Surface Water: Definition, Characteristics, & Types – Surface water is water that collects on the ground or in springs, rivers, lakes, wetlands, or the sea. Surface water relates to underground water or clouds. Surface water is naturally replenished through precipitation and naturally reduced through evaporation and seepage below the surface to become groundwater. Although there are other sources of underground water, namely trap water and magma water, precipitation is a major factor and groundwater derived from this process is called meteoric water. Surface water is the biggest source of clean water. Check out a more detailed explanation about Surface Water, Sinaumed’s:

Definition of Surface Water

Surface water is water that collects on the ground or in springs, rivers, lakes, wetlands, or the sea

There are several forms of surface water that exist on this earth, including:

  1. river,
  2. lake,
  3. swamp and
  4. sea.

Surface water is related to groundwater or atmospheric water. Surface water is naturally replenished through precipitation and naturally reduced through evaporation and seepage below the surface to become groundwater. Although there are other sources for underground water namely trap water and magma water, precipitation is a major factor and groundwater derived from this process is called meteoric water.

Surface water can be divided into two types, namely Inland Waters Land waters are surface waters that are above land such as swamps, lakes, rivers and so on, and Sea Waters Sea waters are surfaces that are in the vast ocean. For example, like sea water in the sea.

You can also learn in-depth discussion of waters and their productivity which is divided into three in various ecosystems through the Revised Edition of the Aquatic Productivity book below.

Definition of Surface Water According to Experts

Surface water is an important source of water supply for the community. Surface water is water that is above the surface of the ground, flowing or still. Surface water is not able to be absorbed, because the soil layer is very hard. Later the collected stream will flow towards a point, such as a river, lake or sea. Surface water is divided into two types, namely inland water and sea water. The following is the definition of surface water according to experts.

  • Soegianto (2005) Surface water is water that comes from rainwater that falls to the ground, some of it evaporates and some of it flows into rivers, waterways and is then stored in lakes, reservoirs and swamps.
  • Limbong (2008) Surface water is rainwater that flows on the surface of the earth. So, Surface water is water that collects on the ground which can be easily seen by the eye. In general, water sources that come from the surface are not good water for direct human consumption. Therefore, water sources originating from surface water need to be treated before being used.


Surface Water Quality and Characteristics

Water quality are variables that can affect the life of aquatic biota. These variables include: physical properties (color, turbidity, and temperature) and chemical properties (content of oxygen, carbon dioxide, pH, ammonia, and alkalinity).

Surface water quality nationally has been regulated in Government Regulation no. 82/2001 concerning Water Quality Management and Water Pollution Control. The quality of a water body depends on the characteristics and quantity of water that enters it. Therefore, liquid waste that enters the waters also needs to be regulated in laws and regulations, so that it does not worsen surface water quality.

In general, surface water will be polluted during its flow, for example by mud, logs, leaves, municipal industrial waste, and so on. To identify the characteristics of surface raw water, this water is grouped into 6, namely;

  • Surface water with a high level of turbidity
  • Surface water with low turbidity
  • Surface water with temporary turbidity
  • Surface water with moderate to high color content
  • Surface water with high hardness.
  • Surface water with very low turbidity
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Surface Water Type


The river is fresh water that has a flow where the source is on the mainland which empties into the sea, lake or larger river. Rainwater, springs and glacier fluids will flow through a channel to a lower place.

This abundant rainwater can also be used to fulfill daily needs. Learn how in the book Harvesting Rainwater: A new source of drinking water.

At first the channel through which it is relatively narrow and short. But the natural process of this flow erodes the areas in its path. As a result, this channel is getting wider and longer and a river is formed.


Lakes are depressions that exist on the surface of the earth, whether it’s the result of tectonic, volcanic or other processes that make the basins fill over time with river water that flows and empties into the basin.

Lakes are very important for human life, especially as a reserve of water for aquatic purposes (irrigation), drinking water as a source of electricity generation, as a means of sports and recreation as a regulator of water to prevent flooding and as a place for fishing activities (shrimp and fish ponds). ) as well as other benefits. A lake is a body of water surrounded by land.

There are millions of lakes in the world. One of the highest is Lake Titicaca in the Andes mountains between Boliyia and Peru which is about 3810 meters (12,500 feet) above sea level. The lowest lake is the Dead Sea between Israel and Jordan. It’s more than 395 meters (1,300 feet) below sea level. The water in the lake comes from rain, snow, melting ice, rivers and groundwater seepage. Most lakes contain fresh water.


