Water Science School

Surface Water

The world's surface-water resources—the water in rivers, lakes, and ice and snow—are vitally important to the everyday life of not only people, but to all life on, in, and above the Earth. And, of course, surface water is an intricate part of the water cycle, on which all life depends.

All Surface Water Science Topics

All Surface Water Science Topics

View a list of all of our science topics about surface water.

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Surface Water and the Water Cycle

Surface Water and the Water Cycle

The various forms of surface water are integral parts of the natural water cycle.

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Filter Total Items: 43
Date published: June 6, 2018
Status: Completed

Crest Gage: A Quick Way to Measure River Stage

The maximum height rivers reach during storms and floods is an important "data point" to document. In places where there are not dedicated monitoring equipment, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) often uses "crest stage gages" to record a one-time measurement of the flood peak.

Contacts: Ask USGS
Attribution: Water Resources
Date published: June 6, 2018
Status: Completed

Rivers, Streams, and Creeks

Rivers? Streams? Creeks? These are all names for water flowing on the Earth's surface. Whatever you call them and no matter how large they are, they are invaluable for all life on Earth and are important components of the Earth's water cycle.

Contacts: Ask USGS
Date published: June 6, 2018
Status: Completed

Glaciers and Icecaps

Glaciers are a big item when we talk about the world's water supply. Almost 10 percent of the world's land mass is currently covered with glaciers, mostly in places like Greenland and Antarctica. You can think of a glacier as a frozen river, and like rivers, they "flow" downhill, erode the landscape, and move water along in the Earth's water cycle.

Contacts: Ask USGS
Date published: June 6, 2018
Status: Completed

High-Water Marks and Flooding

At places where the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) does not have real-time monitoring equipment, we use high-water marks to measure the maximum height (stream stage) of a flood or high-water event.

Contacts: Ask USGS
Attribution: Water Resources
Date published: June 6, 2018
Status: Completed

Hydroelectric Power: Advantages of Production and Usage

Nothing is perfect on Earth, and that includes the production of electricity using flowing water. Hydroelectric-production facilities are indeed not perfect (a dam costs a lot to build and also can have negative effects on the environment and local ecology), but there are a number of advantages of hydroelectric-power production as opposed to fossil-fuel power production.

Contacts: Ask USGS
Attribution: Water Resources
Date published: June 5, 2018
Status: Completed

Aqueducts Move Water in the Past and Today

An aqueduct has been and continues to be an imporant way to get water from one place to another. Be it 2,000 years ago in ancient Rome, Italy or today in California, aqueducts were and are essential to get water from a place where it exists in ample supply to where it is scarce. Find out how these "ancient marvels" work.

Contacts: Ask USGS
Attribution: Water Resources
Date published: June 5, 2018
Status: Completed

Impervious Surfaces and Flooding

The banner picture shows it all — Superhighways! Streets and pavement! Driveways! House roofs! These are all "impervious surfaces"; impervious to the water from precipitation. When it rains in this locale, water no longer seeps into the ground, but now runs off into storm sewers and then quickly into local creeks. Localized flooding is too often the result.

Contacts: Ask USGS