Friday, September 28, 2012

Water Horses & Water Babies? What about Waterbears!

"Waterbear" is the cute name for Tardigrades - those indominable little water creatures that can go anywhere and come back for more - well, almost anywhere.

They can survive wide ranges of environmental conditions - from very cold temperatures (almost to absolute zero) to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Are you kidding me!  They can survive without water for close to 10 years by entering a suspended metabolic state called cryptobiosis, even though they live in water.  They must be related somehow to the world famous sea-monkeys!  (Oh, no! Could this possibly be another blog post?)

They can also withstand, at least for a while, very wide pressure ranges - from an absolute vacuum to the 6,000 atmospheres you'd find at the bottom of the deepest part of earth's oceans.  They are so resilient that just a year ago a bunch of them spent 10 days in open space on an ESA satellite, and upon their return, half of them went on about their business as if nothing had happened.  Of course, the half that were unshielded from dosages of the sun's UV rays at 1,000 times stronger than here on earth didn't fare too well, but reportedly even some of them made it to live another day.

While they're nicknamed "waterbears" and I've played off the other water creatures in the title of this post (that I've blogged about earlier) I'm NOT going to put this article under the "Water folklore" label because these dudes are real.  In fact, science has been studying them since 1773 when a German scientist first called them "kleiner Wasserbar" - little water bears.  I shudder to think how many of these guys I've guzzled down in my years of swimming in the Delaware Bay and elsewhere.  Then again, they look nutritious as all get-out.  Just the same, I'll try very hard to get these images out of my head!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Chicago's Aqua Tower

Aqua - Chicago, Ill
There are no shortage of cool buildings around the world, but appearing to be shedding waves of water at the same time is a new one on me.  This 86-story skyscraper is in the Lakeshore East development of Chicago.  Those extended balconies undulate outward to give the impression of water cascading down the sides.  The widest of these balconies are extended some 12 feet.  Of course, what they really do is shade large portions of the building - keeping energy costs down.

The building was designed by Studio Gang Architects, and sports quite a few other green amenities including a rainwater collection system and the largest green roof in Chicago.  According to one source, the building is going to seek LEED certification.

The name "Aqua" was given to the building primarily due to the wave-emulating balconies, but its proximity to Lake Michigan kind of sealed the deal - keeping with the water theme was a must.  It is a multi-functional building that includes retail space, offices, condos, apartments, a hotel and a few penthouses.  Word also has it that the 8-th floor base is topped with a terrace, gardens, gazebos, pools, hot tubs, running tracks and even a fire pit.  At least no one should lack for water if the fire pit gets out of control!  Anyway, that's the Aqua Building of downtown Chicago.  I'd like to have one of these in Colby, with our GMD offices on the terrace floor!

Monday, September 24, 2012


The mycologists tell us exactly what it is:

"Baudoinia are cosmopolitan colonists of exposed surfaces subjected to large diurnal temperature shifts, episodic high relative humidity and wetting, and ambient airborne ethanol. Morphologically B. compniacensis resembles some anamorphic Mycosphaerellaceae in possessing dark brown, nonseptate or uniseptate conidia with coarsely roughened walls that are borne acropetally in unbranched chains and released by schizolytic dehiscence. Analysis of partial nuclear rDNA SSU sequences positions B. compniacensis in the order Capnodiales and reveals that it is most closely related to the microcolonial genus Friedmanniomyces."

Now that you know technically what it is, I'll tell you what it really is. It's that sooty-looking black gunk that coats the outside of homes, spreads over porch furniture, blankets car roofs, covers plants and lawn shrubs, and is ever-present and annoying everywhere in the world where whiskey and other alcoholic beverages are distilled, stored and/or bottled.  It's been dubbed the "Whiskey Fungus".

Until 2007 when researchers published a scientific study no one really knew what it was, but everyone disliked it equally.  The NY Times has done an expose on it now that there have been five class action law suits filed in Kentucky against the distillers in that region.  By the way, the distillers are none too happy about it either.

