A to Z of water words

We have a dictionary of water words to help you with definitions.

Absorbent

A material that can easily soak up liquid.

Adaptation

A population becomes suited to their environment through evolvement over time.

Advertisement

A public promotion of some product or service.

Agricultural water use

Water used for stock, crops and irrigation on farms and market gardens.

Alum (Aluminium Sulphate)

A chemical compound commonly used in water purification.

Anthracite

A hard, carbon content variety of coal.

Aquifer

Porous soil or rock that holds groundwater and is sufficiently permeable to yield significant volumes of water.

Atmometer/Evaporimeter

A scientific instrument used for measuring the rate of evaporation from a wet surface to the atmosphere. 

Atmosphere

The layer of gasses surrounding the Earth.

Audit

A methodical examination or review of a condition or situation.

Bacteria

Unicellular microorganisms that do not have organelles or an organised nucleus. Some can cause disease.

Ban

Prohibit especially by legal means or social pressure.

Biodegradable

Capable of being broken down by the action of living things.

Biodiversity

The variety of plants, animals and micro-organisms and the ecosystems of which they are a part.

Biography

An account of someone's life written by someone else.

Biological (bio) indicator

Species that can be used to monitor the health of an environment or ecosystem.

Bio solids

Stabilised, nutrient-rich, organic residues generated from the wastewater treatment process.

Blackwater

Wastewater from toilets (including human waste).

Blockage

An act or instance of obstructing.

Bore

A hole or passage in the Earth made by a drill.

Calendar

A system of timekeeping that defines the beginning and length and divisions of the year.

Catchment

The surface area from which runoff flows, sometimes via drainage systems, to a river, dam or wetland.

Caulking

The process where lead is poured, driven or forced into a joint to make it leak-proof.

Cesspit/cesspool

A pit, traditionally dug into the earth, where urine and faeces is disposed of.

Change

To become different.

Chloraminated

The use of chlorine and ammonia to produce a long lasting disinfectant.

Cistern

A container that holds water for flushing out urinals and toilet bowls.

Climate

The weather in a location averaged over a long period of time.

Climate change

The way long-term weather patterns have been changing over time.

Climate change

A significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years.

Cloud

A visible mass of water floating in the air.

Cloud

Visible condensed water vapour floating high above general ground level.

Coagulant

Chemicals used to form particles (floc) which will settle and be removed through clarification or filtration in the water treatment process.

Cold

The absence of heat.

Colony

A country or area, occupied by settlers from a different country, that is under full or partial political control by those settlers.

Community water use

Water that is used by households, businesses, industry, agriculture, and for recreational purposes.

Community/settlement

A social group who resides in a specific place, under the same government and will often have a common cultural and historical heritage.

Compensating basin

A sandy basin where stormwater is temporarily stored and re-enters the groundwater system.

Compromise

A middle way between two extremes.

Concentration

The strength of a solution.

Condensation

The process of a substance in a gaseous state transforming into a liquid state.

Condense

Cause to change from a gas or vapour into a liquid.

Conflict

A disagreement or argument about something.

Conjunctive use

The practice of storing water during wet years so it can be used in drier years.

Conservation

The preservation and careful management of the environment and of natural resources.

Conserve

Use cautiously and frugally.

Contaminate

To make something impure by exposing it too or adding in a poisonous or polluting substance.

Contamination

The act of polluting, either on purpose or accidentally, with unwanted substances.

Controlled variables

Factors that are controlled or held constant throughout an investigation.

Cycle

Any complete round or series of occurrences that repeats or is repeated.

Cyclone

A storm or system of winds that rotates about a centre of low atmospheric pressure and often brings heavy rain.

Dam

A barrier, usually on a river, that is constructed to contain the flow of water.

Damp land

A seasonally waterlogged basin.

Debate

Discussing the pros and cons of an issue.

Decomposition (of wastewater)

Organic matter breaking down in wastewater by either aerobic or anaerobic bacterial action.

