends on morphological properties of soil particles, and clay, silt, and sand types. It is characterized by bulk density, pore-sized distribution, and construction of vertical profile of soil. The pore sizes and pore-size distribution are greatly affected by the content of soil organic matter, which determines both the sizes of soil aggregates and their stability in water Soil texture and structure are closely related to soil porosity and capillary suction forces. Natural cracks, worm holes, or tillage marks create soil macroporosity. The increase of soil porosity leads to the increase of soil permeability, but also to the decrease of capillary suction. Chemical properties of the soil affect the integrity and stability of the soil aggregates, processes of colloidal swelling of the soil, and the suction pressure of the soil matrix.

Water may exist in the soil as liquid water, vapor, or ice. A part of liquid water (hygroscopic and capillary water) is held by molecular forces of the soil matrix. Hygroscopic water exists in the thin films around soil particles at negative (suction) pressures of 31 to 10 000 bars, and may freeze at temperatures below 0°C. Capillary water is held at a negative pressure of 0.33 to 31 bars, filling gaps between the particles. As the soil moisture increases, the gravitational forces become strong enough to counteract the negative pressures (this occurs at pressures between 0 and 0.33 bars). The maximum amount of water which soil can hold against gravity is called field capacity. Water in excess of field capacity percolates down the soil column, ultimately reaching the soil layer with a small permeability where this movement stops. The plant root system can extract the water if the negative soil moisture pressures are less 15 bars (the content of soil moisture at this pressure is called the permanent wilting point). Soil water content has a significant effect on the physical and chemical characteristics of the soil and conditions of water flow in soil pores. Soils with an appreciable amount of silt or clay are subject during wetting to the disintegration of the crumbs or aggregates, which in their dry state may provide relatively large pores. These soils also normally contain more or less colloidal material, which in most cases swells appreciably when wet. The pores of sands are relatively stable.

When the all pores of the soil are saturated by water, the water flux depends mainly on gravitational forces. The dynamics of flow in the saturated soil can be described by Darcy’s law. This law states that the velocity of flow through a porous medium is directly proportional to the gradient of the piezometric head h = p?g + z, where p is the pressure head, ? is the density of water, g is gravitational acceleration, and z is the elevation of the point under consideration from an arbitrary datum. If q is the verticalv elocity of soil moisture movement, then Darcy’s law can be expressed as


where K is the coefficient which is called the hydraulic conductivity saturated soil (or

the coefficient of filtration.

A lot of different empirical relationships which relate the hydraulic conductivity of unsaturated soil, the diffusivity of soil moisture to the volumetric soil moisture content, and the commonly measured soil moisture constants (porosity, hydraulic conductivity of saturated soil, field capacity, permanent wilting point, and others) has been developed. The uptake of water by plant roots is a complicated biological process, however, which in many cases can be represented as a empirical function of difference of soil and root capillary–osmotic suction, the hydraulic conductivity of unsaturated soil, and the root density.

The moisture movement in unsaturated soil often shows a clear hysteresis effect: the relationships between the soil matrix suction and the soil moisture, as well as between the hydraulic conductivity and the soil moisture, are not the same during wetting and drying events. Capillary forces speed up the filling of small pores during wetting, but delay their emptying during drying. Moreover, the tortuosity of channels, where the water fluxes occur, essentially depends on the previous history of soil moisture conditions.

Freezing of the soil decreases its porosity and capillary forces. If the soil is frozen while saturated, it may become completely impermeable. The hydraulic conductivity of dry soil commonly changes insignificantly after freezing; however, in cold periods a considerable variation of the soil moisture may occur under action of the temperature gradients. There is often a significant flux of soil moisture from the unfrozen zone to the front of freezing. This flux may lead to swelling upper layers of soil and to decreasing soil permeability. In the snowmelt period, the hydraulic conductivity of the dry frozen soil may also decrease as a result of freezing the melt water inside of the soil matrix, where the melt water mixes with the overcooled hygroscopic and capillary water.

