Water on my mind

No, hydrocephalus (water on the brain) isn’t where I want to go, though it too is an important subject.  Rather, let’s have a look at some environmental water issues.

Too much or too little – neither case is much fun. In Louisiana for the last couple weeks now the needle has been tipped hard in the “too much” direction.  Out west there are fires raging in areas where the needle has tipped too far in the opposite direction.  Just evening things out a bit would relieve so much suffering, right? … channel some of the excess Louisiana rainfall to California.  But planet earth doesn’t work like that.  There are fair reasons why it shouldn’t either.  Cold hearted orb…

Earth

Cold hearted orb, that rules the night…

Apart from the extremes, what do we know about the regular water environments we live with? Here in Ohio we will typically receive about 40 inches (1,016 cm) of rain in given calendar year.  We’ll get some snow (where too much or too little is just as significant) but mostly rain.  Farmers will go about their efforts planning for the typical receipts, and building in some measure of flexibility (or resilience) for the more likely departures from typical.  In much of Ohio farm fields are tiled with underground tubing to help remove excess rainfall that might pond on fields and damage crops already growing, or prevent timely planting, harvest, or other access to fields.  Surface drainage can be accomplished in other ways, and systems of ditches and well maintained creeks and streams are part of the agricultural landscape.  So here in Ohio much more attention is payed to dealing with too much water.  But the opposite also occurs.  The summer of 2016, in a fair sized swath of Ohio, witnessed a July with less rainfall than typical and the crops suffered for it.  The last couple weeks (mid-August) brought some much needed relief.  Too much in a small number of spots – nothing to be compared with results around Baton Rouge, LA – but mostly we’ve been favorably blessed by the recent receipts.

Because Ohio tends toward the ‘too much’ end of the spectrum there is sparse experience dealing with the ‘too little’. Ask most folk in these parts what an acre inch of water is and you’ll find the vast majority have never heard the term.  And those few who can tell you what it is are quite unlikely to know how many gallons are in an acre inch, or what kinds of resources are needed to bring so many gallons into service – say as irrigation.  High plains agriculture is different.  Farmers in Kansas and Nebraska can easily describe what an acre inch is (an acre of water an inch deep), that it’s over 27 thousand gallons (27,154.3 to be fairly precise), and given their particular situation (pump power source, depth to ground water, or surface water if available) they can tell you what it costs to provide an acre inch to their crops.  My little farm in Madison County received 3.4 inches in a few showers a week ago.  On one 14-acre field then this amounted to 47.6 acre inches, or very nearly 1.3 million gallons.  At eight pounds per gallon this rainfall amount weighed in just over 5,000 short tons.

So long as we’re playing with the numbers – the State of Ohio comes in at 44,825 square miles. If it receives 40 inches of precipitation over the course of a year, it amounts to 1,147,520,000 acre inches.  And with an acre inch weighing in at 217,232 pounds, all these acre inches amount to 249,278,064,640,000 pounds of water.  It’s no wonder Atlas shrugged.

 

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In his unique way of offering to help around here the Bucket sent in another wondering:  he wanted to know whether an emancipated insect attempting an escape would be a free flea flee?

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