water cycle | Definition, Steps, Diagram, & Facts

The water cycle or hydrological cycle is the permanent process of transformation and circulation of water in nature . During this process, water passes through different physical states: solid, liquid and gaseous.

The processes involved in the water cycle are evaporation, condensation, precipitation, infiltration and transpiration.

Water in nature is indispensable in the maintenance of life. It is distributed in nature in rivers, seas, lakes, oceans, glaciers and underground aquifers.

The water cycle in nature is fundamental in:

  • The maintenance of life on planet earth;
  • The variation of climate and
  • The level of rivers, lakes, seas and oceans.

Phases of the water cycle

The water cycle consists of five stages or phases: evaporation, condensation, precipitation, infiltration and transpiration.


The heat radiated by the sun heats the water of rivers, lakes, seas and oceans, producing the phenomenon of evaporation . At this moment, the transformation of water into a liquid state into a gaseous state takes place and moves from the surface of the earth to the atmosphere.


When the water vapor in the atmosphere cools it forms small drops, which are grouped and originate the clouds and mists. This process of transforming water from gaseous to liquid state is known as condensation.


When there is a lot of condensed water in the atmosphere, the precipitation process begins , which is nothing more than falling water in the form of rain, snow or hail depending on the environmental temperature of the regions. Snow and hail is the water of the atmosphere converted to its solid state.

When precipitation reaches the surface of the earth, part of that water seeps through the soil and feeds the underground water deposits by infiltration.


The plants absorb the water, either from the aquifer deposits or from the precipitation, and after using it, they release it back into the atmosphere through the process of transpiration. The water can also evaporate and percolate through the ground to supply the rivers, which flow into seas and oceans, restarting the entire water cycle process.

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