Face to a number

It’s one thing to look at hydrologic data,

But it’s quite another to see a water control structure up close in person.

As with many water ways of Florida, I got to know the data of the S-77 before I ever laid eyes on its “lock and dam.”

Its data sets are discrete, add together nicely on a spread sheet, fit neatly into a graph on a single sheet of paper … and above all – rolls in day after day (… after day after day), right to the doorstep of my computer.

It’s as tidy as hydrologic number crunching comes in south Florida.

Years passed until I finally had a chance to see the S-77 first hand, face to face.

It’s no small task: It took hours to drive to, an equal time to drive back from, plus the time we spend on the water. I was giddy with anticipation to see the structure – as, say, meeting a long lost relative – but upon seeing it, I was stupefied by the giant sprawling conglomerate of concrete, steel, earth, and electric my eyes looked out on.

It was nothing like I’d imagined.

I drove away a changed hydrologist: never would I look at the S-77 data quite the same way.

I am a man of water, but not “a man on the water” as often as I’d like. To be a hydrologist in the Everglades, it’s important to take that time …

Otherwise it’s just numbers.

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