16 April 2012

Nature is a better water engineer

Is that an efficient curve?
My new favorite geek word is "hydromorphology," which may not sound as cool as heteroskedasticity but is far more useful. It refers to the way that water changes the shape of what it touches, most often in the way that flowing rivers change the surrounding landscape, in ways that improves the environment for flora and fauna, absorbs water in flood (recharging groundwater) and releases it in drought (the base flows that keep rivers running year-round).*

Besides letting water flow where it wants, humans can work with natural flows by using check dams or other means of slowing water so that it infiltrates into the soil. In urban areas, we can use permeable surface covering to keep water on land instead of forcing it into flood/drainage channels. This latter move -- so common in the Netherlands where flooding can turn nasty -- has the additional advantage of reducing CSO (combined sewer overflow) events.

Bottom Line: Nature has managed water for billions of years. We should take advantage of those lessons to maximize the value we get from water.
* These thoughts are the flipside of my increasing interest in removing dams to improve BOTH human and environmental benefits from water. For more on the benefits of removing dams AND a very good cap and trade scheme to do so efficiently, read this article [PDF] by Jamie Workman.

1 comment:

  1. Check out "Of Rock and Rivers" (2008) by Ellen Wohl. Some of it is overly sentimental (and her observations on angling are unintentionally hilarious) but she is able to put scientific observations into thoughtful pieces meant for a general readership.

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