Fresh water is the corner stone of all human life. It’s the liquid that sustains life, irrigates our food, freshens our bodies, cools our environment and hydrates our minds.
We cannot live for more than 3 days without fresh water.
It’s so essential that we are traveling to Mars in search of water… which, personally, I find totally ridiculous.
So how did fresh water come to be? Where do we get water? How does it get to our homes?
According to New Scientist, it seems fresh water can be formed in several ways. The origin of water is a topic much speculated about. No surprise here(!)
One theory states that water is created within the Earth from reactions between liquid hydrogen and quartz in the planet’s mantle. The hydrogen fluid is said to diffuse through quartz layers and end up forming water in the bulk of the mineral itself. Through earthquakes deep in the mantle and volcanic activity, rocks shift and move allowing water to reach the surface.
Another origin theory, is that water came through collisions with ice-rich comets. It seems that 3.85 billion years ago, planet Earth was struck by debris from icy comets and rocky asteroids during the so-called Late Heavy Bombardment. This could totally make a Hollywood hit movie(!).
Nonetheless, fresh water, which is water with low salt concentration, is an even more precious commodity – it makes up only 1% of the Earth’s water.
Freshwater is mostly found un ponds and lakes, streams and rivers and wetlands.
All the water in the world makes up what is known as the freshwater and marine biome.
Water, of course, is a natural resource, the basis of life and essential to sustain countless species (humans among them, let’s not forget we are mammals).
Fresh water biomes give us our drinking water and irrigate our crops. The oceans have an important effect on global climate by helping keep atmospheric temperature fairly constant and able to support life.
In these oceans, phytoplankton thrive, and they are by volume the biggest photosynthesis mass that creates the oxygen necessary to support the world population and all living organisms.
Remember in fifth grade when they taught us the water cycle?
The diagram with a simple circular cycle with mountains, lakes, seas and clouds?
What we might have missed back then is to understand the fact that the fresh water resources we have are finite. The planet is a sphere, it is a “closed-system”, a “water-cycle”, whatever water we have is all we have.
Take a look at this super-informative video (6min 46 sec), it's worth it!
Water supplies are being stressed by population growth, pollution and urban development and now exacerbated by climate change. All these factors greatly impact water resources like lack of adequate water supplies, overabundance of water (floods), degraded water quality and now and into the future it will be affecting the economy, manufacturing, human health, natural ecosystems and even national security.
Back to how we get our water.
For example, the history of Manhattan’s water supply system is fascinating. I’ll share more insights with you on my Newsletter, but here is how it all started.
According to NYC Environmental Protection, Manhattan first obtained water from privately-owned wells. Only in 1677 did they dig out a public well and by 1776 they had to build a reservoir to serve a growing population of 22,000! Water was pumped from the reservoir and distributed through hollow logs laid in the principal streets!
An amazing article about NYC’s water supply is found here by AM New York, it’s a great read, not too long, with fabulous photos.
How New York City Gets its Water: from reservoir to tap.
After water has been created by amazing chemical reactions deep down the Earth or it came to us via outer space, water is essential.
It does deliver a potable liquid that hydrates you, allows you to cook and wash, and go about your daily routine without much hassle.
From the state or city reservoirs, as we saw before, water is then treated and distributed to your home via a complex network of tunnels, mains and lines.
And this is where most of the engineering happens. You can’t go about drinking water straight from the ponds or wells, you have to treat it.
And we have been doing exactly that since late 1700’s… some of those systems are kind ‘a old…
In the next part we’ll discover the amazing systems humans have engineered to make “raw” water potable. It is a complex, highly regulated and often controversial topic. But if you live in a city or town, this is how the water you drink and use at home is released for human consumption.
Learn the good, the bad and the ugly about our water supply.
Part 3 – How does water travel to your home?
New Scientist, Planet earth makes its own water from scratch deep in the mantle, www.newscientist.com
University of California Museum of Paleontology, The world’s biomes, www.ucmp.berkeley.edu
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Water cycle, www.noaa.gov
New Jersey Department of Health, Private wells, www.nj.gov