Dehydration

A large loss of water in the body.

Density

A measurement of how much mass is in a particular unit.

Dependant variable

The variable that is changed/being tested in an experiment.

Desalination

Several processes that remove salt and minerals from saline water.

De-watering

The removal of groundwater through drilling holes into the ground and equipping them with pumps.

Discharge

The pouring of a substance from an area where it was confined.

Discharge area

An area where groundwater is discharged usually to a wetland or stream and often due to a sudden change in slope.

Disease

An abnormal condition affecting the body of an organism.

Dispose

To cast something away.

Dissolve

To pass into a solution.

Dissolving

The process of going into the solution.

Downpipe

A pipe that directs water from a roof gutter down into a storm drain.

Drain

An above or below ground channel or pipe that conveys stormwater to a natural water body.

Drainage system

A system of drains.

Dreamtime

Time of the creation of the world in Australian Aboriginal mythology.

Dry blowing (winnowing)

To blow a current of air through grain in order to remove another material.

Dual-flush toilet

A toilet with a half and full flush option.

Economic impacts

The effect on commerce, employment or incomes caused by a decision, event or policy.

Ecosystem

A biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.

Ecosystem

The dynamic complex of plant, animal, fungal and micro-organism communities and its associated non-living environment which all interacts as an ecological unit.

Efficiency

Achieving more (or the same) with fewer resources.

Efficient

Without wasting.

Employee

A person employed by another; usually to earn money.

Empty

Having nothing inside.

Engineer

A person with scientific training who designs and builds complicated products, machines, systems and structures.

Entitlement

The right to benefits specified especially by law or contract.

Environment

The area where something exists or lives.

Environmental impacts

The environmental effects caused by a development, industrial, or infrastructural project.

Erosion

The action of surface processes (such as water flow, wind and other natural agents) that cause the gradual removal of soil, rock or material.

Eutrophication

The condition where a river or estuary has a high concentration of nutrients.

Evaporation

The conversion of a liquid into a vapour/gaseous state due to an increase in temperature and/or pressure.

Evaporation pan

A pan used to hold water during observations of evaporation to determine the quantity evaporated.

Evapotranspiration

The evaporation of water from leaves.

Exemption

Immunity from an obligation or duty.

Explore

To travel through an unfamiliar area in order to learn more about it; to inquire into a subject in detail.

Fertiliser

Organic or inorganic material added to the soil to supply the nutrients required for plant growth.

Filter

A device with holes of varying size that removes substances from a mixture.

Flocculation

The process where microscopic substances come out of suspension to form floc or flake.

Flood

An overflow of water that submerges dry land.

Floodplain

An area of land, commonly adjacent to rivers, that is seasonally inundated with water.

Flow rate

The amount of fluid flowing at a given time.

Fluid

A substance that is easily able to flow.

Freezing

The temperature point which a liquid turns into a solid.

Fresh water

Water with a low salt content; generally less than 1000mg per litre.

Full

Containing as much or as many as possible.

Gauge

An instrument used to measure an amount, level or content of something.

Germination

The process of sprouting seeds or spores.

Germs

Minute life forms.

Gigalitre (GL)

One thousand million litres.

Gold

A yellow, precious metal.

Goldfields

An area of land in which gold is found and mined.

Groundwater

Water located beneath the ground surface in soil pore spaces and in the fractures of rock formations.

Habitat

The natural home or environment of an animal plant of other organism.

Hail

Pellets of frozen rain.

Half-full

Containing half of its maximum.

Hazardous

Involving or exposing one to risk.

Historian

An expert on history.

Hot

Having a high temperature.

Household water use

Water used in homes.

Hydrated

The body contains a sufficient amount of water.

Hydric soil

Nutrient rich wetland soil composed of organic material (broken down plants).

Hydrophytes

Plants that have adapted to live in wetlands (hydro = water and phytes = plants.

