Sunday, June 24, 2007

Ahh, Chateau Swamp 2007, a good year.

Water is a funny thing. In ponds and lakes fifteen feet deep or more, the water will set up in layers, or strata, depending on density and temperature.

Most of the time, this stratification will result in cold, manky water at the bottom of the column and warmer water at the top, separated at a sharply-defined layer called a thermocline.

Now, I call the cold bottom water "manky" because that is where the dead stuff winds up. Which is kind of logical because -- as we know -- gravity always wins in the end and it drags the leaves, branches, dead turtles, deceased fish, corpsified snakes, and various and sundry wastes (hey, you think fish climb out of the lake to go to the litter box?) all wind up in the cold bottom water.

Now, Mama Nature has to get rid of all the above, so we've got decomposition down at the bottom, with the attendant bacteria, sulphides, sulphites, methanes and all the other olfactory goodness that goes along with that sort of thing -- and we've got a thermocline capping it all off which means that the top, oxygen-rich water, and the bottom, oxygen-poor water never mix, and the bottom water stays at the bottom.

Except during the fall, when changing temperatures alter the density of water, and occasionally in the spring for the same reason -- this regular event is called the lake "turnover" or inversion.

Sometimes, though, you can get an inversion or turnover triggered by large amounts of rainfall.

Like right now.

So. We're getting extraordinary amounts of rainfall, which all pounds into the lakes, we've got rivers and creeks and arroyos all jetting rainwater into the lakes -- and the thermocline tears apart, no longer keeping top water and bottom water separate, and the two mix or "turnover".

All those sulphides, sulphites and methane hit the top of the water and outgas, and all that bacteria hits the oxygen-rich, nutrient-rich surface water and promptly throw a single-cell orgy --

-- and my glass of water drawn from the faucet (and out of the convenience store fountain) tastes like it's straight out of a swamp.

Which -- come to think -- is a pretty accurate description of what the city lake resembles right now.

*sigh*

Bottled water for a couple of weeks, I guess.

LawDog

18 comments:

Lin said...

Your muse must have been captive below the thermocline since it has obviously returned to you. Probably plopped out in that last glass of swamp water you consumed. I, for one, am overjoyed, even though the water might have brought some G.I. joys to you with it. Buy a Brita, full rolling boil your water for at least 2 minutes, strain out the big pieces and pour it into the Brita filter jug. It will be better than your water even BEFORE your inversion. And cheaper than bottled water in the long run.

Mark said...

you need to get a Katadyn pocket filter. Have one and it comes in REALLLL handy at times

Mark

Pete said...

A reverse osmosis system is your friend.

I picked two up from Costco for about $160 each (one for the girlfriend's place, one for mine). Tucson and Phoenix water taste like crap all the time due to the various treatments they need to do to keep bacteria and whatnot from having their aquatic orgy in the pipes.

It makes the gross Tucson water taste better than bottled water, and costs pennies per day. Change the filters about once very six months or so, and the RO membrane about once every 5-7 years.

Brita filters are basically a block of carbon that absorbs some of the gunk. Pur filters even have a bit of limestone or something in them so you get a bit of calcium and other minerals in the water for "taste". The RO system has four major filters, each about 3x as large as the Brita ones: (1) a sediment filter removes rust, particulate matter, and other such stuff, (2) carbon block filter removes most chemicals (think of it as an 11 inch long Brita filter), (3) a Volatile Organic Chemical (VOC) filter removes funky stuff like benzene and other chemicals, and (4) the semi-permeable membrane removes just about anything left over, giving you essentially pure water.

While not rated for this purposes, home RO systems can remove bacteria and viruses from water. Industrial-sized ones are rated to remove such things, but that's way out of the scale we're talking about.

Unfortunately, RO systems waste a bunch of water carrying away material rejected by the membrane. You can get "zero waste" systems that'll put this waste water into your hot water system for use in showers and whatnot. Since the water's already been run through three of the filters, it's essentially like putting Brita-filtered water into your shower, so it's not dangerous or anything. Always good to conserve water.

I recommend the Watts system from Costco -- it's inexpensive, well-made, uses industry-standard replacement filters, and fits easily under a sink. You'll need an opening for the faucet, but most sinks have such an opening, or you can drill one out yourself.

CaribbeanJoe said...

Which Muse are you missing? The following from Encyclopedia Mythica:
Muses
by Micha F. Lindemans
The Greek goddesses who presided over the arts and sciences. They were believed to inspire all artists, especially poets, philosophers, and musicians. The Muses were the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory. The number of Muses varies over time; initially there was but one, and later there is mention of three: Melete, Mneme, and Aoede (the Elder Muses). They were nymphs in Pieria, western Thrace, and their cult was brought to Helicon in Boeotia by the Aloadae. Usually there is mention of nine muses: Calliope, Clio, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Terpsichore, Thalia, and Urania, the Younger Muses.

Muses

The Muses were venerated throughout Greece, but more so in those areas with many wells and springs. The area of Boeotia, near Helicon, remained the favorite place of the Muses, and there they were more venerated than elsewhere. It is also the place of two well that were sacred to them, Aganippe and Hippocrene. Also Delphi and the Parnassus were their favorite places, and it was here that Apollo became their leader (musagetes).

