Tips and Techniques – Water Terms

Water is always a topic that seems to come up whenever folks are buying land, selling it, or improving what they already own.  What is the difference between a creek and a stream?  a pond and a lake?  What is meant by riparian doctrine?  What is watershed?  a gaining stream?  porosity?

Whether you are buying, selling, or improving, it is best to understand what these terms mean, and sometimes it can be an overwhelming task to search a host of different locations for such information.  We have compiled a list of nearly 100 terms that will be helpful in any water issues you may face or want to learn more about.  Below is a sampling of terms included in the glossary.  Insider Basic Members can click here for the complete glossary of terms.  Not an Insider?  Join now, it’s free.

Baseflow – that part of streamflow derived from groundwater flowing into a stream or river.

Brook – a natural stream of water, smaller than a river or creek; especially a small stream that breaks directly out of the ground, as from a spring or seep.

Discharge – the volume of water that passes a given point during a given period. It is an all-inclusive outflow term, describing a variety of flows such as from a pipe to a stream, or from a stream or river to a lake or ocean.

Dispersion – the spreading and mixing of chemical constituents in both surface and groundwaters caused by diffusion and mixing due to microscopic variations in densities and velocities.

Eutrophication – the process of nutrient enrichment causing a water body to fill with aquatic plants and algae. Eutrophic lakes often are undesirable for recreation and may not support normal fish populations.

Field capacity – the amount of water a saturated soil contains after rapid internal drainage has ceased (approximately 2 days).

Limiting factor – any factor such as temperature, light, water, or chemical that limits the existence, growth, abundance, or distribution of an organism. For example, an increase in phosphorus loading to a lake, stream, or river can trigger the growth of algae.

Percolation – the movement of water through saturated soil layers, often continuing downward to groundwater.

Porosity – the ratio of the volume of open spaces or voids to the total volume of a material. For example, a sand and gravel deposit may have 20 % porosity. Porosity determines the amount of water that can be stored in a saturated formation. A saturated formation 100 feet thick with a porosity of 20 % could store an equivalent water depth of approximately 20 feet.


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