Seems it is a very old fungus that germinates on ethanol when the temperature and moisture conditions are favorable - yes, it needs relatively moist (humid) conditions in the ambient air to really get going, but not all that much ethanol - just a few parts per million will do the trick.  In fact, much of the problem it appears is the normal distillery process evaporation which is surprisingly low.  So, if you have water in your air, you'd better keep the ethanol out of the area.  You've been warned!

Now I'm wondering about my neighbor who drinks a bit and keeps his house too warm.  Could those age spots he keeps complaining about be....?   Nah!   We're too dry for that!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Water May Serve Future Astronauts Even More

The concept is to design the next class of NASA spacecraft to be environmentally efficient.  One designer is offering such a plan - and its fundamental design factor is "water".  He boldly suggests that the walls of the spacecraft should contain water - primarily for radiation protection for the crew members - but also for virtually every other system task as well.  
The water walls would also process urine and wash water, purge the CO2 from the air support system and even grow food using green algae - truly a page from mother nature.

The idea's formal name is "Highly Reliable and Massively Redundant Life Support Architecture", but it's still not a reality yet since it's only recently become part of NASA's advanced concepts program.  Getting this far means it has received additional funding for further study - and maybe even further system interlinks.

The water walls are envisioned to be an inner wrap-around of hexagon-shaped, multi-layered, interconnected polyethylene bags filled with the various bacteria, algae and filters to accomplish all its system duties.  It is also designed to be as passive a system as possible - with the only mechanical element being the pumps required to move water into the appropriate places.  All the former equipment needed for these tasks (compressors, evaporators, lithium hydroxide canisters, oxygen candles, urine processors, etc.) are no longer needed.  Of course, these are also the very components that are most likely to fail.  NASA considers the system highly redundant and is very interested in the integrated and passive nature of the entire concept.  About the only need is for spare bags to replace used ones.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Corn - Lore of Yore and More

Corn Harvest
As the 2012 corn harvest arrives in NW Kansas - about 2 weeks ahead of schedule - I have a little test for our corn producing readers.  My source for this material is Winston's Cumulative Loose-Leaf Encyclopedia - a set of 10 volumes in my old, eclectic, home library.  Let's see how many of you can come up with the answers to the following questions.

1)  The corn harvesting picture to the right comes from the encyclopedia as a current photo.  What year does it represent?  You win if you're within 5 years either way.  NO peeking at the answers below!!

2)  According to this source, the types of corn being produced in the US are:  sweet; dent; pod; flint; pop; and soft.  Which of these 6 types is the most common corn produced in the US at the time the encyclopedia was sold, and which is the least common?

3)  Reed's Yellow, Funk's Yellow, Leaming, Reilley's Favorite, Clarage, Hogue's Yellow, and Silver Mine are the most popular varieties of corn grown in the corn belt of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Eastern Kansas.  What part of the corn belt preferred Silver Pride, Murdock, Wimple's Yellow, Pickett's Yellow and Golden Eagle?

4)  What is the distinguishing trait of the following corn varieties common in the Southern states which were known as:  Lewis' Prolific; Hickory King; Neal's Paymaster; Cocke's; Albermarle; Whatley's; Mosby's; Hastings; Marlborough; and Batt's?  

OK, you may not know the answers to these questions, but do you come away with the idea that there were a lot of corn varieties back then?  The article claims an estimated 175 varieties available.  The story goes on to say that anywhere from 4 to 7 years is the normal fallow period between corn crops if good yields are to be maintained.  Moreover, planting populations are from 10,000 to 12,000 plants per acre on 40 to 44 inch rows, and it takes a four-month growing season for an average crop.  It's obvious that this material is referencing a time before the current age of irrigation.  The year this article references, the US corn production was reported to be 2.866 billion bushels.  And finally, the advice on the proper time to plant your corn crop is "..when the leaves of the oak are the size of a squirrel's ear in your locality..".  That should be the dead give-away!  Got the year figured out yet?

