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Update on Water Principles project
Over the last five weeks we have been bringing people together to develop a set of Water Principles.
As we began though we realized that there is a difference between natural principles, which is a statement of what is happening in the world, a scientific principle, and a guideline. So a principle would be something like “ As plants and soil evapotranspire water vapor into the air it cools the environment”. A guideline would be “ Guide the rainfall into the soil, instead of letting it become runoff”, or Brock Dolman’s “Slow it, spread it, sink it” https://oaec.org/publications/slow-it-spread-it-sink-it-think-it-article-in-pacific-horticulture-2006/ So the goal morphed to develop both a set of Water Principles and a set of Water Guidelines. The Water Principles should be able to make clear why we follow the Water Guidelines. Together the Principles and Guidelines should be able to tell a succint story about water.
In addition we also have the 100 Water Practices. Water Practices would be things like building swales, and using greywater systems. The set of 4-10 Water Guidelines would help us know when to use which of the 100 Water Practices.
The first two meetings were spent figuring out the collaborative process we would use to involve many people, and to get to consensus on the principles. Initially we would diverge more, to get a range of ideas of what the principles could be, and build a master list of them. Then from there we would begin to converge, come up different sets of 4-10 Water Principles. And then converge even more to a single set. We would also gradually bring in more people to the process.
In the third and fourth meetings we brainstormed principles. These were added to principle sets Alpha and Ananda had each also had developed. See the master list at the end of this newsletter which has 100+ water principles. Not all of them are correct, but we kept them in, because they can be iterated towards correctness. Here is video of Dec 2 meeting (these are unlisted youtube links, please keep private)
And here is Dec 9
In the fifth meeting we began to discuss how to develop a set of 4-10 principles. We discussed what topics the Water Principles should cover.
Here's a possible list:
i) what is energetically driving the water cycle (sun & gravity)
ii) How the carbon and water cycle couple - through producing life, generating soil, and greenhouse gases. How life and biodiversity guide where the water goes. The role of ecological succession in increasing the small water cycle
iii) How earth self-regulates its temperature through evapotranspiration & clouds. Effect of water cycle on climate change
iv) How wetlands, vegetation and microbes cleanse the water
v) the importance of phase transitions in water. how liquid and vapor states drives small water cycle. how snow stores the water in winter
vi) how water vapor moves around via winds caused by sunlight, ocean currents, variable heating patterns
vii) the amount of water in freshwater or in oceans and what affects this distribution. How rivers, winds, soil moisture, and rain patterns affects this distribution.
viii) how water management helps with droughts, floods and wildfires
ix) systems thinking approach to water with self-organization, regulation, self-maintanence, feedback loops, nonequilibrium thermodynamics, and complex adaptive systems
Here is a video of the 5th meeting on Dec 16th
In this 5th meeting both Pete Gabris and Duane Norris talked about the complexity of what is happening with water, so many parts to it, and how do we understand how they all interact, how to condense all these down into a small set of principles. Duane especially emphasized the role of plants, and also how complex the ecosystem was, and its impact on the water cycle, and how an ecosystem evolves in a way to help the water cycle. ( Duane was the coordinator for Natural Sequence Farming which also has its set of principles https://wentworthgroup.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/The-principles-of-Natural-Sequence-Farming.pdf )
A question arises of how we can explain the interconnectedness of all the different parts, how all the different couplings between different elements in the earth system interact to affect the water. How do the different parts integrate into a whole system? How is the system networked? Can our Water Principles explain the nature of the interconnection? A systems thinking approach may be useful here ; there are a variety of such approaches. One is to look at the system in terms of set of positive and negative feedback loops which interact to emerge behavior. Another complex systems approach is to look at how energy moves through the whole water cycle and drives it into different states, this approach is that of nonequiilibrium thermodynamics (see water writings of Michal Kravcik, Jan Pokornoy, and Wilhelm Ripl). Another framework is that of evolution, of ecological succession and how the water cycle evolves.
We will be bringing various organizations in this 'regenerative water' area for a series of strategic meetings about how to collaborate in January, and these Principles and Guidelines can help us define this regenerative water field, as distinct from the mainstream modern water field of massive hydrodams, concrete river beds, devegetation for the sake of urbanization and consumer goods, chemical sewage plants etc...
