Surface Water vs Ground Water: Difference and Comparison

The earth provides many resources for our convenience and comfort. Water is one of the natural resources.

There are different types of water were available on the earth. Water is a major resource for the daily life of living beings.

Surface water and groundwater are two different types used daily.

Key Takeaways

  1. Surface water includes lakes, rivers, and reservoirs, while groundwater is stored underground in aquifers and accessed via wells.
  2. Groundwater is cleaner and causes less pollution due to natural filtration, while surface water is more vulnerable to contamination.
  3. Managing surface water and groundwater resources is crucial for maintaining a sustainable water supply for human consumption, agriculture, and industry.

Surface Water vs Ground Water

Surface water is water found on the Earth’s surface in streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans and is affected by changes in weather and climate. Groundwater is water beneath the surface in underground aquifers and is restored by rain and snowmelt. It is less affected by changes in weather patterns.

Surface Water vs Ground Water

The body of water found on the surface of the earth is called surface water. The surface water includes streams, lakes, and creeks.

The hydrological cycle and water cycle include surface water. In surface water, the water gets precipitated. Surface water has several types, namely, perennial, ephemeral, and man-made.

Surface water is involved in the moment of water from and to earth. Surface water is also referred to as blue water.

Groundwater is nothing but water present at the ground level of the earth. An unconsolidated deposit in the underground is called an aquifer.

The rock and soil are completely saturated with water underground in the earth, which is called the water table. The groundwater is rechargeable, and it is recharged from the surface of the earth.

Hydrogeology is the study of groundwater, and it is also called hydrology.

Comparison Table

Parameters of comparisonSurface WaterGroundwater
DefinitionWater found in the upper side of the earth, like rivers and lakes, is called surface water.Water trapped underground in the earth is called groundwater.
Quality of waterSurface Water is more contaminatedGroundwater is less contaminated
ExposureSurface Water exposes to sunlight causes evaporation.Groundwater doesn’t expose to sunlight.
Temperature levelSurface water has a change in temperature according to its surroundings.Groundwater has a constant temperature.
PathogensSurface water has pathogensGroundwater doesn’t have pathogens.

What is Surface Water?

Surface water is nothing but the water present on the upper side of the earth. It is used for drinking, cleaning, agriculture purpose, and electricity generation.

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The water provided to the communities is taken from surface water of almost 60 percent. The environmental protection agency has recorded those measurements.

When the dissolved solids in the surface water are less than 1000 mg/l, then it is called freshwater by the USGS water reports. Surface water has three major types: Permanent, Semi-permanent, and man-made.

The permanent water or perennial is like lakes and rivers which have water throughout the year. The semi-permanent water is like channels and creeks that have water present only at certain times.

The semi-permanent surface water is also called ephemeral. Human beings, for construction and other purposes, create man-made surface water.

They are called artificial ponds. The amount of rain on that year determines the amount of surface water.

Climate change is the major impact reflected on the surface water levels. Climate change makes the icebergs melt and increase the seawater level.

The increase in seawater will result in the damaging to the freshwater aquifer present underground. It affects the ecosystem and wildlife.

The hydrological cycle directly connects with global warming, which damages natural resources.

surface water

What is Groundwater?

Groundwater is nothing but the water present underground on the earth. The groundwater is a freshwater aquifer where the water shallows from the surface water.

The groundwater gets recharged from the surface water. The groundwater has soil moisture and deep geothermal.

Groundwater will make way for faults through its lubricating properties. Rainwater is the major source of recharging groundwater.

In low permeability, the groundwater is immobile. When compared to surface water, groundwater is easy for an individual to make use of.

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In surface water, people need to travel to those places to fetch water. Unlike surface water, groundwater is completely pollution-free.

Continuous usage of groundwater results in the empty of groundwater. The improper disposal of waste will damage the groundwater.

The waste from industries and households will dump into the ground without knowing the cause. Saltwater intrusion is the major problem of groundwater wastage.

Thirty percent of freshwater comes from groundwater. The world’s entire freshwater need of 0.76% is satisfied by groundwater.

Almost 99% of freshwater is from groundwater.

The surface water will help to replenish the groundwater. In the natural life cycle, the groundwater is the long-term reservoir.

Main Differences Between Surface Water and Groundwater

  1. Water found in the upper side of the earth, like rivers and lakes, is called surface water, and the water trapped underground in the earth is called groundwater.
  2. Unlike Surface Water, groundwater is less contaminated.
  3. Surface Water exposes to sunlight causes evaporation, whereas groundwater doesn’t expose to sunlight.
  4. Surface water changes in temperature according to its surroundings, and groundwater has a constant temperature.
  5. Unlike surface water, groundwater doesn’t have pathogens.
Difference Between Surface Water and Ground Water

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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10 thoughts on “Surface Water vs Ground Water: Difference and Comparison”

  1. Climate change’s impacts on these water resources are concerning, as they can have long-lasting effects on ecosystems.


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