Before God created the processes necessary to produce water from above, He established water beneath the surface of the earth. “…but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground.”—Genesis 2:6
Today, this precious underground water remains a hidden treasure for all living things. Follow the path of a single water droplet, and you will gain a new appreciation for its power.
(Editor's note: This column is the first in a series highlighting water resource management.)
As rainwater splashes upon the earth, some of it runs off into existing streams or rivers as surface water. Some descends into the ground, with a little help from a multi-layered forest ecosystem. The trees and plants team up to decrease the amount of rainfall that runs off on the surface and to increase the amount sinking into the soil, thereby conserving water and preventing soil erosion. This soil-bound water trickles down to be absorbed by thirsty plant roots. The water that is not soaked up continues to move deeper into the soil until it reaches a rock or clay layer that will not allow further passage. When it arrives at these layers, water accumulates in underground chambers called aquifers. Some aquifers, deep underground, contain water that is thousands of years old. These aquifers are the coveted source of water that we pump out of the ground in wells.
How do you find these underground chambers of water? Dig a hole deep enough in the soil, and you will notice it filling with water from the aquifer or from the groundwater at a level called the water table. Below the water table, the soil is always wet. Depending on the geology of the area and the underground “plumbing,” some places contain a water table that is very near the surface of the ground. Here the water will seep out to form shallow pools or seepage ponds. This phenomenon occurs in woodland areas near streams or rivers, where low spots often fill with water seeping from the ground or on a hillside where water can trickle out as it passes through the soil.
Still, aquifers do not behave solely as static pools of water. The water in an aquifer may flow as an underground stream or river, and may form caves if it passes through limestone rocks or other rocks subject to water’s incredible dissolving power. When this flowing water taps the surface of the ground, it forms springs. Typically spring water appears crystal clear because it is filtered by the sand through which it passes, and it feels very cold because the subterranean temperature is often lower than the surface temperature. Sometimes the water flowing out of a spring will form a stream, or if its volume is large enough, a river.
And then the classic water cycle will begin again. Evaporation gives way to condensation and condensation yields precipitation. Back to earth the water goes. Beneath the earth, it continues to flow for all living things to harness its power.