Happy World Water Day!   8 comments

Yesterday I found myself caught in drenching rain at this waterfall in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge.

Yesterday I found myself surrounded by water, caught in drenching rain at this waterfall in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge.

Fresh water is something we all take for granted until it is in short supply.  Though the world will not soon run out of fresh water, it is a precious resource that we waste as if it is created out of thin air.  Only 2.5% of the earth’s water is fresh, the rest is in the oceans.  And over 2/3 of that 2.5% is locked away in ice caps and glaciers.  Most of the rest lies below ground.  All this means that only .03% of the total fresh water on this planet is fresh and on the surface (in rivers and lakes).

I hope you enjoy these images.  Just click on any image you’re interested in to go to the full-size version, where purchase options are a click away.  They are copyrighted and not available for free download without my permission.  These versions are too small anyway.  Please contact me if you have any questions.  Thanks for your interest!

At Lava Falls in the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River carries a lot of sediment, giving it the power to erode some of the largest landscape features on earth.

At Lava Falls in the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River carries a lot of sediment, giving it the power to erode some of the largest landscape features on earth.

There may come a time that our population is too great to feed.  Not so much because of lack of land or soil, but for lack of water.  We mine it at unsustainable rates from ancient aquifers and when our wells run dry we simply drill another one and dip a longer straw into the drink.  These aquifers replenish themselves on geologic not human timescales, so we are guaranteed to run short eventually.

Then we will need to transport water long distances from places where the groundwater is not yet depleted.  We will also need to figure out a way to cheaply desalinate water, but this is always going to be energy-intensive, so may not be a great option unless we figure out how to exploit solar on an enormous scale in the future.

Life may have evolved in a pool like this one, Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park.

Life may have evolved in a pool like this one, Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park.

All that is pretty depressing.  But let’s step back and appreciate water for the wonderful thing it is.  Water is the most important reason why life evolved on this planet.  It is not only the ‘universal solvent’, where all the chemistry necessary for life can take place, but it also literally keeps our planet breathing.  Water in the atmosphere transports heat from warm areas to cold, making agriculture possible in many places where it would otherwise be too cold.  It is the most powerful greenhouse gas.

Primeval water:  This Indonesian volcano is spewing water and other gases into the air every day.  The lake color comes from all the minerals.

Primeval water: This Indonesian volcano is spewing water and other gases into the air every day. The lake color comes from all the minerals.

(But please ignore those who doubt the role of CO2 in global warming.  These ‘skeptics’ believe that water dominates as a greenhouse gas and will keep us from warming.  They don’t know what anybody who takes Meteorology 101 knows, that the effects of water are buffered and even out over short timescales.  CO2 and methane are still the most important greenhouse gases as far as climate change goes.  Water’s role as greenhouse gas is important only in terms of weather- not climate change.)

A pristine spring feeds a rushing river in Oregon's Cascade  Mountains

A pristine spring feeds a rushing river in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains

Water is also responsible for erosion, transporting materials from the mountains to make the soil we grow our food in.  Water deep inside the earth is critical for melting of rocks, creating volcanoes.  Volcanoes are crucial for recycling gases back into the atmosphere, including CO2 and water itself.  We would have frozen over long ago without volcanoes.  Water essentially lubricates the earth, making plate tectonics possible.  Without plate tectonics the earth would be dead or nearly so, with only submicroscopic life.

One of the Columbia Gorge's prettiest waterfalls is Faery Falls.

One of the Columbia Gorge’s prettiest waterfalls is Faery Falls.

So let’s celebrate water today and every day.  Enjoy it but respect it too.  Take shorter showers, turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth, never leave a hose or faucet running, plant your yard with plants that do not need extra water beyond what falls from the sky.  Install low-flow fixtures.  Remember the old saying “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.”  You can, I’m sure, think of many other ways to conserve water.

The flooded wetlands of Botswana's Okavango Delta are a magnet for Africa's amazing wildlife.

The flooded wetlands of Botswana’s Okavango Delta are a magnet for Africa’s amazing wildlife.

Advertisements

8 responses to “Happy World Water Day!

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. The Botswana image is magnificent. Thanks for the whole post.

  2. Love the Botswana image. Interesting post.

  3. Stunning images as usual. And informative post… thanks! I didn’t know volcanoes are so crucial for our existence. It’s amazing how everything comes together in the right balance to make life possible on this earth.

  4. Water Wars. They will happen. They are already happening. My how we got our priorities wrong.

Please don't be shy; your words are what makes my day!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: