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Water processes

Water related processes, in very basic terms, include physical, chemical and biological interactions. These interactions can be looked at from a variety of different ways depending on the topic or scale of interest.

Wetland types can be categorised by the quantity and quality of water, how long wetlands are filled with water, and how often water inundates or flows through the wetland.

Each system and type of wetland, and the plants and animals that depend on them, have evolved to suit the natural range of water regimes and conditions.

Tannin waters of Bribie Island Photo by Gayle Stewart

Quick facts

Tea coloured
or tannin stained lakes such as Brown Lake on Stradbroke Island or Lake Cootharaba on the Sunshine Coast get their colour from the decomposing tea tree and melaleuca leaves that fall into them.

Water moving across and under the landscape into and through a variety of different wetlands has a major influence on everything from the shape of the Earth's surface to the variety of different wetland types and even the species that live within them.

Water travelling across the surface of the landscape is called surface water (run-off). Surface water may infiltrate the ground and recharge aquifers where it may then be used by ground water dependent ecosystems.

Water cycle

Wetlands trap rainwater and run-off and slowly release it to other surface water areas, groundwater and the atmosphere. Sometime a 'water balance equation' is used that looks at the balance of water entering and leaving a system[2].

Evapotranspiration into the atmosphere[2] has a direct influence on climate (rainfall and temperature). Wetlands can also provide a leafy, moist and cool micro-climate.


Water levels in wetlands often fluctuate (sometimes known as water regime or hydrologic flux). This, in turn, has an impact on the oxidation-reduction (redox) conditions that occur. These redox conditions have a direct role in[2]:

  • nutrient cycling, availability, and export
  • pH
  • vegetation composition
  • sediment and organic matter accumulation
  • decomposition and export
  • metal availability and export
  • water type.

Water regime and life support

Changes in water regime or frequency and timing of the period in which a soil is waterlogged may impact spawning, migration and species composition of the wetland and associated systems[2].

High flows, e.g. may allow for wetland connectivity including the exchange of nutrients, detritus and passage of aquatic life between systems.

Erosion and deposition

Erosion and deposition are the processes by which soil and rock are removed from the Earth's surface by natural processes such as wind or water flow, and then transported and deposited in other locations.

These include erosion caused by:

  • rainfall—sheet, rill, and gully erosion
  • surface flow hydraulic erosion—the motion of sediment and erosion or deposition such fluvial processes which comprise the motion of sediment and erosion or deposition on the river bed[1]
  • wave and tidal action

Modelling Water Processes

Water modelling is an effective tool for the management of water processes. Water modelling adresses water quality, hydrology and groundwater processes for input into policy, legislation and management of water processes and their impacts. The Queensland Water Modelling Network (QWMN) is improving the state's capacity to model surface water, groundwater, and water quality by providing a collaborative platform to support best-practice use of water models. For more information on modelling and mapping of wetlands, head to the Get Mapping Help page.

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  1. ^ Charlton, R 2008, Fundamentals of fluvial geomorphology., London: Rutledge.
  2. ^ a b c d Marjut, T & Gannon, R, Wetlands Functions (or Processes) and Values, North Carolina State University, viewed 26 September 2012, <>.

Last updated: 20 December 2013

This page should be cited as:

Water processes, WetlandInfo, Department of Environment and Science, Queensland, viewed 11 February 2019, <>.

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment and Science