Environmentalists have good reason to challenge God's system of water distribution because a good case can be shown to prove that the number of plants and animals vying for existence on the planet taxes all resource capacity of the planet to lend support and long life.
This chapter deals with one of the three main resources essential to life existing for any period of time greater that that required for gestation to begin and some natural or common life span found to be attributable in some general way.
Read and wonder: Did it take a plan by a Creator or intelligent force to anticipate the history of the Universe as currently known to make "the pancakes come out even with the syrup" more or less throughout the ages and places of the Earth well enough to support most life forms? Or does man have to find ways to re-engineer the systems in place?
The three basic essentials are air, water and food. As life has grown to be more complex for many species of plants and animals along with a whole array of biological components in the microscopic world, we will have to include studies about energy, heating and cooling as essential to various latitudes and altitudes in two separate hemispheres that are impacted by different degrees of tilting toward or away from the sun along different parts of a somewhat wandering elliptical path and by variations in the sun's output of heat as well as how long it can be expected to continue performing as it has for a mere 7 or more billion of our years!
So, dealing with water in this chapter has some variables to consider, because of its strange propensity to occupy more volume of space when it freezes. This has more implications than the obvious one of thawing out an iceberg and find that the water replacing it occupies less volume of space! Not only does the cubic volume below the water take up less space, but the part that was floating above once melted increases space for air but adds back some of the space in the ocean once used by floating ice that may have once been part of a huge floating island!
Our discussion about water helped motivate me to do more study before feeling ready to both publish and to use the expanded knowledge to best prepare for the marketing and technological considerations involved with bio-scientific food technology. We do plan on placing water conservation as a very important point in our favor. Agriculture has long been correctly given access unlimited use of water for the obvious plea that without water people do not eat!
I have personally tracked since the 1940s the development of irrigation systems from the days of canals and flooding to overhead sprays pumped from ponds with movable aluminum pipes to walking overhead pivots and to drip irrigation. Now we are climbing another step up with a way to use fish supplied liquid waste water, adroitly separated from solid material without costly separation techniques and recycling the water not consumed by plants or lost to minor exposure to evaporative loss. To grow fish, vegetables and small fruits in this manner is certainly compatible with environmental goals and conservation of one resource that may be about the most important of all. If we can help the expanding population be able to eat without an unfavorable need to need a heavy priority on available safe water, we will perhaps enable the population to triple or more as it has in my lifetime. To go from 6 to18 billion in the next 80 years will certainly require some wonderful technological progress.
To help me in the above and to respond to your desire to see more water in Texas, I did some research to see where Texans might be able to turn to buy what nature is seemingly not providing in a sufficiently reliable manner.
Yes, there is a need for an intelligent study of the water resource problem for Texas. What solutions are possible that will increase the supply of useful water to meet the growing needs?
Many people choose or somehow happen to come to the U.S. with a dream of coming to a land of plenty, where opportunity to work is unfettered and unlimited. Much of the history of the New World, as N. America was called by ancient Europeans and others who did not know it existed, supports the initial conclusion. But, now the dream is no longer true! The endless expansion West and abundant raw materials and natural resources is rapidly dwindling. The ratio of each to the population must be studied.
With global population having expanded for various species, and with changing attitudes and concentrations of political and economic power, many of the ratios have changed. Although environmentalists contend that one of the globes many periods of relatively rapid change in general, but the current geological period in particular, seems to be the first to be accelerated if not caused by human intervention! Many of the early indigenous populations lived off the land and simply moved on when weather and available resources made relocation necessary. Before the wheel, many used somewhat flexible poles to drag ends with the burden of one’s teepee and possessions being pulled by a horse or oxen while the tribe’s humans walked to a new home site.
While polar bears have increased their population rapidly, since 1970 with most of it apparently happening in the very areas where ice has been previously observable on which these animals can use when they wish to be out of the hunting grounds in the water, there seems to be an adequate food supply to sustain the population and rapid growth. If territorial factors do not cause cannibal like destruction of the fellow population, and are not going to adjust the ratio of polar bears to the impact of climate change on the food supply, then perhaps the expansion will continue until some other factor kicks in. But as to the humans, we do not yet now if climate changes that includes cooling and warming will help us expand the rate of population growth or if other factors will cause consequences.
Since water, air and food are the three essentials of life, it is easy to see why places and peoples now aware that they are living in advantageous or disadvantageous locations regarding water supply, it is easy to understand how and why those in the latter group are anxious to find a solution to their perceived shortcoming. In the U.S. it now appears that Texas may have reached its economic capacity to expand with the same courage as was shown by its original residents displayed in the age of being its own Republic! Therefore, current members of this population tend to wish that other parts of the world in general, and the U.S. in particular should share more of their water resource as well as their oil to help Texans. While in a communal sense those with more water do need to find economic or compassionate reasons to share, it takes either perfect planning or an economic control enforced by the impact of supply in its relationship to demand, to start the process of considering alternatives.
What alternatives can be considered?
1. Move the population to live where there is more water? This option is obviously only a last resort for many reasons not needing to be even listed here!
2. Move water from where it is to Texas? This involves building pipe lines from some available sources like rivers and Great Lakes at great expense which is not impossible to do, if the impacts on environment and people are acceptable or if not, at least can be imposed. The current ban on taking water out of Lake Michigan, for example, prohibits it from being bottled for export and since legal contentions cross the border with Canada and all downstream of Lake Michigan, this is difficult to see happening quickly or in any voluntary way. Furthermore, Michigan water shed protectors have discovered that its own water shed is far more dependent on a declining stored aquifer supply beneath the shallow lakes, than it is on rain and snow and that it best start planning on ways to keep water from escaping without impacting excessively all who have downstream concerns in both directions from its long narrow and distant ends. Selling any of it requires not only WI and MI agreement, but also consideration of all along the drainage pathways created by nature
3. Perhaps the most acceptable solution will be to move water from parts of the Mississippi during flood stages via pipe lines to new man made lakes in Texas to drain away water not wanted by citizens and governmental agencies impacted by cost of dealing with floods, but this costly solution is subject to periods of shortage, because of bureaucratic delays in implementing action as well as unexpected vagaries in the volume of water in the various areas.
4. A more dependable and possibly much less costly solution involves use of energy in Texas to be captured from a new leaf emulation technology that separates hydrogen and oxygen from moisture, as is done by plants, but if we capture they hydrogen and oxygen we can burn the hydrogen to make electricity to desalinate water while taking the by-product of the combustion called H2O back to the leaf mechanism that is powered by the sun! The result is that we now have the extra water without the salt. Done on a massive scale, we have produced water that can be pumped to all of Texas by use of gravity fed pipes if the water is pumped up high enough to run down hill in canals.
5. Of course, we can also use nuclear reactors from old submarines and aircraft carriers to power the pumping operations as well as to do the desalinization. Environmentalists might prefer that this be done by the US Navy off shore to avoid the threat of a tsunami repeating the disaster of Japan in 2010. Perhaps newer nuclear technology can also help provide pumping power to get water to all states that need it to be made by desalinization. Of course, Texans may get the job done faster with a President who does not find ways to stall to damage Texas for its lack of political support. This could still be true with a new president and a Congress not overly concerned about the impact of such a project on the volume of water in the ocean. From the global chart below, one might speculate that seawater converted and pumped upland will eventually flow back into the ocean and that is an amazing feature about water. One can collect old steel and spend a lot to restore the iron ore used to make it, but that is impractical for all other natural resources except air and water. Dirty air and water are both self-cleaning! Water evaporates and leaves the pollution behind and most particles in air finally settle out too! In both cases, we may find that nature has built in capacities to recover from volcanoes, fires, and all sorts of natural disasters. So, if glaciers come and go, the water levels in the sea may also vary. During periods of drought, Texas may help remove a bit of water from the ocean that is being filled by melting ice that does not recycle as snow on top of the old glacier that has not yet melted? Those who think they know how this equation looks may need to challenge the 16 year old math genius that solved a Newton puzzle that took 300 years before someone figured out how to calculate the exact trajectory of an artillery shell as its path is impacted by gravity, wind and frictional loss of speed. Even so Kentucky ‘wind-age’ known to the shooter to be subjected to factors not considered like thick vegetation on hills adjacent to the line of fire, may outperform the mindless computer that fails to observe the ‘real time’ happenings at the moment.
So, it seems that the real world will always present challenges that do defy science in its quest to know all factors in real time from the point of a canon’s shell emerging from a changing barrel that is on its own not constant in its relationship to the shell and the resulting variations in speed of the projectile at the start of its journey. Those who sense that this process of getting “the pancakes and the syrup to come out even” is not really exacting may conclude that the real solution to the matter of what water is needed and where and when in Texas is not ever going to be found. Some people pay $1 for a small bottle of cold water being held up by a panhandler at a red light, while others carry their own or wait until that urge can be satisfied at a lower cost elsewhere. Pity the citizens who expect the government to “save us from ourselves” and pay for another bureaucratic function to insure that the right kind of water is handed to us at any corner traffic light as an evidence of yet another entitlement!
But, have fun with the facts as of 2004. Guess which ones are dramatically different today or tomorrow.
How much water is there on, in, and above the Earth?
All Earth's water, liquid fresh water, and water in lakes and rivers
(1) All water (sphere over western U.S., 860 miles in diameter)
(2) Fresh liquid water in the ground, lakes, swamps, and rivers (sphere over Kentucky, 169.5 miles in diameter), and
(3) Fresh-water lakes and rivers (sphere over Georgia, 34.9 miles in diameter).
Credit: Howard Perlman, USGS; globe illustration by Jack Cook, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (©); Adam Nieman.
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As you know, the Earth is a watery place. But just how much water exists on, in, and above our planet? About 70 percent of the Earth's surface is water-covered, and the oceans hold about 96.5 percent of all Earth's water. But water also exists in the air as water vapor, in rivers and lakes, in icecaps and glaciers, in the ground as soil moisture and in aquifers, and even in you and your dog.
Water is never sitting still, though, and thanks to the water cycle, our planet's water supply is constantly moving from one place to another and from one form to another. Things would get pretty stale without the water cycle!
All Earth's water in a bubble
This drawing shows various blue spheres representing relative amounts of Earth's water in comparison to the size of the Earth. Are you surprised that these water spheres look so small? They are only small in relation to the size of the Earth. This image attempts to show three dimensions, so each sphere represents "volume." The volume of the largest sphere, representing all water on, in, and above the Earth, would be about 332,500,000 cubic miles (mi3) (1,386,000,000 cubic kilometers (km3)), and be about 860 miles (about 1,385 kilometers) in diameter.
The smaller sphere over Kentucky represents Earth's liquid fresh water in groundwater, swamp water, rivers, and lakes. The volume of this sphere would be about 2,551,000 mi3 (10,633,450 km3) and form a sphere about 169.5 miles (272.8 kilometers) in diameter. Yes, all of this water is fresh water, which we all need every day, but much of it is deep in the ground, unavailable to humans.
Do you notice that "tiny" bubble over Atlanta, Georgia? That one represents fresh water in all the lakes and rivers on the planet, and most of the water people and life of earth need every day comes from these surface-water sources. The volume of this sphere is about 22,339 mi3 (93,113 km3). The diameter of this sphere is about 34.9 miles (56.2 kilometers). Yes, Lake Michigan looks way bigger than this sphere, but you have to try to imagine a bubble almost 35 miles high—whereas the average depth of Lake Michigan is less than 300 feet (91 meters).
Water is on and in the Earth
The vast majority of water on the Earth's surface, over 96 percent, is saline water in the oceans. But it is the freshwater resources, such as the water in streams, rivers, lakes, and groundwater that provide people (and all life) with most of the water they need every day to live. Water sitting on the surface of the Earth is easy to visualize, and your view of the water cycle might be that rainfall fills up the rivers and lakes. But, the unseen water below our feet is critically important to life, also. How would you account for the flow in rivers after weeks without rain? In fact, how would you account for the water flowing down this driveway on a day when it didn't rain? The answer is that there is more to our water supply than just surface water, there is also plenty of water beneath our feet.