Hydrosphere

The collective water on the Earth's surface, such as lakes, seas and rivers.

Hydro zoning

Placing plants with similar watering requirements together.

Ice

Water in a frozen state.

Impermeable

Fluid is unable to pass through.

Impurity

Something that causes contamination.

Independent variable

A variable that is not affected by other variables being measured in an experiment.

Indigenous

Originating where it is found.

Inflow

The act or process of flowing in or into.

Infrastructure

The basic physical and organisational structures and facilities needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.

Inorganic

Being composed of matter that is not from plants or animals.

Insoluble

Not easily dissolved.

Investigate

Making an inquiry to establish truth and fact.

Irreversible

A process which cannot be reversed.

Irrigation

The artificial application of water to land or soil.

Job

The principal activity in your life that you do to earn money.

Kilolitre (kL)

One thousand litres.

Labourer

A person who does hard, physical work for money.

Leak

The unwanted discharge of fluid from a container.

License

Someone who has been granted a license.

Lightening

The flash of light that accompanies an electric discharge in the atmosphere.

Liquid

A substance in the fluid state of matter with no fixed shape but a fixed volume.

Litter

Unwanted substances or items left by people, intentionally or accidentally, in the natural environment.

Liveability

Factors that add up to a communities quality of life including their environment (built and natural), economic prosperity, social stability and equity, educational opportunity, and cultural and recreational possibilities.

Map

A diagrammatic representation of the land and sea displaying physical characteristics.

Market intermediaries

An individual or firm that links buyers and sellers to other buyers and sellers.

Mega litre (ML)

One million litres.

Melting

The process where heat changes something from a solid to a liquid.

Melting point

The temperature below which a liquid turns into a solid.

Meteorologist

A scientist that researches the atmosphere and its phenomena with a focus on weather and weather forecasting.

Meter

An instrument that measures water use.

Microbiology

A branch of science that deals with microorganisms.

Microfiltration

A membrane technical filtration process which removes contaminants from a fluid by passage through a microporous membrane.

Microorganism

Any organism of microscopic size.

Migration

The movement of groups of animals from one region to another for feeding or breeding.

Millimetres (mm)

One thousandth of a meter.

Miner

A person who works in a mine.

Mining

Extracting valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth.

Mix

To combine or blend into one mass.

Mixture

A substance created by mixing other substances together.

Mulch

A protective covering, usually composed of organic matter that is placed around plants to reduce water evaporation, control weeds and protect roots.

Native plant

Originating from and growing naturally in a particular region.

Natural resources

Resources (actual and potential) that are supplied by nature.

Nightsoil

A euphemism for human excrement that is collected at night from cesspits and privies and sometimes used as fertiliser.

Nuisance

That which causes offence, trouble, annoyance or injury.

Nutrient

A substance that provides nourishment essential for the growth and maintenance of life.

Occupation

The principal activity in your life that you do to earn money.

Organic

Of, relating to, or derived from living organisms.

Osmosis

Circulation of molecules through a semipermeable membrane from a place of high concentration to a place of low concentration until the concentration on both sides is equal.

Overflow

The occurrence of liquid exceeding the limit or capacity.

Particles

A tiny piece of something.

Pathogen

A disease causing micro-organism (e.g. bacteria or viruses).

Pebble

A small stone.

Permeability

The ability of a fluid to move through soil or limestone rock.

Perspiration

The production of fluids secreted by sweat glands in the skin.

Pioneer

One of the first colonists or settlers in a new territory.

Pipeline

A long pipe used to convey resources such as water over a long distance.

Plausplain

A flat area of land that is seasonally waterlogged.

Pollutant

Waste matter that contaminates the water, air or soil

Pollution

The addition of harmful things to the environment.

Pollution

The act of contaminating or polluting the environment with unwanted substances or items (either intentionally or accidentally).

Polymer

A chemical compound or mixture of compounds that consists of repeating structural units.

