Question of the Day
How does the ecosystem clean our water?
Lesson of the Day
”Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.” — Francis of Assisi (1181 - 1226) Canticle of the Sun circa 1225
Water is the coupling of two very common elements in our universe, hydrogen and oxygen into one simple yet extraordinary molecule that has dramatically shaped our planet and the life that inhabits it. Water drives the erosive forces that shape the world’s geology, provides a vast aquatic environment that supports much of life on earth and generates weather patterns driven by its unique thermodynamic properties. It provides the life force to grow all plants and animals, and enables you, whose body is more than half composed of water, to read this module, to sit and think, learn and move and feel, all powered by your body’s water-dependent energy metabolism.
There is a stable amount of water on the planet earth. This water moves through a continuous cycle in, on and above the planet called the water or hydraulic cycle. The water cycle is a true cycle in that there is no beginning and no end. Water has been cycling between the atmosphere, the ground and reservoirs like rivers, lakes and oceans for billions of years and during this process shifting between its three common phases; liquid, gas (water vapor) and solid (ice).
During this cycle water can become contaminated with pollutants. Human beings need clean water to survive and prosper. Fortunately water purification is one of the many services provided by ecosystems. Water contaminated with sediment or infectious or noxious agents is purified as it moves through the water cycle providing humanity with a continuous supply of clean water.
Natural water purification relies on the filtration and absorption of water by soil particles and living organisms in the water and ground. The principle locations in an ecosystem where water is purified are:
Human activity that compacts soil, introduces invasive species, destroys wetlands and riparian forests, and spreads excess nitrogen fertilizers are all compromising the capacity of ecosystems to purify water. With human water supplies contaminated, billions of dollars are now invested in water treatment plants designed to purify water. The United States alone spends 2 billion dollars annually on clean water initiatives. Water treatment is an expensive endeavor, particularly for a resource that was previously produced for free by nature.
Faced with a contaminated water supply, in 1997 the city of New York considered constructing a water treatment facility at a cost of 8 billion dollars. Instead they opted to restore and protect the watershed that supplied their water at a cost of 1 billion dollars. Thus the city of New York invested in the ecosystem service of water purification rather than artificially replicating the service and accrued a savings of 7 billion dollars.
Clean water was once a product taken for granted in many parts of the world. Now drinking water is bottled and sold across the planet; it is a precious commodity with great monetary value. Currently, about a billion people around the world routinely drink unhealthy water. Five million deaths a year are attributed to polluted drinking water. The more natural filtration processes are destroyed, the more difficult it will become to provision clean water to the growing world population, and the greater the monetary value of water will be.
Words to Run By
Morning everyone. Today, as you set out on your run we would like you to consider water purification as an ecosystem service.
Last night, we heard a vivid account from an elder in the village of Santa Rosa de Haucaria how the village health improved after they installed infrastructure for piped water from a deep well. Previously they had been drinking water from neighboring streams. With piped well water the village saw a 60 - 80% decrease in stomach illness and diarrhea. That is a graphic example of the importance of access to potable water for good health as an ecosystem service. today we have 2 questions for you to consider:
Have a good run everyone!
The i2P team has been descending all week, following the flow of roadside rivulets and mountain cascades grown into turbulent cataracts and powerful tributaries. Today the Youth Ambassadors joined the course of the broad Madre de Dios River as it leaves the mountains behind on its race to the Amazon river. Water is everywhere in the rainforest; the feet of the Ambassadors are always wet. Sweat on their brows from exertion, they stop to fill up stores of water and electrolytes needed for the run. In the afternoon it rained, a torrential downpour that drenched the earth and dampened all but the spirit. More water falls over the Amazon than anywhere else in the world. It saturates the earth where it is purified by natural processes; microorganisms, trees, wetlands are living filters that remove contaminants and sediments. Some of the water enters the subterranean water table from which the people of Santa Rosa de Huacaria pipe their village water. When the i2P team camped in the community last night a village elder proudly explained to the Youth Ambassadors that naturally purified water from the new well had substantially decreased illness in the village.
Video of the Day
Photo of the Day
Youth Ambassador Activity
Over the course of the expedition the Youth Ambassadors will be expected to record each day where the drinking water of the local people is coming from. Attention will be paid to the presence of watershed wetlands and riparian forests.
On day 5 the team will travel by boat down the Alto Madre de Dios River. While on the boat they will take water samples and test them for pollutants. The Youth Ambassadors will consider: