Scientists Say: Runoff

When water hits soil, it doesn’t stop there


Water flowing out of these concrete pipes is runoff.


Runoff (noun, “RUN-off”)

This is water that flows off the land. It may come from rain, snow or ice. Runoff can also arise when people apply too much water somewhere, such as on a farm field or lawn. Water may run off soil because the soil is too soaked to hold more. Or it might run off of a paved road or driveway because it can’t penetrate the hard surface. Runoff eventually ends up in streams, ponds, rivers, lakes and oceans. Before it gets there, the water can pick up dirt, pollutants and even medicines. All of those substances can end up in the waterways where the runoff pours in and may cause problems for creatures living within them.

In a sentence

The ditches farmers use to drain their fields may also carry runoff full of pollutants.

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Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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