The key difference between infiltration and percolation is that the infiltration refers to the filtration of rainwater from the surface of the ground while percolation refers to the filtration of infiltered water through soil particles and porous materials such as fractured rocks etc.
Infiltration and percolation are two different processes related to the movement of water or moisture through the soil. This article discusses both of these processes in detail in order to make you understand the difference between infiltration and percolation. However, the two terms refer to almost the same processes. Nevertheless, they are two different processes that have different nature and the different areas of utilization.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Infiltration
3. What is Percolation
4. Similarities Between Infiltration and Percolation
5. Side by Side Comparison – Infiltration vs Percolation in Tabular Form
What is Infiltration?
Infiltration refers to the process in which the soil surface absorbs water during a rainfall. In simple words, water enters the soil from the ground surface through infiltration. Hence, this process can be used to measure the speed of water entering the soil in case of rain or when water is supplied to the ground through human-made means. Basically, infiltration measurement tells the amount of water absorbed per hour. This amount is expressed in inches or in millimetres. Moreover, infiltrometer is the instrument we use to measure infiltration. Infiltration is important because it replenishes the soil moisture deficiency.
Since infiltration refers to the downward flow of water through the surface of the ground; it is an important measurement in different types of studies of geographical subjects. These involve losses due to stream-flow, measurements of surface-area and the estimated rates of evaporation, etc.
What is Percolation?
Percolation is a process that employs in daily life for the purpose of filtering fluids within different types of porous materials. It also occurs when infiltered water flows downward through the soil particles and porous or fractured rocks from the unsaturated zone to saturated zone in the soil. Percolation is an important process of extractions and filtration of fluids that can be applied in different physical, biological, and chemical processes.
In recent times, the process of percolation has been employed to bring about revolutionary changes in different types of technologies which are employed in a different range of topics ranging from geography to material sciences. The most important thing about the percolation in soil is the percolation helps to replenish aquifers underground.
What are the Similarities Between Infiltration and Percolation?
- Infiltration and Percolation are similar processes.
- In both cases, water moves through the soil downward.
What is the Difference Between Infiltration and Percolation?
Infiltration and percolation explain the movement of water through soil surface and through a porous material respectively. In the aspect of rainwater absorption onto soil, infiltration occurs at the soil surface while percolation occurs below the infiltration area that is in between unsaturated zone and saturated zone. Hence, this is the difference between infiltration and percolation.
The below infographic on difference between infiltration and percolation shows the differences in more detail.
Summary – Infiltration vs Percolation
In brief, percolation is a process that involves in processing of liquids. On the other hand, infiltration is a process that refers to the motion of fluids through the soil surface. Therefore, they are somewhat similar processes. However, percolation occurs via tiny holes, especially through porous materials. In soil, infiltration takes place in the root zone and soil surface while percolation takes place in between transition zone and saturated zone. Furthermore, infiltration replenishes the soil moisture deficiency while percolation replenishes the underground aquifers. Hence, this is the difference between infiltration and percolation.
1.”Natural & impervious cover diagrams EPA”By U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C. – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C. “Protecting Water Quality from Urban Runoff.” Document No. EPA 841-F-03-003, (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2.”SoilLeaching”By R.J.Oosterbaan (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia