Editorials

Watersh-editorials is where we stand up at the podium to clear up a misconception or get something right, and most of all — to give water a proper place at the table and a voice on topics that are both timely and maybe a wee bit contentious at times. | Water Writings | Easy Trivia | Watersh-editorials | Dictionary | Bookshelf | aquatic-quandaries | Swamp rules | Tales of the water cycle | Ghosts of watersheds past | Watershed myths | Before and after | Speaking Water | Measuring Water | Fireside Water

Intro - Giving water a voice

It's about giving water a voice at the table

By Robert V. Sobczak

It’s easy to love the water …

But who’s standing up for it when it needs a voice.

Giving water a seat at the table

That’s where Go Hydrology steps up to the plate with its watersh-editorials. What is a watersh-editorial? It’s basically an editorial about water, or some aspect of water or nature (sometimes the trees) that deserves everyone’s attention and deserves being fixed.

I know what your thinking: But isn’t Go Hydrology a place that steers clear of controversy and political camps? And what if we say the wrong thing — could that step on the wrong people’s toes?

To be honest, I doubt it. And isn’t that what Go Hydrology is perfectly positioned to avoid. From Day One, the dialog at Go Hydrology has been about getting to the bottom of what the water in all its forms that both technical experts and lay enthusiasts can enjoy. Water is a great uniter, and something we can all stand, if not behind, then in (even if it is over ankle deep): Here at Go Hydrology we’re all about getting our feet wet. In sum, a watersh-editorial is not about pointing fingers, it’s about putting issues, information and ideas at peoples fingertips so we can all join forces to get the water right.

In my opinion – and I think I speak for the water on this – a civil dialog is a lost art form.

Recent Editorials

“Raining Cats and Dogs?”
Why it's time to retire the saying

When big downpours let loose …

It’s often said “it’s raining cats and dogs.”

Can you see the ___________ (correct answer)?

But that adage dates back to aegis of the industrial revolution in Europe when literally, after large rainfall events, stray cats and dogs ended up dead in the gutter.

Or at least that’s one explanation.

My proposal:

Why rake up old graves? Let’s let those poor strays rest in peace and replace that sad saying with an animal event that more accurately (and humanely) describes south Florida’s major weather events.

A downpour as seen through a windshield

My tentative proposal: A stampede of horses. More to follow.

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Safety advice: Don’t be afraid to pull over on the side of the road if it’s raining too hard.

Technological breakthrough
Always arriving in the nick of time

Can we rely on technology …

To guarantee future water resources?

The S-12A helps deliver water into Everglades Nat’l Park

Answer:

The answer is yes, but not an absolute yes of our forefather’s forefathers – rather it’s a tentatively stated and probabilistically defined, “let’s hope so.” At this point it would be pretty fool hearty to go back to the dousing rod or hand pump, and truly, why would anyone want to try.

Technology has become a double edged sword of sorts, in a way that makes me ask – “is it too late for technology, or is it too late for us because of our technology? We have it now, for good and for worse, as our answer and curse. It’s our fate and the facts, but we need it now more than ever, and I don’t think that is a hope misplaced. What haunts me is the question – “if we knew then what we know now, would the world and its waters be different today?”

I am buoyed by the prospect that technology, if properly harnessed, can save us heartache down the road. Ecosystems and water ways have been pillaged for economic gain, but would the calculations that created those messes – so long ago – have been different if our grandmother’s grandfathers had better technology at their fingertips? What if the original drainers of the Everglades didn’t “dig first, and ask questions later?”  What if they had the tools to tell them what unintended consequences lay ahead? Unfortunately, the one thing that technology has never invented (despite a legion of prognosticators who claim its powers), is a crystal ball.

Pump grave yard, as see at John Stretch Park at the southern shores of Lake Okeechobee. The Herbert Hoover Dike is visible in the background.

Thus, I can make no guarantees, only hope – on a wing and prayer – that technological solutions await, always in the nick of time.

Hydrologic resolutions
Or is it better phrased as a responsibility?

Does anybody make new year’s resolutions anymore?

One of mine this year is to drink less water.