Population density

The number of people per unit of land area (e.g. persons per square kilometre).

Porosity

The amount of space in a rock or soil that is able to store water.

Porous

Filled with holes that can absorb water.

Potable

Any liquid suitable for drinking.

Precious

Of great value or high price.

Precipitation

Water falling from the sky to the earth.

Precipitation

The falling to earth of water in any form: rain, snow, hail, sleet or mist.

Predict

A statement made about the future.

Primary treatment

The first major treatment stage in a wastewater treatment facility.

Prospector

Someone who explores an area looking for mineral deposits (including gold).

Protozoan

Any of a large ground of single-celled organisms.

Pump

A machine for raising or transferring liquids and gases.

Pump station

A facility that receives and pumps water out to the surrounding area via pipelines.

Pure substances

A sample of mater that is either an element or a compound.

Quota

A fixed quantity of a product.

Rain

Drops of fresh water that fall from clouds.

Rain

Water that is condensed from the aqueous vapour in the atmosphere and falls to earth in drops. 

Rebuttal

The act of refuting by offering an opposing argument.

Recharge area

An area where rainwater soaks through the ground to reach an aquifer.

Recycle

To use again after processing.

Recycled water

Wastewater that has been treated to remove solids and impurities then reused.

Reduce

To make smaller or decrease in amount, degree or size.

Renewable

Capable of being replaced by natural ecological cycles or sound management practices.

Replenishment

To make complete again.

Report

To communicate findings.

Resource

A source of aid or support that may be drawn upon when required.

Restriction

A principle that limits the extent of something.

Retrofitting

The replacement of an existing, functioning appliance with a newer, more efficient one.

Reuse

To use more than once.

Reverse osmosis

A water purifying technique where pressure is applied to force liquid through a semi-permeable membrane in the opposite direction to normal osmosis.

Reversible

Capable of being reversed.

Ripples

A small wave on the surface of a liquid.

Riverbeds

A channel occupied by a river.

Rubbish

Unwanted substances or items left by people, intentionally or accidentally, in the natural environment.

Run-off

Excess matter that moves quickly and falls off an apparatus.

Rural

Living in or characteristic of farming/country life.

Saline intrusion

The forcible entry of salt into water.

Salinity

The saltiness or dissolved alt content of a body of water.

Salt

A crystalline compound (NaCl) that consists of sodium chloride and is abundant in nature.

Sand

Loose material consisting of grains, rock and coral.

Sandcastle

A small, castle-like structure made of wet sand.

Saturated

Holding as much liquid that can be absorbed.

Save

To avoid unnecessary waste or expense.

Scheme water

Water of drinking quality that is supplied by a water utility to customers via a distribution network.

Screenings

The process of removing undesirable material from wastewater using screens.

Season

One of the natural periods into which the year is divided by equinoxes, solstices or atmospheric conditions.

Seasonally

Depending on the season.

Septic tank

A small below-ground treatment system where sewage is disintegrated by bacteria.

Sieve

A utensil made of mesh and held in a frame which is used for separating particles.

Snow

Precipitation in the form of ice crystals, formed by the freezing of water vapour in the air.

Snowflake

A crystal of snow.

Soak well

A collection pit for surface and subsurface stormwater.

Social impacts

The effect of an activity on the social fabric of the community and well-being of the individuals and families.

Soil aggregates

Clumps of soil particles held together by moist clay, organic matter and organic compounds.

Solar desalination

A technique for desalinating water using solar energy.

Solid

Of definite shape and volume; neither liquid nor gas.

Solute

The substance that is dissolved.

Solution

A mixture of two or more substances.

Solvent

A liquid that is able to dissolve other substances.

Sprinkler

A device used for spraying water.

Storm surge

The difference between the sea level and predicted sea level.

Stormwater

Surface water caused by rain.