The Muses sat near the throne of Zeus, king of the gods, and sang of his greatness and of the origin of the world and its inhabitants and the glorious deeds of the great heroes. From their name words such as music, museum, mosaic are derived.

ERnursey said...

I once took care of a poor ole duck hunter that dumped his boat in the water and inhaled a little of it. Bad news. The otherwise young, health person spent months in the ICU with one of the worst cases of bilateral pneumonia with all kinds of rare strange bacterial that came out of that water.

Kaerius said...

Continuing Lawdog's lesson:

And in winter, the thermocline temperatures are reversed. The warmer water is at the bottom. "Warm" in this case is usually 4C/38.6F, just a few degrees over freezing. Water between roughly 0.1-3C/32.16-36.8F is between that layer, and the ice.

*Footnote: I'm swedish, I'm used to using celsius, so my degrees in farenheit might be off(I think the formula is C*1.6+32=F), fractions are almost certainly off.

Bryan said...

Right so, Wifey and I sprang for a water softener/purifier for the entire house. City water is loaded with unnatural nasties. Country water is loaded with natural nasties.

Our water company loads our water with chlorine....I do mean load. Smells like the lifeguard dumped the full 30 gallon bucket into the pool and walked off. :P

Library-Gryffon said...

bryan: sounds like Iowa City water. My white porcelain tub looked like the shallow end of the blue tiled pool when the bath was run. The bathroom smelled like the swimming pool locker room. My dermatologist had me under orders to take the shortest possible baths. (No nice hot relaxing soaks.) I had an obvious bleach line in my hair for months after I left there.

It's been over 20 years, and I still have trouble getting used to the idea that you can drink straight water without having to add anything to hide the taste.

David said...

Kaerius said..."*Footnote: I'm swedish, I'm used to using celsius, so my degrees in farenheit might be off(I think the formula is C*1.6+32=F), fractions are almost certainly off."

Yes, since that should be 1.8 instead of 1.6. 1.6 is for conversion of km to miles. :)

And I'm glad to see your muse is back LD. I'm not quite sure I ever had one. Or killed it with too much math.

Loving Annie said...

Ugh... Fiji or Evian on the way, LawDog !

Anonymous said...

An analogous situation occurs over some cities, like Denver and LA. There the atmospheric inversion layer acts as a trap for pollution, giving those cities their trademark brown clouds of despair.

WebFoot Logger said...

Sounds like where I grew up . . . the "water treatment" plant was a piece of windowscreen . . . if it hadn't rusted away since the last time someone complained about salamanders/water dogs in the bath . . .

No, I'm not joking. The girl across the street was drawing a bath, went to get something, and came back to find a 3-inch (7cm) salamander swimming around in the tub. We had three get stuck at valves or sprinkler strainers . . .

And washing said strainers out was always interesting. We used to rinse them in a cup then examine the results under a strong magnifying glass or a microscope, to see how many fresh-water plankton we could identify.

Then in late summer, sometimes the pond ran dry and we'd wind up pumping water out of the river . . . you boiled it for ten minutes, and it still stank like dead fish!

And you could always tell when someone complained to the water system's owner (the town didn't own it then) about no chlorine . . . for the next week, every time you drew a glass of water, you had to let it sit a couple of minutes for the green vapors to fade . . .

Living there was interesting. (but fun!)

A few years later, the town bought the water system; the only reason the owner agreed to sell was that he wanted to retire.

--WebFoot Logger

Anonymous said...

My wife was living in Bloomfield, NJ, when we were married 24 years ago. Water was fine, but there was one filter that wasn't on-line. So we had sand at the bottom of our ice cubes.

Jim Brace said...

LawDog, I'm a retired Marine and a retired cop in Montpelier which is a small town in northwest Ohio. You need to move here, our town has won an award for the best tasting water in the world three times now. The judging is done in West Virginia somewhere, it's not a local contest.

Your story reminded me of what happened at our last house which is located about 10 miles from where we live now. It was 4 acres with a nice 1/4 acre pond about 20 feet out the back door. The people who bought the house came home one time to find that the pond had (in their words) "died" and smelled terribly. They ended up trying to drain it which didn't work well because it was spring fed. They filled it in partly and now it is just an big overgrown weed filled mess right outside their back door. My wife and I tried to tell them the smell wasn't permanent but they wouldn't listen.

I want to say I enjoy reading your blog because the critters you deal with in Texas apparently have relatives living up here in Ohio. If their daddy hooks up with momma's sister does that make any off-spring their brother/sister or a cousin?

Laurel said...

Oh, my Lord... I'm never going swimming ever again. *gag*

Anonymous said...

You must live in San Angelo. Wait, we always have bad, bad water. Sometimes we have family lotteries on what color the water will be today. Right now with all the rain it is the color of a forgotten fish tank, and the smell of the worst sewer in the world.

Brian Dale said...

Limnology 1, taught by Professor LawDog?

Life is good.

Oh, yes: your Muse is back.

triticale said...

I remember showering in Iowa City 35 years ago. The chlorine gas during the spring runoff season was nearly lethel.

There was a lake inversion in Africa about 20- years ago which released enough gas to kill most of the inhabitants of a village on the shore.