The encyclopedia is the 1918 edition citing 1916 and 1917 corn stats.  Today, the NW Kansas producers typically plant a 28,000 - 32,000 plant population per acre on 30 inch rows of continuous corn.  Of course, these are irrigated corn stats.  In 2011, the Thomas County, Kansas projected corn yield alone was 22,900,000 bushels - 1/100th of the entire U.S. corn production in 1916.  We've come a long way since then.

Oh, the answers.  1)  1917 (if you answered 1912-1922 I'm giving this one to you!);  2)  Dent is by far the most common and Pod is the least common;  3) The northern corn belt area of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, the Dakotas and northern Illinois and Indiana;  4)  They were two-eared corn varieties.

If you got these questions right, you're either very well read, an ardent ag historian, or older than dirt with a very good memory!  Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, September 17, 2012

More Miracle Water Made Monoatomic

For a mere $1,800.00 US you too can own a water filtration system that far exceeds the claims of all others on the market.  I'll not use the trademarked brand name, but will call it MiraculeOfWaters instead.  What does it do, you say?

Well for starters (and from the website) it uses orbitally rearranged monoatomic elements deep within the proprietary equipment chamber.  If that doesn't impress you, the CEO of the company was asked by a radio interviewer what that really was?  The response was along the lines of "'s a special trap using magnetic elements and counterclockwise vortexing to erase the water's memory."  The name of Dr. Emoto was then dropped as proof of the efficacy of the unit.

For those who might not know, Dr. Masaru Emoto is best known for his claims that human consciousness has an effect on the molecular structure of water.  His hypothesis has evolved over the years, but started with the claim that high-quality water, when frozen, forms beautiful and intricate crystals, while low-quality water has difficulty forming crystals.  As proof of these claims he took thousands of pictures of frozen water crystals.  The pretty ice crystals always had a label of distilled water, or high quality water or some other positive term, and the uglier crystals were shown as being from a water source with a far less positive connotation.  He later claimed that positive changes to water crystals can be achieved through prayer, music, or by attaching written words to a container of water.  None of his claims have yet been independently verified through science.  For more, visit the International Water For Life Foundation website where you can see pictures of frozen water crystals under the influence of Mozart, Elvis, and more.

Anyway, back to this new and amazing water device.  Another benefit that really sold me is the claim that this product has a "LOC Rating (Level of Consciousness) of between 700 and 800".  Pretty impressive, no doubt.  (I'm actually afraid to look this one up in case I might find that a LOC rating of less than 1000 means you're in a coma.)

It also "corrects DNA damage"; "increases electrical conductivity of the body on a cellular level"; "may cause DNA to relax and heal"; and "resonates with DNA and feeds the Light body".  What I don't get is if it's filtering and removing all these heavy metals and just about everything else, how can it make a light body heavier?  And, if it erases the memory of water, how do I know if I'm getting high quality water under the influence of John Denver or swamp-water serenaded by NIN?

Oh, and you can also consider a few extras - like $50.00 for the "accelerator pendant" shown here.  There is no description, but I guess it accelerates something.  I'm gonna be really upset if all it does is play John Denver at 78 rpm.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Remember Wooden Water Pipes?

A friend of mine sent me a picture of a section of wooden water pipe that was recently replaced by an irrigation district.  The district is in the state of Washington while the pipe seems to be in the state of disrepair.  Nah, actually it looks pretty good for as old as it probably is.  No one had records of when the pipe was laid originally, but this kind of wooden pipe was in use as early as 1850 on the East coast, and was common across the US in the late 1800's to about 1930.  Does anyone have knowledge of how old this pipe section may be? 

It's an example of a wood-stave pipe.  This section is 20 inches in diameter and set at what looks to be a 10 or 12 foot joint, and wire-wound.  The individual joints were connected a number of different ways, but this picture doesn't reveal much about how these pipe joints were connected.  Many of the wooden pipes were designed to slip one end into an opposing end and the swelling of the wood when soaked up would seal the joints.  Other manufacturers would place a metal band around butted ends and seal it with tar or some similar material.  Fir, pine, redwood and other types of wood were commonly used as stave material.       