Even though you may only notice water on the Earth's surface, there is much more freshwater stored in the ground than there is in liquid form on the surface. In fact, some of the water you see flowing in rivers comes from seepage of groundwater into river beds. Water from precipitation continually seeps into the ground to recharge the aquifers, while at the same time water in the ground continually recharges rivers through seepage.
Humans are happy this happens because people make use of both kinds of water. In the United States in 2005, we used about 328 billion gallons per day of surface water and about 82.6 billion gallons per day of groundwater. Although surface water is used more to supply drinking water and to irrigate crops, groundwater is vital in that it not only helps to keep rivers and lakes full, it also provides water for people in places where visible water is scarce, such as in the desert towns of the western United States. Without groundwater, people would be sand-surfing in Palm Springs, California instead of playing golf.
Just how much water is there on (and in) the Earth? Here are some numbers you can think about:
• If all of Earth's water (oceans, icecaps and glaciers, lakes, rivers, groundwater, and water in the atmosphere was put into a sphere, then the diameter of that water ball would be about 860 miles (about 1,385 kilometers), a bit more than the distance between Salt Lake City, Utah to Topeka, Kansas. The volume of all water would be about 332.5 million cubic miles (mi3), or 1,386 million cubic kilometers (km3). A cubic mile of water equals more than 1.1 trillion gallons. A cubic kilometer of water equals about 264 billion gallons.
• About 3,100 mi3 (12,900 km3) of water, mostly in the form of water vapor, is in the atmosphere at any one time. If it all fell as precipitation at once, the Earth would be covered with only about 1 inch of water.
• The 48 contiguous United States receives a total volume of about 4 mi3 (17.7 km3) of precipitation each day.
• Each day, 280 mi3 (1,170 km3)of water evaporate or transpire into the atmosphere.
• If all of the world's water was poured on the contiguous (lower 48 states) United States, it would cover the land to a depth of about 107 miles (145 kilometers).
• Of the freshwater on Earth, much more is stored in the ground than is available in lakes and rivers. More than 2,000,000 mi3 (8,400,000 km3) of freshwater is stored in the Earth, most within one-half mile of the surface. But, if you really want to find freshwater, the most is stored in the 7,000,000 mi3 (29,200,000 km3) of water found in glaciers and icecaps, mainly in the polar regions and in Greenland.
Where is Earth's water located?
For a detailed explanation of where Earth's water is, look at the data table below. Notice how of the world's total water supply of about 332.5 million mi3 of water, over 96 percent is saline. And, of the total freshwater, over 68 percent is locked up in ice and glaciers. Another 30 percent of freshwater is in the ground. Rivers are the source of most of the fresh surface water people use, but they only constitute about 300 mi3 (1,250 km3), about 1/10,000th of one percent of total water.
Note: percentages may not sum to 100 percent due to rounding.
One estimate of global water distribution
Water source Water volume, in cubic miles Water volume, in cubic kilometers Percent of
freshwater Percent of
Oceans, Seas, & Bays 321,000,000 1,338,000,000 -- 96.54
Ice caps, Glaciers, & Permanent Snow 5,773,000 24,064,000 68.6 1.74
Groundwater 5,614,000 23,400,000 -- 1.69
Fresh 2,526,000 10,530,000 30.1 0.76
Saline 3,088,000 12,870,000 -- 0.93
Soil Moisture 3,959 16,500 0.05 0.001
Ground Ice & Permafrost 71,970 300,000 0.86 0.022
Lakes 42,320 176,400 -- 0.013
Fresh 21,830 91,000 0.26 0.007
Saline 20,490 85,400 -- 0.007
Atmosphere 3,095 12,900 0.04 0.001
Swamp Water 2,752 11,470 0.03 0.0008
Rivers 509 2,120 0.006 0.0002
Biological Water 269 1,120 0.003 0.0001
Source: Igor Shiklomanov's chapter "World fresh water resources" in Peter H. Gleick (editor), 1993, Water in Crisis: A Guide to the World's Fresh Water Resources (Oxford University Press, New York).
More to come.
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