Depending on the soil moisture conditions and soil–rock properties, the subsurface space where the infiltrated water is stored may be divided vertically into two zones based on the relative proportion of pore space that is occupied by water: an unsaturated zone, or aeration zone, in which the pores contain gases (chiefly air and water vapor); and a saturated zone in which all soil pores are filled with water. During recharge periods, water moves under the force of gravity downward through the unsaturated zone to the saturated zone. The upper limit of the saturated zone (the water table) is the depth at which the water is at atmospheric pressure. The unsaturated zone is often divided into the soil water zone, extending downward from the land surface as far as plant roots penetrate; the capillary fringe, where water rises by capillary forces above the saturated layers; and the intermediate zone, where downward percolation presumably occurs, at least intermittently, toward the saturated zone. The depth of the soil water zone is variable and dependent on soil type and vegetation; the capillary fringe may be from practically zero in coarse material to tenths of meters for fine clays; the intermediate zone may be hundreds of meters thick or be completely absent. Water in the capillary fringe exists at pressures less than atmospheric pressure. All pores may be saturated near the base of this capillary fringe, and the number of pore spaces that are filled with water decreases in an upward direction. In areas of shallow water table, the capillary fringe may extend upward to the root zone or plants and even to the land surface, thus permitting discharge of water by evaporation.

1.5. Evapotranspiration:

The evaporation of the water into the atmosphere begins when the temperature of the evaporating surface is such that some molecules of the liquid water have attained enough kinetic energy to eject from the water or the land, and to penetrate into the air forming water vapor. Some of these molecules may return from the air and condense, but the number of escaping molecules will be larger than the returning ones until the number of molecules in the air reaches a value which is the maximum possible amount for a given temperature of the air and the water vapor becomes saturated. If more molecules enter the surface than leave it, condensation occurs. The motion of the molecules escaping from the evaporating surface and returning from the air produces a difference of pressure which is determined by the rate of evaporation. The losses of kinetic energy needed for transfer of liquid water into vapor lowers the temperature of evaporating surface (the latent heat of vaporization of water at 0°C is 596 calg-1). To support evaporation, a steady income of energy has to occur. An energy balance for a given area, particularly for a defined water body can be written as

Qe = Qs ? Qr + Qa ? Qar ? Qbs + Qv ? Qh ?Qc

where Qe is the energy used in evaporation (latent heat), Qs is the incident solar radiation, Qr is the reflected solar radiation, Qa is the incoming longwave atmospheric radiation, Qar is the reflected longwave radiation, Qbs is the longwave radiation emitted by evaporating body because of its temperature, Qv is the net energy advected by moving water, Qh is the heat removed from the system into the air as sensible heat, and Qc is the change in system energy. The main source of such an inflow of energy during evaporation of water into the atmosphere is solar radiation and the heat of the atmosphere. Evaporation can be estimated by direct or indirect measurement. Direct methods are mostly dominated by point sampling or integrated measurements over small areas, mostly with evaporation pans or lysimeters (vessels or containers placed below the land surface to intercept and collect water moving downward through soil). Indirectly, evaporation can be measured by performing a water balance of a given area. The rate of evaporation from the water surface into the atmosphere depends on the difference between the pressure of saturated vapor at the temperature of the water and the vapor pressure of the air above the water surface. The last value is determined by the content of the water vapor in the air and the air temperature, which depend in turn on the atmospheric circulation and the turbulent transport in the atmospheric boundary layer. Experimental research has shown that the rate of evaporation from water bodies is not related to the size of the areas of these bodies, if these areas are less than approximately 20–30 square km. The rate from the larger areas slowly decreases with the growth of water body areas, reaching the values of the evaporation rate from the seas and oceans. During the warm period of the year, the rate of evaporation from the water bodies does not necessarily depend on the water body depth if it is more 2–3meters (there is a insignificant growth of the evaporation rate to these depths). During the cooling of the surface water in the fall and the heating the water body in the spring, the role of the water body depth in evaporation increases. In deep water, the relatively low temperature of the surface water in the spring (less than 4°C, the temperature of maximum water density) will decrease evaporation, while the higher temperature in the fall leads to an increase in evaporation.

The rate of evaporation from the land is determined not only by meteorological conditions but also by the amount and rate of water supply to the evaporating surface. Further, water molecules have to overcome greater resistance to escape from a surface of soil or plant than from a free-water surface. Evaporation of water by plants (this process is called by transpiration) occurs mainly through intercellular openings in the leaves (stomata), which open to allow in the carbon dioxide necessary for photosynthesis and respiration.

To reach the surface of the soil and plant cover, soil moisture must move from the lower depths to the surface. If evaporation from the land is to be a continuous process, movement will have to take place through considerable distances in unsaturated soils. The movement of water upward to the evaporating surface in the soil occurs under action of molecular forces of the soil matrix. In the case of enough dry soil, the movement of water vapor under action of the soil temperature gradients may also play an essential role. The wet soil often maintains a practically constant rate of evaporation at a certain range of moisture content, until alow moisture content (approximately the permanent wilting point) is reached. According to some experimental investigations, evaporation from the soil surface continues as long as the upper surface layer—about 10 cm for clays and about 20 cm for sands—remains moist. The movement of the water to the stomata is caused by stomatal capillary suction and osmotic pressure resulting from the difference in moisture between sap at the roots and surrounding soil. The volume of water evaporation by plants is much larger than the volume of consumption in the formation of vegetative material, and water coming from0 the roots reaches the stomata almost entirely. Transpiration is a complicated process, depending on both biological and environmental factors. The most important biological factors are type, stage, and growth of the plants, leaf and root structure, and density and behavior of stomata. If the water supply to the leaves is greater than the evaporative capacity of the atmosphere, transpiration is at its climate-controlled potential rate. A plant may help the transpiration process by root development, change soil moisture gradients, and regulate stomatal openings.

In many cases, vegetation cover may also affect the temperature and the moisture content of the atmospheric boundary layer. The link between transpiration, photosynthesis, and the exchange of carbon dioxide makes the transpiration an important factor in long-term interactions of vegetation and climate. Many different attempts at f modeling the processes of energy and water transfer in the soil–vegetation– atmosphere system have shown that the construction of such models require more than 50 parameters reflecting the local soil, vegetation, and atmosphere conditions. To determine most these parameters, it is necessary to carry out special measurements that are only available at the present time for small areas.

The sum total of evaporation and transpiration is usually called evapotranspiration. When the vegetation cover is dense, the transpiration commonly is larger than the evaporation from the soil. According to experimental data collected in the central part of Russia, transpiration contributes 45 percent of evapotranspiration in conifer forest, and 50 percent of evapotranspiration. in deciduous forest, while evaporation from soil is only 30 percent of evapotranspiration in conifer forest, and 35 percent in deciduous forest (about 25 percent of precipitation in conifer forest and 15 percent in deciduous forest is evaporated as a result of interception). In the Amazonian rain forest, on the average, 50 percent of the incoming rainfall is reevaporated, about 25 percent through the interception process and almost the all remainder by transpiration. Transpiration is the predominant cause of losses of soil moisture in arid and semi-arid regions.

Evaporation from snow requires a three-phase change of state from a solid to liquid to gas (this process is called sublimation). The latent heat of sublimation is much higher than the latent heat of melting (80cal g-1), so that the latter is a preferred process. In order for evaporation to occur the saturated vapor pressures at the snowmelt temperatures must be low enough, and the air above the snow surface must be sufficiently dry. If there is a favorable vapor pressure gradient, evaporation of snow may occur even at absence of heat income. The necessary heat may be taken from the snow itself by cooling it. On the average, the evaporation rate from snow cover is approximately 0.3 mm per day before snowmelt, and 0.4–0.5 mm per day after the beginning of snowmelt. In spite of the fact that the daily rates of evaporation from snow cover seldom reach more than 1–2 mm, the accumulated evaporation during sunny and dry winter–spring periods may significantly decrease the snow resources before the snow melt (for example, in the forest zone of Russia the evaporation from snow cover leads to decreases of the snow water equivalent before the spring snowmelt by 15–20 percent).

The role of condensation on land surface in the hydrological cycle has been investigated insufficiently. However, it is known that in some mountain regions condensation of liquid water from fogs in forest may increase the annual precipitation up 7–10 percent. In arid areas, night condensation of air moisture may essentially increase moisture content in the upper layer of the soil.

1.6. Groundwater and Groundwater Flow:

Water in the saturated zone of soil–rock systems is commonly called groundwater, and it represents the largest liquid water store of the terrestrial hydrological cycle. Water may penetrate into soil–rock systems in the process of vertical movement from the unsaturated zone; as a result of filtration from river channels, lakes, and reservoirs; and also as a consequence of artificial recharge Groundwater reservoirs in permeable geological formations that can release a considerable amount of water with relative ease are called aquifers. If, after drilling a fully-penetrating well through a geological formation, the groundwater rises to the piezometric level (which is equal to the elevation above a datum plus the pressure in the aquifer), this formation is called a confined, or artesian, aquifer. An unconfined (phreatic) aquifer has a free water surface. This free water surface may be directly connected to a stream or other surface waters. The water in phreatic aquifers comes from direct rainfall recharge over the aquifer, from connections to surface waters, and/or from other aquifers. The confining beds separating the aquifers may be completely impermeable (aquifuge), or “leaky” (aquiclude). Whether a rock or soil formation is an aquifer, aquifuge, or aquiclude depends largely on its geologic origins and history.