Stormwater

Rainwater which has run off roads, roofs, paved areas etc. and is conveyed by constructed drains to waterways.

Stream

A smooth flow

Streamflow

The amount of water that flows into dams each year.

Sump land (swamp)

A basin of variable size and shape that is seasonally inundated with water.

Sun

The source of light and heat for the Earth.

Surface run off

The water flow that occurs when the soil is infiltrated to full capacity and excess water flows over the land.

Surface water

Water that is collecting either on the ground, in a stream, river, lake, wetland, dam or ocean.

Sustainability

To keep something in existence.

Sustainable

Using a resource so that it is not depleted or permanently damaged.

Tap

A device for controlling the flow of liquid.

Temperature

The degree of heat or cold in a body or environment.

Tenement

A substandard multi-family dwelling in the urban core.

Terrarium

A transparent enclosure for raising plants or small animals indoors.

Thunder

A loud noise caused by air expanding along the path of a bolt of lightning.

Timeline

A visual way for displaying a list of events in chronological order.

Toast

To make brown and crisp by heating.

Toilet

A fixture that consists of a water-flushed bowl and seat.

Topography

The configuration of a surface including its relief and the position of its natural and man-made features.

Totem

A natural object or animal that is believed by a particular language group to have spiritual significance and that is adopted by it as an emblem.

Trans-boundary

Crossing a provincial, territorial or national boundary. 

Transpiration

The evaporation of water vapour from a plants surface (especially the leaves).

Trickle

A gradual flow.

Tsunami

A large destructive wave.

Turbidity

The cloudy appearance of water caused by the presence of suspended matter.

Urban

Located in or characteristic of a city or city life.

Value

The relative worth, utility, or importance of a substance/object.

Victorian

A person living during Queen Victoria's reign (1837 – 1901); especially a representative figure of that time.

Volume

The amount of space occupied by a three-dimensional object as measured in cubic units.

Wash

To clean with water and soap.

Washer

The seal or valve used in taps to control the flow of water.

Waste

To use, consume or spend thoughtlessly or carelessly.

Wastewater

Water that has been used inside a home, business or industry that travels to a wastewater treatment plant.

Wastewater system

The system that collects wastewater from households, businesses and industries then directs it to treatment plants where it is treated to an environmentally acceptable standard before being reused or safely discharged back to the environment.

Water

A fluid necessary for the life of animals and plants.

Water appliance

Any household item associated with water.

Water cooperation

Nations and countries that are working together to ensure water is well-managed, fairly distributed and available to all.

Water cycle

The circulation of water on Earth as it evaporates from the sea, condenses into clouds and precipitates.

Water efficient appliance

Any household item that is designed to use minimum water to achieve the same end results.

Water footprint

A measure of the total water used in the production of the goods and services that a particular individual, business or nation uses.

Water quality

How safe water is for drinking and the environment.

Water table

The boundary between water-saturated ground and unsaturated ground.

Water trading

The process of temporarily or permanently buying and selling water entitlements.

Water vapour

Water when it is a gas.

Waterborne

Carried in water.

Waterway

A channel for water.

Waterwise

Being aware of water use and taking a water conservation approach.

Waves

To move in a wavy pattern with a rising and falling motion.

Weather

The meteorological conditions.

Weir

A low wall or dam built across a stream or river to raise the level of the water.

Well (bore)

A hole that is dug or drilled through the ground surface into an aquifer to withdraw or monitor groundwater.

WELS

Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Scheme

Wet

Covered or soaked with a liquid.

Wetland

A low area where the land is saturated with water.

Wetland

Areas of seasonally, intermittently or permanently waterlogged soils or inundated land.

Willy willy

A strong, well-formed, and relatively long-lived whirlwind.

Worker

A person who works especially at manual or industrial labour or with a particular material.

Xerophytes

A plant adapted for life with a limited supply of water.

Yield

To produce or provide something.

Zone

An area or stretch of land with a particular characteristic, purpose or use.