I am curious how do mountain springs get their water. The water flowing from them eventually forms rivers.

Is it only from rain and snow? Or does water also come from underground-below the mountain (if so, then how does it "climb" to the spring which is at a high altitude)?

  • $\begingroup$ Afaik only rain and snow. Capillar effect is far not enough for that. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    May 29 '20 at 12:28
  • $\begingroup$ Look for "karst". Many mountains are formed of limestone and have caves and water flowing inside them. Underground water doesn't climb from below the mountain, but form water tables inside the mountain, where the water meets a non-permeable rock layer. Where the water table intersects the mountain slope, there is a spring. $\endgroup$ May 29 '20 at 13:51
  • $\begingroup$ the water underground comes from rain and snow, as well. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jun 16 '20 at 18:27

Ultimately, it comes from precipitation. Ordinarily we think of rain as coming from low-level clouds, but Putkonen[1] has compiled rainfall data in the Himalayas showing significant rains up to several thousand meters altitude, covering the range where practically everyone lives. It is this precipitation that fills the underground tables mentioned by Jean-Marie Prival in a comment to the question.

Such a source is subject to the effects of climate change, which accordingly has led to significant environmental issues. See Ref [2].


1. Jaakko K. Putkonen, "Continuous Snow and Rain Data at 500 to 4400 m Altitude near Annapurna, Nepal, 1999–2001", Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, 36:2, 244-248 (2004)

2. Sandeep Tambe, Ghanashyam Kharel, ML Arrawatia, Himanshu Kulkarni, Kaustubh Mahamuni, Anil K Ganeriwala, "Reviving dying springs: climate change adaptation experiments from the Sikkim Himalaya", Mountain Research and Development 32 (1), 62-72 (2012)


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