The alligator does not drink up the water hole he lives in

Okay, I phrased that wrong: I meant use less water. The reason: By the end of the winter dry season, South Florida usually doesn’t have much to spare. Of course that usually doesn’t happen until spring — and specifically April and May — when the cypress domes and strands go completely dry. And I know what you’re thinking: Is there really a connection between how much was I use in town and the abundance or sparsity of water in the swamp? Increasingly, with the town moving east into the hinterlands that used to be the swamp, I would say if not a one to one drop exchange, the two are more intermingled than we tend to appreciate. Or maybe my point is this: When it comes to Big Water solutions to benefit humans, we usually don’t blink an eye. Well, I’m here to tell you the gators and all the other animals need there water, too. Hundreds of miles of canals and levees later, we built it (for us) and broke it (for them), therefore we own it and owe it to our region to get the water right.

My other resolution is to play the guitar more.

Steady decline
And can it be stopped?

Nobody can shut off a Florida Spring …

Or can we?

History of discharge (in cfs) from Crystal Spring, FL

The answer is yes. It happened to Kissengen Spring. Once a popular tourist draw and water hole, nearby groundwater pumping dried up the spring the river run it fed. But surely that could never happen to Silver Springs, a first order magnitude artesian spring. Some would call it Florida’s crown jewel. Just a few year back I was at the spring marveling at the volume of water it produced. If you’ve never seen a Florida spring, they are a “must see.” The water manifests itself as the surface as a crystal clear boil of rolling water flowing non-stop day and night all year long.

Looking back at the historical data for the site — and we should all thank the U.S. Geological Survey for having the foresight to start collecting it in 1932 — the volume of water gushing out of the spring has declined over the decades, starting in the 1990s and dropping down even more in the 2000s. The good news? Spring volume rebounded back to near normal levels (between 700-900 cfs) in recent years. It’s still not what it was (prior to 1990), and future depletion is a real threat. But there is a plan in place to save the spring and its flows. Click here to find out more.

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Trends: Baselines decline over time that only an old-timer can tell you. And yes, please listen to them!

Swamps get spooked, too
A very hydrologic Halloween

Are the swamps spooky?

To the uninitiated, “yes.”

All Ye Who Enter:
Beware!

And who could blame them, they are wooded, dark, and watery. Alligators lurk, and panthers too – but those worries are misguided: The animal you really have to watch out for are water moccasins. Not that they chase you – they won’t! Nor do they spook – they don’t! Rather, it’s because they don’t move away when they hear you approaching that causes the real fright.  If you unwittingly walk in their path, you could be surprised by a strike when you least expect it.

And yes, that could hurt.

Can you see the spider? Neither could I until it was too late.

There are giant spiders too! But even worse is a trunk-to-trunk spanning web on your face (and in your hands as you try to remove it after the fact). Is a spider there too, in my hair or crawling down my neck? It rarely the case, but the thought certainly spooks!

Then there are the Hollywood-inspired Swamp Thing and the local lore of a Skunk Ape that may have you quacking in your boots if for some reason you find yourself slogging through a knee-deep cypress dome alone at night, something I highly recommend against (i.e. see previous post).

Craggily pond apple
forests look foreboding

The truth is that humans evolved to fear the swamps. Their soggy soils are virtually uninhabitable by modern-day standards with the caveat that the natural bounty they contain is just as easily drained away by bulldozers, canals and elevated fill pads. Right by their side are the Frankensteins of the swamp, or maybe barbarians is a better term: the Maleleuca trees, Brazilian Pepper, Old World Climbing Fern, and pythons push native flora and fauna out. The truth is that swampland has been greatly misunderstood, with a twist: It’s not use that should fear the swamp …

It’s the the swamp that should fear us.

Warning: The cypress are lovely, dark and deep: Don’t get lost!

So tread lightly in a swamp near you, and trust in me whenever you do – by sun or night or nearing twilight – its liquid realm is a beautiful sight, from top to bottom and start to end, its silence is the comfort of your oldest friend.

Happy Halloween!

In the right light: Cypress aren’t so spooky after all!