Coastal Cosmos Columns

Looking at that incredible substance we know as water

Dihydrogen Monoxide covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and drives our climate. It can melt mountains and cut serpentine holes through Earth’s crust. It comfortably exists on Earth as a liquid, solid and gas. It fills 75 percent of the human brain and is vital to all known life. It provides a perfect medium for energy waves to disperse and refract — the end result being a stoked surfer riding the wave of their life. Water is an incredible substance!

H2O is a tasteless, odorless substance that while colorless in small quantities, takes on the brilliant blue hue that paints our coastal world. Photo by Kyle Stock
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. Created shortly after the Big Bang, atomic No. 1, makes up about three-fourths of the elemental matter in the universe. Oxygen is the third-most abundant element and is created in the fusion furnaces of stars. These most elemental of elements are combined to form H20 in only the most volatile areas of the cosmos. Hydrogen and oxygen bond reactively by sharing electrons. H2O is a tasteless, odorless substance that while colorless in small quantities, takes on the brilliant blue hue that paints our coastal world.

How did 325 million trillion gallons of water get to Earth? When giant stars explode (supernova), they spread their manufactured elements and compounds throughout their resident galaxy. This material eventually coalesces into new stars and solar systems. As the Earth formed and cooled, icy comets and asteroids bombarded the surface. It’s like filling a bucket by tossing in water balloons. Earth orbits the Sun within the “Goldilocks Zone” of our solar system: not so close that all water evaporates and not so far away that all the water freezes.

The recreational value of water is unquantifiable. From ice-skating to sailing to splashing in a pool to skiing to wave-riding, the opportunities for fun are boundless. When powdery ice crystals cover mountain terrain, snowboarders and skiers celebrate. When liquid water transforms oceanic energy into beautiful, spinning waves on our local reefs and sandbars, surfers rejoice with great exaltation.

Life began in the water and it continues to support our biological processes. Photo by Kyle Stock

San Diego averages just 12 inches of precipitation annually. Freshwater is of the utmost importance to all communities. So where do we get our freshwater? Residents of North County receive their water from three primary sources: the State Water Project via the California Aqueduct, the Colorado River and a few local streams/reservoirs.

It is interesting that we live next to the largest body of water on the planet and yet our life-sustaining water is pumped in from across the state. Desalination, the process of removing the salt from seawater, is a popular topic in the water industry, but many ecological and logistical questions remain unanswered.

The State Water Project is the largest state-built water system in the USA; supplying water for 25 million people and 750,000 acres of farmland. The SWP collects the Sierra Nevada snowmelt and transports it through the California Aqueduct. The 1,440-mile-long Colorado River provides water to San Diego via the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Colorado River Aqueduct. The aqueduct begins at Lake Havasu on the Arizona/California border and delivers large quantities of water to Southern California. The Olivenhain and San Dieguito reservoirs supply water collected locally.

Life began in the water and it continues to support our biological processes. Water has transported species, cultures and goods throughout the world. It is also the main conveyor of the sun’s energy across oceans and over continents. Water riding is a passion for millions of people the world over. There is no other feeling on Earth that compares to being encapsulated in the barrel of breaking H2O. The next time you simply take a drink of refreshing water, take delight in its existence. Da Vinci once claimed: “Water is the driving force of all nature.”

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