Next steps: To develop sets of 4-10 Water Principles, and Guidelines. If you have ideas for water principles, or for a set of 4-10 Water Principles you can leave them in the comment section of this newsletter, or email them to Alpha at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are the participants in the Water Principle meetings so far :
Alpha Lo : water physicist
Ananda Fitzsimmons : author of “Hydrate the earth” , co-founder of Regeneration Canada
Pete Gabris : hydrologist, co-author with Michael Kravcik on chapter on The New Water Paradigm, with People and Water International
Minni Jain : operations director at Flow Partnership
Judith Schwartz : author of "Water in Plain Sight", "Reindeer Chronicles"
Duane Norris, coordinator for Natural Sequence Farming, and with Ecological Restoration Australia
Josh Harrison : adjunct professor at UC Santa Cruz in whole systems & climate
Monica Guzman, doctoral student in hydrogeology
Jan Lambert, author of "Water, Land and Climate" and coauthor with Michal Kravcik "A Global Plan for the Restoration of Natural Water Cycles and Climate", with Biodiversity for a Livable Climate
Deb Phenicie : water and land management consultant
Charles Upton : Integrated water management, community water program developer
Jen Paludi integrated water management
Chris Sorflaten : graduate of Beaver Institute
Benamara Lahbib : urban water architect with masters in water management
also helping in general with the project:
Jamaica Stevens: Co-founder of Open Future Coalition
Hannah Apricot : founder/editor of the North American "Permaculture" magazine, and founder of Abundant Earth Foundation
MASTER LIST OF WATER GUIDELINES v1.3
What’s important is not how much rainfall you get, but how much effective rainfall you have.
Keep the rainfall as much as possible on the land where it falls.
Preserve and restore the ecosystems which maintain the small water cycle: soils, forests and wetlands.
Harvest rainfall and minimize the use of groundwater resources.
Conserve and recycle water.
Favor indigenous plants which are adapted to the bio region. Return eroded organic matter to the top of slopes and retain it there with plants.
Increase small water cycle by localizing water, and supporting water evapotranspiration
Restore the small water cycle
Regenerate the soil carbon sponge
Retain the rain: slow it, spread it sink it
Don't withdraw more groundwater than is replenished.
MASTER LIST OF WATER PRINCIPLES v1.3
The sun and gravity drives the water cycle
Water is needed for life, and life helps regulate the water cycle
Water moves heat from the surface of the earth to the atmosphere
The small water cycle moves heat from the surface of the earth to the atmosphere
Evapo(transpi)ration takes the heat out of the terrestrial surface, and also out of the contact atmospheric layer.
Convection carries the heat to the upper layers of the troposphere and out of the troposphere.
Hydrate the earth and soil
Putting water in the ground is like putting it in the bank
Water is distributed over land, ocean, underground, and atmosphere
Water manages heat
Restore the rain
Plants manage water and by doing so they manage heat
Haze is a greenhouse gas
The more organic matter there is in soil, the more water it can absorb and hold which means the plants can have longer water over time which makes them drought resilient.
Deeper roots give a larger network for drawing water and nutrients
Compacted soil causes more runoff and roots have harder time drawing out water.
Water is the primary regulator of heat on the planet
Water enables life on this planet. Without water there is no life
Cloud condensation affects emission photons into space, and therefore global cooling
Clouds help reflect sunlight into space
Temperature variations create air movement.
Land surface influences the movement of water.
Water is the giver of all life and without clean water all life will perish
Water enables all life
The future lies in recovering wisdom and long term understanding and respecting what has already been learnt..
Plants can release bacteria that seed rain
Microbes increase land hydration
Microbes increase soils ability to absorb water
Plants regulate temperature by evaporating more or less water into atmosphere
Sun’s absence helps water vapor condense in atmosphere
Cooler areas create low pressure systems that attract rain
Droughts can be reversed with simple processes
Gaia Theory identifies the planet as a self regulating system, where all parts work to maintain the whole.
Floods and droughts are the two sides of the same coin
All life works in a collaborative manner to maintain the whole. We as humans need to reintegrate our own understanding into that balance
Increasing soil absorption can lessen floods
Agriculture & urbanization are responsible for most floods and droughts
Under forest canopy, the daily temperatures are attenuated and a cooling effect is generated by plant transpiration.
Wildfires create cascading of complex effects on vegetation, soil, and microclimate, in a kind of feedback mechanism, creating conditions that enhance the possibility of another wildfire.
Groundwater is especially important for isolated communities, as it allows the provision of water in sufficient quantities through shallow wells and springs.
Groundwater recharge is highly influenced by vegetation, soil, and rainfall.
Forest fires tend to enhance peak-flows (increasing the probability of flooding and sediment transport) and decrease the amount of groundwater recharge.
