There I was, playing with the water cooler bottle (I love making the water gloomph, Mrs Furtheringstoke not so much) when it suddenly occurred to me – what makes a water fall a waterfall? Is it a height, volume, water per second thing or what?

Inspired, I made the water gloomph one more time before racing back to my station and hopping on web. The nitty gritty:


The primary qualifier is the height of a waterfall as it is the most visually indicative of a change in elevation. Depending on the average discharge of the stream along which the waterfall occurs, there are two different qualifiers for the height of a waterfall:

  • Perennial Streams – Waterfalls occurring along streams which maintain a discernible volume of water throughout the year must drop at least 15 vertical feet (4m) to qualify for inclusion.
  • Intermittent Streams – Waterfalls occurring along streams which run dry for part of the year must drop at least 50 vertical feet (15m) to qualify for inclusion.

Additionally, the drop of the waterfall in question must conform to the definition of Waterfall:

“A well-defined change in slope, velocity, aeration or agitation of the water within a stream over an immediately abrupt distance, where an identifiable loss in elevation may be perceived due to non-uniformity of the underlying geologic structures.”

… and as such must have an easily identifiable top and bottom, and must fall as a result of contacting or being interrupted by solid bedrock rather than talus, boulders or rock lying on top of the earth.


Should a waterfall along an intermittent stream qualify based on height, it needs to meet a secondary requirement of flowing consistently for at least one month out of the year. This stipulation is meant to prevent rainstorm fuelled waterfalls (such as those seen throughout Arizona’s Grand Canyon) from being included when they meet the 50-foot requirement.

After all this fact, being me, I got totally distracted by all the pretty waterfalls. These are 5 of the most beautiful around the world:

Nohkalikai Falls is found in India. Water falls down for 1100 ft. (335 m). Although the feeding stream is only 1.5 miles (2 km) long, Nohkalikai is still very impressive. A pool is formed below the fall, in which the water receives its green colour.

Sutherland Falls are located in Fiordland, New Zealand. With its 1902 ft. (580 m) plunge it is one of the tallest waterfalls in the world. It falls in three cascades that create this unique landscape. It was named after its discoverer Donald Sutherland in 1880.

Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in North America. It drops 2,425 ft. (739 m) in the Sierra Nevada, California. The source of water is melting snow, therefore sometimes the stream may cease due to a little amount of snow. Plitvice Falls are found in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia. They are not very high falls, but are stunning due to the many cascades the water has to overcome. There are hundreds of waterfalls. The colour of water varies from crystal clear to azure, to turquoise.

And finally, we have the Gullfoss (Golden Falls) in Iceland. Gullfoss is a magnificent waterfall located in southwest Iceland. Not particularly high (two 36 ft. /11 m and 68 ft. /21 m plunges), however, it is very beautiful. Due to a crevice, the river Hvítá seems to disappear into the abyss.

Next week we have a look-see at the top 5 out of 10 most beautiful waterfalls around the world. As for me, I’m back off to make the water gloomph again. Shaw out.