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Creating sets of Water Principles
We have had 7 focused weekly sessions on the Water Principles now, involving about 18 people, gathered 130 plus principles (see previous article in this newsletter’s archives) , and started rearranging them into clusters on the miro board. Its been exciting to see the range of ideas and topics we have had to cover. It was maybe a little bewildering to some at first to see all the many principles we had, covering groundwater recharge, rain formation, how life and the ecosystem impacts the water (this is where I learnt a bit from our discussions), soil hydration, microbes impact on the soil, rivers flowing into wetlands, regulation of evapotranspiration, thermodynamics of the water cycle, water and climate change, how different animals impact soil and rivers etc…How can we explain the myriad of aspects of the water cycle in a succinct story?
We started the task to synthesize these principles.
And the invite is open for people to start creating different sets of Water Principles so we have a biodiversity of approaches to how they could be phrased. At the end we would sift through the different sets and choose one together.
Here are two sets to get the ball rolling. We welcome edits and additions to them. They are drafts, thus not necessarily fully correct or succinct enough yet.
The first one is from me. Its at 20 principles. Our goal is to get these down to 12 principles, which I had some trouble with because I wanted to get all the essential points I saw….
1. Soil and plants help absorb the rainwater into ground instead of having it flow away through rivers or man-made drainage systems.
2. Soil absorbency can be increased with the help of fungi, decayed biomass, and organisms that decompose the biomass.
3. Plants can evapotranspire more or less water depending on temperature, thus regulating ground level temperature through evaporative cooling.
4. The ecosystem undergoes ecological succession, and can evolve to stages with more biodiversity and more ability to retain the rainwater with increasingly enriched soil.
5. Greater soil absorbency of water, and catchments of water can help rivers flow year round into dry season, and keep landscape around the rivers hydrated.
6. Rivers with natural banks, unimpeded by dams, can overflow into floodplains during storms, and create wetlands.
7. Sufficient amount of floodplains and wetlands can lessen floods into cities
8. Wetlands evapotranspire much water, and help keep landscape hydrated into dry season.
9. Some of the rainwater that flows into soils and wetlands helps fill aquifers.
10. Aquifers can help keep landscape hydrated year round into the dry season, and be a water source for human communities and cities.
11. Year round hydration of landscape, and wetlands spread out across the landscape as it used to be many places historically, lessen wildfires.
12. Animals can influence plant population, engineer earth structures, alter other animal populations, and impact the soil, which all affect patterns of water flow.
13. Evapotranspired water can move around low to the ground and help hydrate the landscape in the form of dew.
14. Evapotranspired water can increase the rain and hydrate the landscape, when it moves up to high altitude where it is blown about until the atmosphere has sufficient humidity and floating particles for the water vapor to nucleate on.
15. If less rainwater flows through rivers and pipes back to ocean, there is greater amount of water moving in the land-to-sky-to-land small water cycle, and thus more rainfall.
16. There can be a succession of stages of the water cycle evolution as either the landscape retains more rainwater leading to its growth, or it retains less, leading to its decay.
17. The water shifts heat from the surface of the earth up into the sky
18. Clouds keep heat trapped below it, and reflect heat in the form of sunlight back out towards space
19. Replacing natural landscapes with non-permeable man-made materials increases the heat reflecting off the land.
20. If there is sufficient heat rising from the land it can slow the flow of incoming moisture from ocean wind, alter the path of jet streams, and shift where the atmospheric rivers flow.
21. Greater heat differentials on earth lead to more extreme weather, and greater winds which can fan wildfires.
Here is Ananda Fitzsimmons, author of the recently published “Hydrate the Earth” https://www.editions-labutineuse.com/en/product/hydrate-the-earth/ first attempt at synthesizing what we have done into a set of principles, along with an explanation underneath each principle. She is open to edits and feedback.
Water is life
Water is essential to life. Every life form needs water to survive.
Water is the primary regulator of earth’s temperature
The sun warms the planet and water cools. Each day the sun radiates heat into earth’s atmosphere. An equal amount of heat needs to escape back into space in order to maintain equilibrium. Water uses heat energy to convert from liquid to vapor and rise up from the earth’s surface.
Water seeks its level
Gravity causes liquid water to move down to the lowest point and to make raindrops fall once they are heavy enough. The steeper the slope the more quickly water flows. Quickly flowing water carries sediment from higher elevations to lower ones.
Water modulates temperatures
Warmer temperatures cause water to evaporate and carry heat away from earth’s surface. When water condenses in the upper atmosphere or after the sun sets, it releases heat and falls as rain or dew. Humidity in the air modulates temperatures, making them less extreme.
The small water cycle hydrates the land
Water needs to penetrate into the earth in order to recharge groundwater reserves and retain humidity in the ground and the air to nurture life. The movement of water up and down through evapotranspiration and condensation in a region is the small water cycle as opposed to the large water cycle which refers to the movement of water across the land through rivers and back to the ocean.
Vegetation is critical to maintaining the water cycle
Plants transpire water from deep in the earth and release it as vapor from their canopy. This cools the earth’s surface in several ways; by transporting heat from the surface to the atmosphere, by enabling the formation of clouds and by shading the earth’s surface so less solar radiation penetrates to heat the thermal mass. Plants also penetrate into the earth with their roots and enable water to sink deeper into the ground.
Dark surfaces absorb and radiate heat, whereas light, reflective surfaces bounce heat back into the air where it is more quickly dissipated. Clouds and ice are light reflective surfaces. Vegetation is somewhat reflective and absorbs much less heat than bare earth, rocks and cement.
Clouds need to be seeded to produce rain
Salt, ice crystals and certain bacteria produced by plants are needed to make water vapor coalesce into raindrops. Rain clears the air of particulate matter and allows trapped heat to escape into space. Without clouds and without cloud seeding nuclei, water vapor can remain as tiny droplets hanging onto particulate matter in the air and trap heat as a greenhouse gas.
Hot air rises and moves towards cooler air
Water and air expand when they are warmer and condense at cooler temperatures. A warm air front has higher pressure and will move to displace a low pressure system. The movement of weather systems is governed by the temperature differential between air that is cooled and air that is heated.
Natural + biodiverse ecosystems regulate the water cycle
Nature has evolved complex ecosystems to cycle the building blocks of life: water and carbon. These systems are multi-tiered and are home to a diversity of plants and creatures which each have a function in making the ecosystem efficient. Here are some of the critical ecosystems which need to be maintained or restored to keep our planet capable of regulating a liveable climate:
The soil ecosystem
The soil is a living system made up of microbes, invertebrates, minerals, organic matter, air and water. Healthy soil cycles organic matter, stores water and carbon and provides nutrients for living beings. Soil and plants are inseparable. Plants feed carbon to the soil and a soil without living plants and water is dead. A living soil allows water to permeate deep and is capable of storing vast quantities of water.
Trees are the largest plants and forests have many layers of vegetation and biodiversity. As such they cycle vast amounts of water through evapotranspiration, cooling the earth’s surface, allowing the formation of clouds, seeding rainfall. The movement of warm air upwards as water vapor creates a vacuum that pulls air masses in and helps to circulate moist air across the landscape.
Wetlands, floodplains + coastal ecosystems
Water that collects on the land enables percolation into the ground, hydrating it and recharging groundwater. These low lying spots provide reservoirs at the times of the season where more rain comes than can be quickly absorbed. This gives resilience for the rest of the time when water is scarce. Flowing water erodes the land, carrying sediment which is deposited in these areas. Coastal ecosystems buffer the land from storm surges, high winds and waves.