What I find more interesting is the continuous wood-stave pipe constructions as shown to the left.  As early as the late 1800's they were building continuous wood-stave pipes in the 12 and 14 feet diameter size for literally miles of water transfers.  Instead of all being the same length and built flush with each other, this construction method staggered the staves so that pipe building would just go on and on until you got to where you were going.

Of course, the really old wooden water pipes were tree trunks that were hollowed out, bored, reamed or burned out to let water pass through them.  They could be of any size, but most of the pictures appear to be 12-24 inch diameter trunks with the pipe part being 3-6 inches wide.  The picture to the right are of excavated wood pipes laid in Philadelphia sometime before 1820.  (Source: Cast Iron Pipe, Standard Specifications Dimensions and Weights (Burlington, New Jersey: United States Cast Iron Pipe & Foundry Co., 1914).)  These kinds of pipes have been in use since the 13th century and still were used as late as the early 1800's.

It's hard to imagine that wood pipes could last so long, but in some cases they are still being used after 75 to 100 years of continuous service.  In their day they were fairly inexpensive as the wood was readily available.  They were also very easy to tap into.  In fact, there are accounts of early-day fire companies who would routinely dig up city pipes and tap (drill) into them for fire fighting water.  When done, the fire company would plug the tap, and mark the plug spot before filling in the hole (for future use if needed).  Some say this is the origin of the term "fire plug".  Sounds reasonable to me.

Anyway, there is not a lot of information on the disadvantages of wooden pipes - other than perhaps the impressions that clay, concrete, steel and the newer-yet materials would last longer and go in faster.  I wonder if the early medical annals ever documented any cases of lignin poisoning...

(September 25, 2012 P.S. - Just ran across this article from Ketchum, Idaho about another wooden water pipe on private property in that city.  Enjoy.)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

RMA to Pilot Limited Irrigation Insurance in SD-6 HPA

Just got the news that Risk Management Agency (RMA) is gearing up to launch their long-awaited limited irrigation insurance program in our SD-6 Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMA) - in 2013.  I've blogged about this developing program earlier (here) when it was being considered for a 3-state (Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska) roll-out.

This program is being designed to provide irrigated producers a proportional level of crop insurance for restricted irrigated cropping patterns - only for irrigated corn and soybeans initially (as these are the only two crops they have the yield to water use data for at this time).  Currently crop insurance is available only for fully irrigated crops, or, dryland crops, but nothing in between.  The thinking has been that if producers could get fair (proportional) insurance coverage (more risk management options) they would be more likely to limit irrigation and conserve water.  Of course, this protection gets even more important when these same producers are required to restrict pumpage.  The reduced coverages would be easier on the insurance companies, as well. 

A related issue is the effect of restricted irrigation (mandates or otherwise) on actual production history's (APH's).  The plan is that the pilot insurance program will be tried out under a special written agreement in the SD-6 HPA - where a LEMA order is expected soon to restrict their irrigation pumpage to 55 acre-inches over the next 5 years.  Under said agreements a special accounting will be done in regard to the production yields.  Bottom line is that participating producers' yield histories will not be affected during the special program period.

This is a win-win situation in my opinion and I wish to thank RMA and all those involved in offering this program to the SD-6 producers.  It will be interesting to find out how the producers opt to use this program - if at all.  Keep in mind, with the flexibility to use the 55 inches as desired, it is possible that some producers will not need it at all.  For example, those who choose to fully irrigate in 4 of the 5 LEMA years and go to dryland production in the other year will not need it.  On the other hand, anyone planning to use just their 11 acre-inch average allocation per year should be more interested.

There are many other details that are being worked at this time.  I'll try to do another article later on this program as an update. It's great to see the various levels of government supporting the locally developing LEMA plan.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Nymphaion, Haeligewille and Holy Wells, Oh, My!

St. Mary of the Spring - Istanbul
"Holy Well" is a generic term used to describe the collection of literally thousands of ancient and old water sources around the globe that were important to mankind.  The reality of the matter is that most were, and actually are, springs - not wells at all.  Or at least what most of us consider today as being a "well".

