• Liz K Miller

What is Green Water?

Updated: Aug 9, 2019

Water that circulates over land, and replenishes it, is known as the Small Water Cycle. The role that plants, especially trees, perform in the Small Water Cycle is hugely important.

Complex ecosystems rich in plant life keep water on the land in three ways: diverse flora; porous, living soil; and extensive fungal networks. These all perform the important function of slowing down the movement of water by holding it in their systems for longer.[i]

The term Green Water, describes moisture that cycles through plants. The ecological journalist Judith D. Schwartz describes how Green Water is ignored and mismanaged due to sustained focus on Blue Water – rain that falls into lakes and rivers. Engineered infrastructure projects, such as water diversion programs, dams, and irrigation, all focus on Blue Water. However this water only represents one third of the world’s fresh water resources: two thirds of collectable and usable rain falls in Green Water areas.[ii]

Our knowledge of the role of plants, trees, the water cycle and their relationship to climate breakdown is hugely lacking. As environmentalist and hydrologist Michal Kravčík describes:

“Water in the soil is, in terms of amount and usefulness, more important than water in rivers. This undiscovered and misunderstood treasure is, however, overlooked and neglected, and as a result, decimated.”[iii]


[i]Judith D Schwartz, Water in Pain Sight: Hope for a Thirsty World (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2016), p. 75.

[ii]Schwartz, p. 42. Green Water was coined by Malin Falkenmark of the Stockholm International Water Institute in the 1990s.

[iii]Michal Kravčík and others, Water for the Recovery of the Climate: A New Water Paradigm (Žilina: Krupa Print, 2007), p.12. [www.waterparadigm.org]