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The relationship between precipitation, evapotranspiration and storage (in the
form of soil moisture and groundwater) can be expressed as the water balance

Precipitation (P) = streamflow (Q) + evapotranspiration (E) + change in storage


* (Balance between inputs (precipitation) and outputs (streamflow/runoff,

evapotranspiration and storage)
1. It is used by Hydrologists to plan and manage water supply within a
drainage basin, for example; when there is water shortages hosepipe bans
are implemented to preserve stocks.
2. For irrigation, pollution control and control flooding.

A water budget graph is a useful way to look at the water balance of a location
over a year. Precipitation and evapotranspiration rates are plotted on to a single

1. Actual evapotranspiration (AET): the loss of moisture to the atmosphere by the

processes of evapotration and transpiration which actually takes place.
Important terms:
2. Potential evapotranspiration (PET): the maximum amount of evapotranspiration
which occur if an adequate supply of water were continuously available. (In Desert
PET >AET amount of water is limited)

3. Soil moisture surplus: occurs when the soil water store is full and thus there is
surplus of water for plants, runoff and groundwater recharge. (PP>PET)

4. Soil moisture utilisation: Plants (and people) use moisture stored in the soil,
leaving it depleted. (AET >PP)

5. Soil moisture deficiency: Equivalent to the extra water which would be needed to
maintain maximum plant growth. There is little or no water available for plant growth
(irrigation could make good this deficit) (PET > AET)

6. Soil moisture recharge: The soil water store starts to fill again after a period of

7. Field capacity: The moisture a freely drained soil can hold after all free or gravity
water has drained away. Such moisture is held by tension around soil particles,
mainly as capillary water.

WATER BUDGET GRAPH (Soil moisture budget graph):


*Draw the diagram of soil moisture budget graph/water budget graph)


1. What is a water budget?

A water budget reflects the relationship between input and output of water through a

The water balance graph shows precipitation and potential evapotranspiration both
as line graphs. Thus we have a direct comparison of supply of water and the natural
demand for water.

It is possible to identify the periods when there is plenty of precipitation and when
there is not enough.

2. Definition of terms:

The following terms will be used in the questions that follow:

• Potential Evapotranspiration (PE): All the water that could enter the air from
plants and evaporation if present.
• Precipitation (P): All moisture from the atmosphere, rain, snow, hail and
• Surplus: Water above what is lost naturally from the soil (when P is greater
than PE)
• Deficit: Water that would be lost above what is in the soil if it were present
(when P is less than PE)