Water is the most taken-for-granted necessity of our lives, except perhaps for air. While much of the world pines for water, here in the U.S., we bottle it, spill it, spray it out of garden hoses and flush it down the drain. As long as it flows out of the tap and doesn’t back up through our sewer lines, we give it little thought.
Today, let’s change that. As a topic, water is as vast as its oceans, glaciers and atmospheric presence. I’ve spent a little time considering it as a metaphor, a scarce necessity, a molecular compound and a force of nature. Today, I present for you 7 random “drops” of water.
1. The Missouri River Flood of 2011, an impressive, unexpected deluge, devastated farmland, disrupted local economies and travel and destroyed many homes and barns. Fortunately, it wasn’t fatal, as were the hurricane-related floods of the South in recent years. As with most natural disasters, finding someone to blame for this one is still a priority. Some blame nature, while others lay it at the feet of bureaucrats. I believe nature can outsmart bureaucrats 99% of the time. Smart water wranglers assure us that this was a “500-year flood,” unlikely to recur soon. Smart people who rebuild on the flood plain are pouring very tall concrete foundations for their homes. See my video of Gavins Point Dam in 2011, when 160,000 cubic feet of water passed, per second.
2. Thales of Miletus, whom Aristotle described in his Metaphysics as the founder of natural philosophy, is reported in myth to have fallen into a well while studying the stars. Aristotle also recorded that “Thales says that it is water”–meaning that according to Thales, water was the originating principle of matter.
3. A rarely-noted water behavior is sublimation, where H2O in its solid state bypasses liquidation to become a gas or vapor. During my childhood in Colorado, I learned about one such phenomenon: the Chinook wind. According to Dave Thurlow of the Mount Washington Observatory,
Chinook winds are westerlies from the Pacific whose moisture gets wrung out as it passes over the Rocky Mountains. Once these winds come down from the mountains onto the high plains, they can be quite mild and extremely dry-as warm as 60 or 70 degrees Fahrenheit — over 15 Celsius — with a relative humidity of 10% or less. The air is so dry that when it hits a snowpack, the frozen water evaporates, going directly from the ice to vapor and bypassing the liquid phase entirely.
This sublimation is not to be confused with Freud’s psychological equation: sublimation = sexual energy transformed into creative energy, which has little to do with drinking or bathing, but likely has everything to do with Freud’s mother…drinking or bathing.
4. An aquifer is a soil and bedrock formation that percolates water into purity, filtering out minerals, organisms and some contaminants. Abandoned wells (Make sure you don’t have one at your place; children tend to fall into them.) bypass the aquifer and allow those bad things into the groundwater. Here is a map showing the Ogallala. It’s very shallow, but one of the largest in the world.
5. Digging a well by hand is very hard work and this video demonstrates how it’s done in most parts of the world. Thanks to ghost32, whatever your real name, for this video of hard, thirsty work in Mexico.
6. Not only is there a Beaver Crossing Nebraska, but this village has an impressive, watery history. I lived there for less than a year, leaving against my better judgment, but holding a neighbor’s recipe for the best oatmeal cookies I ever ate. First struck in his mercantile basement by Earl Eager in the late 1800s, a gusher of an artesian well system made this village better than the average watering hole. (Did anyone else notice the fortuitous “Eager” and “Beaver” juxtaposition in this text? Of course you did.) Learn more in Mary Lanik’s history of Beaver Crossing and its wonderful wells, as well as at the first link here, in #6.
7. To the best of my knowledge, since 1866, federal water law and policy has deferred to states in the allocation and administration of water within their boundaries. Please notify me if this has changed and I will assume all blame for the error.