Biodiversity—life--drives the water cycle
The temporal distribution of moisture is as important as the amount of rainfall a landscape receives, and has important implications for management. (This is the “brittleness scale”.)
Bare soil between plants = less effective rainfall.
Rain is effective when the bulk of the rain (or snowmelt) soaks into the soil and only leaves the soil through plant growth, or through perennial flow to streams, springs or underground water storage, including aquifers.
Soil as water infrastructure
Water is held in the soil
When water is held in soil it moves more slowly, and help replenishes groundwater
When water moves slower it can more easily soak into sponge
Water availability depends on soil sponge
60 times more groundwater than surface water
Water security depends on soil and vegetation
Wildfire decrease soil percolation of water
Small wildfires are restorative, they are negative feedback loop. They burn off excess carbon
Large wildfires damage small water cycle, interfere with drainage : positive feedback loop
Dams, rebuild soil can create a negative feedback loop that restores arid areas
Disruption of natural cycles (catastrophic fire, large land clearing - ie through industrial agriculture, terraforming in general) impacts the small the large water cycle
Biodiversity plays role in helping landscape stay hydrated
Dehydration as negative feedback loop / hydration as a positive loop
Three pillars carbon, biodiversity, water
The water cycle helps reverse entropy - ie increasing complexity improving the water cycle
Biodiversity enhances water cycle
Holistic raised cattle help water cycle, by pressing plant matter into soil so carbon incorporates into soil which allows soil to hold more water, creating areas in soil for pooling, urine adds water, their poop fertilizers soil. In arid area water is being held in guts of animals
All water is local
Water follows carbon, carbon follows water
Biodiversity creates opportunity for water to slow down and infiltrate
The earth is in a state of nonequilibrium thermodynamics.
The water cycle is an ordered dissipative structure created by nonequilibrium thermodynamics of the earths system.
There are thermodynamic cycles for the water, air, and organic molecules.
The water cycle is a thermodynamic work cycle, which is driven by solar power.
The fourth law of thermodynamics says a system will increase entropy at the fastest rate, and the small water cycle is the fastest way to equilibrate earth surface and atmospheric temperature, thus increasing entropy.
The water cycle acts like a steam engine, driving the movement of air.
The suns energy turns into latent heat or sensible heat after it hits the earths surface. Sensible heat leads to earth warming.
The water cycle carves out the geological features of rivers in the gravity driven part of the thermodynamic work cycle.
Hurricanes are a thermodynamic work cycle that creating strong winds.
A positive feedback loop happens as more carbon in atmosphere leads to atmosphere heating, which leads to more water vapor stored in atmosphere, which leads to water vapor acting as greenhouse gas to trap even more heat.
A negative feedback loop happens as vegetation and soil evapotranspire water to cool the earths surface, and create clouds that have net cooling.
A positive feedback loop happens as there is more rain which leads to more plants and microbes which leads to more water absorbent soil, which leads to more evapotranspiration, which leads to more rain.
The water and earth cycle is a complex adaptive system.
An ecological system will evolve to a state where it increases the small water cycle to meet its needs.
Photosynthesis and microbial decomposition form an organic molecule thermodynamic work cycle that works to increase soil absorbency of water.
Plants and microbes can self-replicate, increasing the total amount of thermodynamic work cycles that can influence soil absorbency.
Wind patterns and animals disperse seeds, which then lead to new organic molecule thermodynamic work cycles appearing elsewhere to generate new vegetation.
The incoming energy of the sun on hitting the surface of the earth is mainly converted into a form that is air convection, or latent heat of the transformation of liquid water into water vapor.
Water transports heat and cools environments, reflects solar rays and traps heat when it forms clouds, helps plants grow, affects air currents by regulating temperature of the land through plant evaporative cooling and by regulating the temperature of the ocean, carve geological features as rivers, moves around organic matter and sediment through river flow which then influences where plants grow.
Plants transpire the water into the air, increase soil’s ability to absorb water, slow the flow of water and rains so it can seep into the soil, provide biomass when dead to build the soil, is food for microbes
Soil absorbs the rainfall, feeds the plants, guides the rain to the aquifers
Microbes make air pockets in the soil so it can absorb more water, break down plant matter into smaller molecules which are food for new plants, in the air microbes can seed rain at higher temperatures than dust
Vegetation harvests water from the horizontal flows of water vapor in the atmosphere.
Vegetation releases bacteria and spores that help, along with dust particles, seed water vapor condensing into clouds.