Swamp is an area that is always inundated with water and has a relatively high water content. The water in the swamp looks dirty because it contains organic matter that comes from dead plants and animals. As a result stagnant water causes the soil to become acidic. A swamp is an area of ​​land permanently saturated or filled with water.

Many swamps are even covered by water. There are two main types of swamps, namely freshwater swamps and saltwater swamps. Swamps are dominated by trees, they are often named for the type of trees that grow in them such as cypress swamps or timber swamps. Freshwater swamps are usually found on land while saltwater swamps are usually found along coastal areas. Swamps are transitional areas they are not really land or really water.


Sea water is surface water that is in the vast ocean. For example, like sea water in the sea. Based on the area and shape, the classification of the sea consists of the bay which is the part of the sea that juts into the land, the strait is a relatively narrow sea and is located between two islands, the sea is waters located between islands which are relatively wider than the strait and the ocean is The sea is very wide and lies between the continents.


How to Calculate Surface Water Discharge

Discharge is the amount of water flow (volume) flowing through a cross section in a certain time, generally expressed in volume/time units, namely (m3/second). Measurement of surface water discharge can be done in 2 ways, namely direct and indirect.

  • Direct Measurement: Direct measurements in the field include measuring the width, water level, drainage canal height, slanted side, and diameter of each drainage canal.
  • Indirect measurement of Velocity area methods. In principle, to determine the discharge of a stream, measurements are made of the flow velocity and the wet cross section of the river. The flow velocity is assumed to be uniform at any point on the cross section whose magnitude is equal to the velocity.
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Surface Water Treatment

In general, raw water sources from surface water must be considered in terms of turbidity and microbiological aspects. Poor raw water conditions lead to higher processing costs due to the need for more chemicals or even a new processing unit to maintain water quality according to quality standards.

The purpose of treating surface water is so that surface water can be used by the community as clean water and drinking water in accordance with the clean water and drinking water quality standards set by the government and this can be found in the Sinaumed’s Law book on Water Resources.

Drinking water treatment can be done by 3 methods, namely:

Physics Processing

The principle of using filtering and gravity process. The goal is to remove turbidity caused by dissolved particles in raw water.

  • Sedimentation Sedimentation is a unit that functions to separate solids and liquids by using gravitational settling to separate suspended particles contained in the liquid (Reynols, 1982).
  • Carbon Filter Activated carbon with granular media (Granular Activated Carbon) is a filtration process that functions to remove organic materials, disinfect, and remove odors and tastes caused by organic compounds. Principle: adsorb contaminants using carbon media. The adsorption process that takes place in activated carbon depends on the surface area of ​​the media used and is related to the total area of ​​the pores present in the media.
  • Membrane or Filtration This process is to filter water that has been coagulated and precipitated to produce drinking water of good quality. Filtration can be done using several types of filters, including: slow sand filters, fast sand filters, or by using membrane technology. The main advantage of membranes compared to slow sand filtration is that the required treatment unit has a smaller size, a larger processing capacity, and is capable of producing potable water.

Chemical Processing

Chemical processing is carried out by adding certain chemicals which aim to remove organic compounds and inorganic compounds in water. The addition of these chemicals is specific, depending on the type and concentration of pollutants in the raw water.


Flocculation is the slow-stirring stage that follows the fast-stirring unit. This process aims to accelerate the rate of particle collisions, thus causing the agglomeration of colloidal particles to be destabilized electrolytically to a precipitated and filtered size.

Flocculation is achieved by applying proper stirring to enlarge the coagulated flocs. In general, the detention time in this bath is 20-40 minutes. This is done because the floc that has reached a certain size cannot withstand the tensile force of the water flow and causes the floc to break again, therefore the mixing speed and detention time are limited.


Disinfection is a process that aims to kill pathogenic microorganisms present in the raw water that enters the drinking water treatment plant. This process does not apply to microorganisms that are in spore form.

There are various methods for disinfection, including using oxidizing agents (ozone, halogens, halogen compounds), cations from heavy metals (silver, gold, mercury), organic compounds, gaseous compounds, and physical treatment (heat, UV, pH). ) (Chang, 1971 cited in Reynolds, 1982).

Learn how to maintain and manage existing resources through the book Management of Water Resources in Regional Autonomy below.

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