Hi, I am one drop of water. I am made of many molecules that contain two hydrogen atoms connected to an oxygen atom. At room temperature I am a liquid, above boiling temperature I am steam or vapor, and at or below freezing I am ice. Do you know of any other substance as cool as me? Those facts alone should make you respect me, but alas, that is not enough.
I have been around longer than the dinosaurs. I appeared billions of years ago when water first condensed on Earth. Through the water cycle, I have journeyed all around the Earth. I once met a water molecule that claimed he came to Earth on a comet. He says he saw the whole universe, but nothing compared to being hydrogen bonded with trillions of other water molecules in a pool of water.
I prefer mountain lakes myself. There I get to slow down and enjoy life as well as the beautiful scenery. It is not as hectic as flowing down a river, nor as monotonous as being in the ocean. That is unless you’re near a coral reef or kelp forest, as those are happening places.
Let’s start one of my journeys through the water cycle. I’m in a drinking glass sitting on your kitchen counter. How do I get there? After a human fills the glass with water from the faucet, he then drinks the water. After being in the human’s fascinating body for a few hours, I am deposited into a toilet. The flush took me on an underground trip through many pipes until I reached the sewage treatment plant.
That journey is quite boring because it is not as scenic as above ground. I always feel like I am living in a nightmare when I am being sloshed around a smelly sewage treatment plant. Yet it is well worth being discharged clean into a river, lake or ocean.
From open water, I evaporate and rise straight up into the clear blue sky. Along with trillions of other water molecules I helped form a cloud. I crystallize, and snow down onto a mountain. I sit in a snow pack and patiently wait until springtime when I melt into a river. Whee, down the river I flow until I reached a reservoir.
An aqueduct diverts me to a drinking water treatment plant where I am filtered and have chemicals like chlorine and fluoride added to me. I flow down some pipes until I reach your house, and voila, here I am sitting in a glass of water again.
That’s the ideal story, but actually my journey is fraught with many perils. My buddies and I actually contain dozens of chemical pollutants even though I get filtered and chemically cleaned at the water treatment plant. What are these chemicals and how did they dissolve or stick to me? Well, it is your fault. The fault of humans, I mean. I can contain medicines, industrial waste, human waste, acid, and agricultural pollutants just to name a few. Did you know that human babies are born with up to 300 dangerous chemicals already in their bodies from the water their Mom drank while pregnant? Thanks a lot, Mom.
That is just my journey through the developed world. When I am in a developing country, people urinate, defecate, bathe, wash clothes and drink water from the same river I journey down. Yuck. Not only is the water muddy, but the water carries diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, protozoa and parasites. As a human, I would hate to be living downstream from all of that. But in a sense, all people live downstream from some water source. No drop of water on Earth is without the fingerprint of man.
The precious water humans drink is the exact same water the dinosaurs drank, only much more polluted now.
Ah, pollution. An icky subject, but one I face on a daily basis. Take carbon dioxide for instance. It readily dissolves in me and makes me acidic, like soda. Carbon dioxide itself is not that harmful, as humans breathe it out all the time. In large quantities carbon dioxide becomes toxic and helps cause global warming. Carbon dioxide also ends up dissolving in the ocean or in water droplets in clouds. I hate being acidic in the ocean because I cause the beautiful coral reefs to bleach out and die. When the fragile coral dies, all the marine life around the corals also suffer, and I feel awful for causing that mess. Coral reefs are important, as twenty-five percent of marine life living in the oceans are found only there.
I hope you have enjoyed learning about my journeys through the water cycle and around the Earth. Please use water wisely as my buddies and I would much appreciate it!