Have you ever been in the forest during a passing summer thunderstorm? The air is warm and muggy, a sudden gust of wind stirs the trees above, and the skies open up with rain. No matter how heavy the rain is, there are a few minutes to run for shelter, because the leaves of the trees hold back the first bit of rain. Eventually the leaves are soaked, and water starts dripping on the ground. Most of this water falls on thick leaf litter, and quickly soaks into the ground. Unless it is a very heavy or slow-moving storm, not much water runs off at all. After the storm passes, which usually doesn’t take very long, the trees keep dripping water for quite some time, and droplets coat the leaves in the understory.
During most storms, there isn’t a lot of water rushing into rivers and streams. The water from summer thunderstorms, melting snow, and spring drizzle soaks into the ground, and seeps out of springs into creeks over time.
Now, imagine the same storm in the city. The pouring rain splashes on roofs, rushes into drainspouts, down gutters, and into drains. In some cities, these drains also contain sewer lines, and the rush of water can wash sewage into rivers and lakes. All kinds of trash, oil, and other undesirable things also wash down the gutter.
A few hours later, everything has dried up. Not much water soaked into the ground, so not much water is released into springs and seeps over the coming days, either. Just as upsettingly, the water that could be babbling through brooks, wandering through urban art exhibits, providing life to plants and animals, and bringing joy to urban residents on a dreary day is instead treated like garbage, and sometimes even literally dumped into the sewer!
So what’s the story with ‘slow water’? Well, first of all, this blog exists to share thoughts on how water moves through natural and human-constructed landscapes. Secondly, it exists to discuss ways YOU can slow down and appreciate the water moving through your surroundings. And, thirdly, I am using this blog to explore a bunch of very neat technology- and demonstration- based ways to share information about water, watersheds, weather, and nature with lots of different people. I’m interested in everything from coloring icicles with food coloring to mapping urban and rural nature using smartphones and croudsourcing technology to how water is represented in media such as computer games. I was also a Hurricane Irene evacuee (though was lucky not to have damage to my home) and have been involved with the efforts of my small community to balance protection of the homes and river we love. The focus is on the United States – especially Vermont, Pittsburgh, and southern California, because those are areas I am most familiar with. However, I’m also very interested in how people in other places are dealing with the same issues. Please do feel free to email me at naturalist.charlie at gmail dot com for more info, or visit the Slow Water Movement Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus pages. And don’t forget to enjoy your water! Everyone is in a watershed, and every time it rains or snow melts, the world is surrounded by an often unseen wonderland of tiny creeks and lakes.