One Drop of Water: Happy World Water Day!

By , March 22, 2013 10:40 am
World Water Day

Meet One Drop of Water: picture by David Newman

Hi, I’m one drop of water. Two hydrogen atoms connected to an oxygen atom. At room temperature I’m a liquid, above boiling temperature I’m steam or vapor, and at or below freezing I’m ice. Know any other substance as cool as me? Those facts alone should make you respect me, but alas, that’s not enough. Please join me on my journey through the water cycle and around the world. I’ve been around the earth many times over the billions of years I’ve been on earth!

Let’s start with me in a drinking glass sitting on your kitchen counter. How did I get there? Well, as any school-age human child can tell you, I evaporated from another person’s cup and I rose straight up into the clear blue sky. Along with trillions of other water molecules I helped to form a cloud. I either rained or snowed down onto a mountain. If snow, I sat in a snow pack and patiently waited until springtime when I melted into a river. Whee, down the river I flowed until I reached a lake, dam, or reservoir. I was then diverted by an aqueduct to a drinking water treatment plant where I was filtered and had chemicals like chlorine and fluoride added to me. I then took an underground journey through many pipes (not as scenic as above ground!) until I reached your house. You turned on the faucet, filled your glass and voila! Here I am.

That’s the ideal story, but actually my journey was fraught with many perils. I actually contain dozens of chemical pollutants even though I was filtered and chemically “cleaned” at the water treatment plant. What are these chemicals and how did they get stuck to me? Well, it’s your fault, humans I mean. I can contain medicines, industrial waste, human waste, acid rain, 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? Thanks a lot Mom!

I also left out the yucky part of what happens to me once I go down the drain from your house. It’s quite the nightmare being sloshed around a smelly sewage treatment plant, but well worth being discharged clean into a river, lake or ocean!

That’s just my journey through the developed world. In a developing country, people may urinate, defecate, bathe, wash clothes and drink water from the same river I journey down! Yuck! Not only is the water muddy but it carries diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, protozoa and parasites. I’d hate to be living downstream from all of that! But in a sense, all humans live downstream from some water source. The precious water we drink is the exact same water the dinosaurs drank, only much more polluted now.

No drop of water on earth is without the fingerprint of man. Not even the polar ice caps that man has never stepped upon are safe. Garbage from thousands of miles away washes up ashore on tropical beach islands on which only birds and scuttling crabs have ever left their footprints on.

In fact, I’ve been around longer than the dinosaurs. I first appeared billions of years ago when water first formed on earth. I once met a water molecule who claimed he came to earth on a comet. He says he saw the whole universe, but nothing compares to being hydrogen bonded with trillions of other water molecules in a pool of water. I prefer mountain lakes myself. There you slow down and enjoy life as well as the beautiful scenery. It’s not as hectic as flowing down a river, nor as monotonous as being in the ocean (unless you’re near a coral reef or kelp forest, those are happening places!).

Please celebrate World Water Day by respecting me, good ol’ H2O, and conserving me!

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