Increasing vegetation. and decreasing the amount of asphalt and concrete, can bring back rains in areas of low air moisture content, and increase small water cycle flow.
Increased amount of small water cycles (where vegetation transpires water to from rain which then waters the vegetation) restore the balance of water between land and sea, slowing the net outflow of water from land to sea
Increased small water cycles keep water overland and hydrating vegetation, and slows net outflow of water from land to sea
Sewage systems, aqueducts, storm drains can increase the net outflow of water from land to sea and lead to sea level rise
Dew, formed from water vapor condensing in the night, can hydrate the vegetation.
Heat flows from hot to cold. This causes air, and its accompanying water vapor, to also flow. Temperature gradients are the motor which drives atmospheric flow.
The sun heats up bare land more, so de-forestration shifts the horizontal heat gradients, which then drive more turbulent airflow on earth, creating more sudden storms and floods.
Vegetative transpiration regulates the vertical temperature gradient through evaporative cooling and heat releasing water condensation.
Lowering the vertical temperature gradient calms the atmospheric currents. Heat flux through the eye of hurricane drives the hurricane. Lowering the vertical temperature gradient over land, means less power to drive the hurricane, which means the hurricane decays faster over land.
Microbes and fungi can increase the amount of water soil absorbs.
Dead biomass and earthworks placed in the path of rain, can help soil absorb the water.
Increase soil hydration increases plant growth.
Increased soil sponginess can lessen floods by directing the water into the ground
Increasing soil carbon increases water retention in soil
Biomass is atmospheric carbon sequestered via photosynthesis
Increased soil sponginess leads to aquifers refilling more
Aquifers at higher levels lead to rivers running into dry season longer.
Increased soil hydration can lessen wildfires.In relation to man-made structures
Aqueducts diverting water from one bioregion to funnel to bigger cities can lessen rainfall in those bioregions. If those bioregions are arid, the diversion of water can lead to the cessation of small water cycles, and the dying out of vegetation in that bioregion.
Cities can provide more of its own water by becoming sponge cities which create its own small water cycle, where stormwaters flow through soil and wetlands to aquifers below. Wells draw up water to feed its inhabitants. And vegetation transpires water back up to atmosphere.
Greening city decreases its heat dome effect. The heat dome alters atmospheric flow of water vapor and air.
Dam removal can allow rivers to overflow into floodplains, where more vegetation can grow, which transpired more water vapor into air, and releases more bacteria into air. This water vapor and bacteria may stay put or get blown elsewhere, where it may then condense and form rain.
Dam and levee removal, and leaving river-adjacent floodplains wild, can allow waters to naturally adjust their levels, and lessen larger floods in the long term.
Hydropower removal can increase river velocity. Higher river velocity allows it to carve wider arcs, which leads to a wider area of hydration of the ecosystem downstream.
“Solar radiation is directed towards the earth's surface. In order to maintain a stable temperature, an equal amount of heat needs to leave from the upper atmosphere. Here is the way heat leaves or gets trapped and intensifies:
Albedo effect- heat is absorbed into dark surfaces and bounces off of lighter surfaces. When heat hits bare soil or thermal mass such as rock, pavement, etc it is absorbed, whereas when it hits cloud, ice or vegetative ground cover it bounces back to space before being absorbed.
Transpiration: Trees and other photosynthesizing vegetation use thermal energy to convert water from the earth into water vapour and release it into the atmosphere.
Biotic pump: The low pressure caused by the release of heat and moisture through transpiration pulls warmer air masses into the void and keeps air moving.
Cloud precipitation: Precipitation nuclei are needed for vapour to form into raindrops. These can be salt crystals, ice crystals or bacteria transpired from plants. Over land the bacteria from plants is the main mechanism for precipitating rainfall, particularly in summer. Rainfall clears the air and allows heat to release from the lower atmosphere.
Haze: water vapour adheres to particulate matter in the atmosphere, creating micro droplets too light to fall as rain. With these smog and hazes formed, water vapour acts as a greenhouse gas, trapping more heat in the lower atmosphere and creating high pressure systems that don’t move. Rainfall is needed to clear the air, but without sufficient groundwater or forest cover the raindrops will not form.
Convection currents move masses of water vapour over land but evapotranspiration , the movement of water to water vapour either by evaporation from open bodies of water or the pumping transpiration of plants, adds moisture to the air and cycles the water over the earth, cooling the ambient temperature each time it rises. Sometimes the dehydration of the land in one region can lead to rain not falling there, accumulating elsewhere and causing heavy storms downwind in another region. Well hydrated land modulates temperature extremes.