Because holy wells exist in so many cultures, in so many religions, in so many locations and in so many time periods, most believe the concept is essentially intrinsic to man - more or less a fundamental human instinct to hold such sources of water reverent.  Being how water is right behind air in terms of human survival, is it any wonder?

Holy wells have been known for a long time, and people who study them claim their use and special care go all the way back to the Paleolithic era of very early man.  This post was just to introduce you to the term.  There is a more complete rendering on the topic here - at least as far as European holy wells go.  This link also has a number of sources where additional materials are listed.

Oh, and about Nympaions and Haeligewilles?  These are terms for the same thing in different languages/cultures.  You can find out more on this entire subject at the Wikipedia site linked above.  Enjoy.  It's 2012.  Do you know where your Holy Well is?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Municipal Water Savings in Kansas

One of the very positive things done in Kansas is the state's effort to reduce and/or eliminate unaccounted for water use in our municipal and rural water district systems.  How do they do it?

It all begins with the state water plan and the overall goals expressed in this document for municipal water use.  According to the Water Conservation Section of the Plan (Volume I), the goal is expressed simply as follows:  "Reduce the number of public water suppliers with excessive “unaccounted for” water by first targeting those with 30 percent or more “unaccounted for” water."

The primary way this is done is via a contract between the Kansas Water Office (KWO) and the Kansas Rural Water Association (KRWA).  Basically the KRWA does water audits for cities and rural water districts in seeking leaks, meter discrepancies, unaccounted for water usage, and other supply problems.  The latest FY 2012 annual report is available (here) and contains the actual contract agreements and much more information about the arrangement. 

Last fiscal year (July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012) the KRWA worked 128 water loss surveys and detected 653 GPM of leaks.  This leak rate had lost 343,216,800 gallons of fresh water in the year before they were detected.  All this water saved for a mere $325,000.   

This contract has been in place since FY 1992, so over the past 21 years, a total 1,222 surveys have been completed, finding 9,211 GPM of leaks and water losses, equating to 4.841 Billion gallons of water waste eliminated.

Of course, it's a never ending fight.  Just because a 45 GPM leak is found and fixed in City A, doesn't mean a new leak won't manifest itself next year in the same city.  But the experience gained over the past 21 years and passed along to the municipal water suppliers of the state will surely keep them more vigilant and on the look-out for future leaks - which, by the way, are revenue robbers.  Those 9,211 GPM of leaks found over the past 21 years has taken over $10,694,000.00 of revenue from those cities.  And that cost doesn't even include the cost to the cities to pump, treat and deliver those leaking supplies.  I think it's a pretty good set-up.  

Friday, September 7, 2012

Cave Rock, Water Babies and the Washoe People

Cave Rock sits at the very edge of Lake Tahoe along its East side about 1/3 the way up from the southern tip of the lake.  It is a sacred place to the Washoe people and happens to be the place where the legendary Water Babies live.  In Washoe stories, the Water Babies actually live in all bodies of water, but apparently Cave Rock is their most frequented hangout.  They are very powerful and at times cause illness or even death to people, but can also be positive omens if you approach them carefully and treat them with respect.  It is mostly just the Washoe healers that interact with the Water Babies, though, as most people avoid them by choice.  This is why Cave Rock is always given a wide berth by most of Washoe people as they pass by.

And then there is Ong... The giant man-eating bird who nests in the middle of Lake Tahoe.   He's so strong and powerful that his wings bend the trees along the shore when he flies by.  Actually, legend has it that Ong was killed by a clever Washoe man just before being eaten, but his nest still remains just out of sight below the water surface.

These tales remind me of the Kelpies of England and Scandinavia - you know, those Water Horses with nefarious qualities?  I've blogged about them earlier (Kelpie Blog post link).  There 's no tellin' what'd happen if a Water Baby would jump on a Kelpie and the both of them chance upon Ong, but my thoughts are this is how the Artesians came to be.  Could be wrong, tho...