Confined aquifers recharge through areas where the soil system is exposed to the surface, or through aquicludes. Many confined aquifers contain “fossil waters” deposited in past geologic times. The best aquifers are generally sediment deposits of alluvial or glacial origin. Some sandstone and sedimentary rocks may have very little permeability through pore openings (for example, dolomite and limestone), and their water-bearing capacity and transmission depend mainly on the degree of fracturing resultant from weathering, and the degree of solution of cementing material. The formation of fractures, crevices, or caves in highly-weathered and dissolved limestone (karst processes) often leads to development of underground river systems.

If the groundwater is located close to the land surface, it can intensively interact with the surface water. The rise of groundwater level to the land surface may lead to a sharp increase of overland and subsurface flow. Groundwater discharges on the river slopes or in the basin depressions form springs and creeks. Where a river channel is in contact with an unconfined aquifer, groundwater may flow from the aquifer into the river channel, or vice versa, depending upon where the water level is lower. During a flood period, groundwater levels may be significantly raised near a channel by inflow from rivers. This process is known as bank storage. The reduction of the maximum discharge during floods caused by bank storage can reach 10–15 percent. After the rise of river stage during flood, a long period of groundwater recession may be observed. In many cases, pumping of groundwater leads to a decrease of surface runoff. If the groundwater located deep enough, recharge of the unconfined aquifer may occur from the river drainage network without hydraulic interaction. Such a type of recharge is often observed in dry regions or on permafrost. Groundwater discharging into a river system forms the base runoff that is the main sustainable portion of total runoff for many plain rivers. The contribution of groundwater to the total river runoff may vary from a negligible fraction (for instance, for mountainous rivers) to 100 percent (for some karst river basins); however, there is a clearly-expressed physiographic zonality in the distribution of this contribution. For example, in the northern regions of the European part of Russia, where the water table is shallow and river drainage is not well-developed, the portion of the groundwater runoff is 10–30 percent; in the middle part of Russia, where there is shallow groundwater and well-developed river drainage, the portion of the ground runoff reaches 40–50 percent; and in the southern part, where the groundwater is deep, this portion is 15–30 percent. The portion of groundwater which discharges directly into large lakes, seas, and oceans is about 2 percent; however, in some regions there is a significant submarine intrusionof seawater into coastal aquifers.

1.7. River Runoff and Generation Mechanisms:

River runoff is that part of the precipitation which is collected from a drainage basin or watershed and flows into the river system. From the hydrologic point of view, the runoff from a drainage basin may be considered as a product of the hydrologic cycle and a result of a compound interaction of meteorological and physiographic factors. Physiographic factors can be classified into two main groups: basin factors (size, shape, and topography of drainage area, geology, properties of soils, presence of lakes and swamps, vegetation cover, and land use); and channel factors (slope, hydraulic properties of the channels, channel storage capacity, sediments, and stream bed material). Frequently two basins of nearly the same size may behave entirely differently in runoff phenomena. The essential differences occur between large and small basins. For example, most large basins have significant channel storage effects that smooth the variations of water inflow caused by meteorological factors or change of conditions on the basin area. Small basins are very sensitive both to climatic factors and change in land use.

The variety of runoff generation conditions is reflected in the temporal-spatial change of runoff coefficients (runoff–precipitation ratios). Depending on meteorological and physiographic conditions, these coefficients may vary from 0 to almost 1. In the deserts of the tropical and temperate zones almost all precipitation evaporates. Small runoff coefficients (0.05–0.15) are also typical for the steppe and dry savanna zones. In the zone of hard-leaf forests, the runoff coefficients are of the order of 0.1–0.2. However, in the zone of permanently-humid forests, the runoff coefficients reach 0.40–0.45. High runoff coefficients are characteristic also for the tundra and rainforest zones (0.5–0.6). The runoff coefficients from glaciers are usually close to 0.8–0.9. Runoff commonly shows a well-expressed seasonal variability. Runoff of a typical river basin in the temperate climate region has one or several periods with a significant rise in runoff discharges (such rises are usually called floods), and one or several periods of low flow. In the humid and tropic climates, seasonal variability is comparatively less; in arid regions, there are ephemeral rivers where the runoff is nonexistent during periods without precipitation, although it may appear at different times. The variability of runoff can be estimated in terms of the day-to-day fluctuation of the river discharges or stages. A graph showing river discharge with respect to time is known as a hydrograph. Hydrographs can be regarded as integral expressions of the physiographic and climatic characteristics that govern the relations between water inflow and runoff of a particular drainage basin. The shape of a hydrograph reflects the difference in runoff components and their paths of movement. A typical, single-peaked, simple flood hydrograph consists of three parts: the approach segment; the rising (or concentration) segment; and the recession (falling or lowering) segment. The lower portion of the recession segment is a groundwater recession (or depletion) curve, which shows the decreasing rate of groundwater inflow. The peak of a rainfall flood hydrograph represents the highest concentration of the runoff from a drainage basin. It occurs usually at a certain time after the rain has ended, and this time depends on the size and the shape of the drainage basin as well as the spatial distribution of the rainfall. The multiple peaks of a hydrograph may occur in any basin as the result of multiple storms developing close to each other. If a hydrograph shows double or triple peaks fairly regularly, this may be due to nonsynchronization of the runoff contributions from several tributaries to the main stream. The recession segment represents withdrawal of water from storage after all inflow to the channel has ceased.

According to the area of genesis, river runoff components can be divided into surface runoff, subsurface runoff, and groundwater runoff. The surface runoff is that part of runoff which is produced on the land surface and flows over the land surface and through river drainage system to reach the basin outlet. The part of the surface runoff which does not reach stream channels is called overland flow. The subsurface runoff, also known as interflow, is that part of the precipitation which infiltrates into the soil and moves horizontally through the soil and the ground above the main groundwater level. A part of the subsurface runoff may enter the stream quickly, while the remaining part may take a long time before appearing in the stream channels. The groundwater runoff is that part of the groundwater which discharges in the river drainage system. The proportions of surface, subsurface, and groundwater components in the total runoff strongly vary in space and time and are defined by the physical mechanisms of river runoff generation. Field research of runoff genesis on experimental and representative river basins can commonly only provide data which is sufficient for discovering the main features of these mechanisms for small plots. At the same river basin, several distinct runoff generation mechanisms may exist. To establish the leading runoff generation mechanisms on large basins, it is usually necessary to use long series of meteorological data and runoff measurements together.

It is easy to establish from a simple analysis of flood hydrographs that the river runoff includes three components which have differences in timing: 1) quick flow, consisting of water which reaches the river channel network promptly after rainfall or snowmelt and has velocities of several centimeters per second; 2) flow, consisting of water which reaches the river channel network at velocities of order 0.1–1.0 centimeters per second- 1; and 3) slow flow, where velocities can be several orders less than the velocities of quick flow. It is commonly assumed that quick flow is mainly overland flow and the slow flow is mainly ground flow. Hypotheses on the paths of the second mentioned component of runoff may be very different, but in most cases, taking into account the velocities, it is possible to determine that it is dominantly subsurface flow. To explain the mechanism of flow generation, the renowned American hydrologist Robert E. Horton assumed that the overland flow was generated on all (or a significant part) of the watershed area as sheet flow, and only when a excess of rainfall (or snowmelt) over infiltration was formed. In the initial period of rain, all water may infiltrate into the soil, but the infiltration rate decreases as a function of time because of increases in the soil moisture content at the soil surface. At some point in time (it is called the ponding time), the infiltration rate drops below the rainfall rate. The accumulated water covers all the drainage area by a thin layer and then begins to flow along the slope to the rills and gullies.

Thus, the necessary conditions for the generation of overland flow by the Horton mechanism are: (1) a rainfall rate greater than the hydraulic conductivity of the soil; and (2) a rainfall duration longer than the required ponding time for a given initial moisture profile. Field research of rainfall runoff generation confirms that such a mechanism is often observed during highly intensive showers on arid and semi-arid watersheds, which lack enough vegetation cover to retain moisture. At a suitable combination of soils and topography, high rainfall rates lead to splash erosion and transport of soil particles by water fluxes. The transported sediments are deposited on the land surface and can significantly decrease soil permeability or form an impermeable crust. Horton overland flow may also occur during snowmelt on the plain watersheds when the permeability of frozen soil is low. However, the analysis of runoff coefficients and field observations shows that the rainfall Horton overland flow occurs in the temperate climate zone very seldom. Sheet flow is usually observed only on partial areas where the soil profile is saturated before the start of rainfall. In this case, water accumulates on the land surface due to the soil’s inability to a