This week was a wet one. Water made the news as we found evidence of liquid water on Mars recently. Why was it a big deal to find water? Because its critical for life on Mars or here on Earth.
It rained last weekend quite a bit and again last night and today; now that I mention it this time of year often has a lot of rain associated with it. But where does all that water that falls from the sky come from and where does it go after it falls? Well this week I had to consider some of those questions when the water well in my house stopped working the way it usually does. These questions led me to researching water and how it moves around the earth, this study is called Hydrology. (I also had to engage in some conservationism as well)
The first question was is the well pump working? A quick check showed it was functioning. The next question was what had I done that might have caused this issue? Well…at the advice of a well driller and service guy (hydrologist) I cleaned out my house’s water holding tank. It collects sediment that is allowed to settle out when the water rests in the holding tank. And the sediment was starting to get kind of deep so I thought it might be good advice. Unfortunately to clean the tank I had to drain it which really bugged me since that meant dumping 200 gallons of water; what a waste! I had to constantly stir the sediment into the water to keep it suspended and drain the tank down all the way. Once drained I thought I would just be able to let the well refill the tank, boy was I naive. It turns out that coming off of summer the water table in my area was still low and that meant that my well could only refill itself slowly…a few gallons each hour. So what? its refilling right why does it matter if its slow? Well I have quickly become very mindful of how much water various daily activities use as our family had to plan on how to use each gallon that brought itself back into our house. For example it uses about 1 1/2 gallons to flush a toilet, 10 gallons to take a 10 minute shower (x4 people), 25 gallons to wash clothes with a high efficiency front loading washer, washing dishes by hand uses about 3 gallons. So add it all up and that’s about 80 gallons a day. Pumping in two gallons an hour the well was not able to supply the water we needed so we had to make some decisions. Showers were shortened to 5 minutes each, and we skipped the laundry that day to let the tank fill back up. This reduced our usage to about 30 gallons. This meant that the tank could fill up while the well recharged. I am happy to say that three days later we had a full holding tank again and don’t have to worry as much, oh and we can do laundry again too!
So the question is with all this rain why wasn’t the well “full”? Well rain falls from the sky because conditions in the troposphere reach a state where the rate of condensation exceeds the rate of evaporation for water and droplets collect into drops until they fall. But then they have to soak into the ground or runoff to some other place. Once it soaks into the ground it has to slowly work its way in between little grains of dirt and sand and other sediments. It continues to soak down until it reaches a layer of rock that it can’t soak through any more. Then it starts moving horizontally and filling up spaces in the soil above it. Because it had been summer and it really hadn’t rained much for the last few weeks the water level underground (the water table) was getting low.
Now that its getting colder out the air is condensing more water than it evaporates and its raining more, that’s fall for you. The water table can recharge itself and I don’t have to worry as much for now. But wait, didn’t I just post about water issues a couple weeks ago? Why yes I did! Water is one of the most precious resources on this planet and living in a city my entire life I have taken it completely for granted. See if you can find out where your water comes from by clicking here.
The study of water and how to keep it clean and accessible to all is really cool, very important, and pretty political right now. If you are interested in similar stories of disappearing water check out how Saudi Arabia ran into the same problem I did.
Other hot water issues include: