Chapter 10. Water

Adapted by Joyce M. McBeth (2018) University of Saskatchewan from Deline B, Harris R & Tefend K. (2015) “Laboratory Manual for Introductory Geology”. First Edition. Chapter 5 “Water” by Randa Harris, CC BY-SA 4.0.  View source.


Think how many times a day you take water for granted – you assume the tap will be flowing when you turn on your faucet, you expect rainfall to water your lawn, and you may count on water for your recreation. Not only is water necessary for many of life’s functions, it is also an important geologic agent. Water can sculpt the landscape dramatically over time both by carving canyons as well as depositing thick layers of sediment. Some of these processes are slow and result in landscapes worn down over time. Others, such as floods, can be dramatic and dangerous.

What happens to water during a rainstorm? Imagine that you are outside in a parking lot with grassy areas nearby. Where does the water from the parking  lot go? Much of it will run off as sheet flow and eventually join a stream. What happens to the rain in the grassy area? Much of it will infiltrate, or soak into the ground. We will deal with both surface and ground water in this lab. Both are integral parts of the water cycle, in which water gets continually recycled through the atmosphere, to the land, and back to the oceans. This cycle, powered by the sun, operates easily since water can change form from liquid to gas (or water vapour) quickly under surface conditions.

Both surface and ground water are beneficial for drinking water, industry, agriculture, recreation, and commerce. Demand for water will only increase as population increases, making it vital to protect water sources both above and below ground.

10.1.1 Learning Outcomes

After completing this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Understand how streams erode, transport, and deposit sediment
  • Know the different stream drainage patterns and understand what they indicate about the underlying rock
  • Explain the changes that happen from the head to the mouth of a stream
  • Understand the human hazards associated with floods
  • Know the properties of groundwater and aquifers
  • Understand the distribution of groundwater, including the water table
  • Learn the main features associated with karst topography
  • Understand the challenges posed by karst topography

10.1.2 Key Terms

  • Aquifer
  • Discharge
  • Drainage Basin
  • Drainage Divide
  • Drainage Pattern
  • Floodplain


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Introductory Physical Geology Laboratory Manual – First Canadian Edition (v.3 - Jan 2020) Copyright © 2020 by Joyce McBeth; Karla Panchuk; Tim Prokopiuk; Lyndsay Hauber; and Sean Lacey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.