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A basic understanding of hydrology is central to the understanding of surface water degradation. A few basic facts concerning surface water are: • Surface water originates from meteoric water (e.g., rain and snow). • The dissolved chemistry of meteoric water will be a function of the chemistry of the air through which the water moves. • Surface water has a natural dissolved and particulate chemistry which varies with location and depends on the geology and biology of the terrain over which or through which the water has flowed. • Surface water resources are not infinite. • Surface water resources are not equally distributed either in a geographic sense or in a demographic sense. • Surface water can be used and reused, but its composition (quality) at any given point will be a function of its most recent history. • The ultimate endpoint of most surface water "flow" is the oceans. Therefore, the oceans are the ultimate repository of contaminants (unless the contaminants are removed from solution prior to reaching the ocean).

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