Finally, on the other side of Nevada (just into Utah) are where the Goshute People reside.  They don't speak of Water Babies, but to them water is just as powerful.  In their language "water" is referred to as a human being - a living entity.  It is described as such because the spirits of all their ancestors live in water.  What a great concept, and once again we see how important water is to humans throughout history. Today's mankind should treat it with more respect - if for no other reason than it contains Water Babies, Kelpies, sacred ancestors, and possibly....even Artesians.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Old Picture of the Day

Source:  Old Picture of the Day Blog, by permission
I ran across a blog called Old Picture of the Day where the owner, known only as PJM, posts an old photograph nearly every day.  It's not a water blog, per se, but you'll see the connection in just a few more sentences.

His posts are eclectic to say the least, but he's been getting into a rhythm of late by keeping the pictures themed for several days in a row to perhaps a week.  He's even known to prod his followers into a game every now and then called "Mystery Person" where you must guess the person in the photo.  I assure you, these contests are not for the casual player, as they are pretty difficult and almost always require some internet sleuthing - at least they always would for me.

Anyway, I was intrigued by the section he has posted on Windmills (in the June, 2010 archive section).  And I've also run across several well drilling operations of yore, hand pumped wells and dam building photos.  I've probably not seen all his windmill, well drilling and related groundwater and water photos.  If you spend some time in his blog you can probably find quite a few more.  But what you'll see there while looking will keep you utterly amazed anyway, so it really doesn't matter if you find water pics or not.  I'm not kidding, the range of photo subjects is pretty amazing - I defy you NOT to be impressed.

Anyway, if you like old photos, this is the place to be.  I'll continue to stop in now and then looking for the groundwater pics and much, much more.  Maybe even someday I'll happen to know who the Mystery Person is!  HA!  (Don't worry PJM, about the only way that is going to happen is if you manage somehow to post a picture of a former chief engineer from the great state of Kansas!) 

Anyway, thanks to PJM for permission to use the above windmill picture and congratulations on a truly enjoyable blog site.  BTW, the above picture is listed as being from the Louisiana Purchase Exposition - a part of the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904.  Bet you didn't know that!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Water and Conflict

I was reading a recent editorial account of the unforgivable murder of 52 women and children in Kenya over access to water from the Tana River.  The essence of the problem is not at all supply related as most would first suspect - there is water enough for all in the Tana - but that one groups' cattle must traverse another groups' crop lands in order to access that supply.

It's hard to imagine in these day and times, but water seems to be that lightning rod issue that can make grown men insane.  It's especially hard to fathom when the solutions seem so easy - either dedicated and fenced cattle access lanes, or piped water to specified cattle watering areas.  Either of these solutions I think all would agree would have been preferable to the conflict that occurred.  I hope this travesty at the very least results in a workable solution in this rural area where some claim that government has been too slow to respond with too few funds.

It reminded me of several items I've run across of late.  The first is a water conflict site at the Pacific Institute.  If you're interested in water conflicts, this chronology is a wealth of information on documented and referenced water conflicts throughout the world and throughout recorded history.  The site is: Pacific Institute Water Conflict Chronology.  You will note that it goes through 2010, so does not yet include the above incident.

The other item is a more recent State Department Report (reported on in our May/June, 2012 GMD4 Newsletter edition) on the probability of water conflicts in the near future.  There are many high level folks who are getting more worried each year over the possibilities.  

In digesting all this, you will likely find that while water makes some men insane, it makes others remarkably ingenious.  Of course, there always has been a fine line between genius and insanity.  And who among us believes that all the water conflicts have already taken place?  If thirsty monkeys can sacrifice 8 of their own and injure 10 people in a confrontation over delivered water supplies (see number 164 on the list of 225), and 52 people can be killed over the mere access to adequate water, I shudder to think what else is possible as we move into a future with less and less of this vital resource.

Let's hope a constant reminder - represented by the water conflict chronology and all the state department reports - will help us all understand that history is never kind to conflicts of any nature, and to act accordingly.

September 26, 2012 UPDATE:  As often happens, the first reports are the least accurate.  Here is another, later article,  that covers the same incident, and then subsequent clashes.  Unlike the article I cited in my coverage on September 3 (very first link at top), this article cites that lack of water supply is equally at fault.  In either case, these incidents are a sad state of affairs.