Mountains are extremely vital to the earth’s water systems; they capture circulating air and force it upwards, where it then condenses into clouds, creating rain and snow. This precipitation generates water runoff and groundwater recharge. These waters captured at high altitudes are the same waters that flow through streams and groundwater to lowland waterways.
In connection to water storage and runoff, river flow, in large part begins in the mountains. Most major rivers in the world spring out of mountains. This can be examined locally as the headwaters for the North Fork of the Kentucky River, the Cumberland River, and the Big Sandy River are found in Letcher County.
River headwaters and upland water systems directly impact downstream watersheds and ecosystems. Pollution and environmental degradation does not only impact the precise location, but has downstream implications. With this, the health of the entire watershed is dependent upon the environmental quality of the headwaters and upland water systems.
When considering the importance of mountain water on a global scale, one in every two people depend on mountain water. With half of the global population being dependent upon mountain water, it is crucial to maintain healthy mountain water systems. In order to maintain healthy environments, communities, and economies, waterways must be preserved and protected. Water is necessary for drinking, food, energy, and industry. Environmental and social wellbeing along with economic prosperity cannot be discussed without taking into consideration the fundamental role of water.
Aside from the major role of mountain water in relation to waterways and water supply, there is cultural and religious significance tied to the water running from and through mountains. Mountains are often times viewed as a source of life and fertility. This stems from the fact that the fundamental life source of water often springs from mountains.