After water infiltrates a soil, it percolates through it.

So, percolation is the descent of water through soil pores and through cracks in rock.

We most commonly hear this word used with regard to water passing through coffee grounds and picking up the nutrients and flavors of the coffee.

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Soil water also picks things up. It may carry nutrients and pollutants that it has picked up on the surface or on its way through the soil or rock. If your soil water picks up nutrients in your topsoil and carries them down, they may be out of reach of your plant roots. It may also pick up salinity or acidity in the upper part of the soil and carry them into the subsoil.

Percolation through an aquifer leads to soaks and springs when that layer of rock reaches the surface elsewhere.

Percolation through aquifers means that pollutants and salinity can be relocated hundreds of kilometres or miles away.

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This page was updated on December 27, 2007