Today is World Water Day 2021. On this special day, you can stop and ask yourself what does water mean to me?, and especially how is water important to my life? At Transition Bondi, we value water for bringing life. Water is the Earth’s blood, water systems are the Earth’s respiratory system and trees are the Earth’s lungs.

On this same day, the East Coast of Australia is marked by historical floods. People and animals are losing their houses, schools are damaged and cultivated crops are destroyed. What happened to our Earth’s respiratory system to get to this point? Is it due to a high blood pressure? Should we accept it as the “new normality”?

Of course, those flood events are abnormal. They show us that the water cycle is disrupted. Let’s describe how it should work compared to how it currently works, before seeing what we can do to reverse back to a full water cycle.

The full water cycle

In a full water cycle, water evaporates from the ocean. Humid air is transported inland. This rich, humid air condenses in clouds with the help of hygroscopic microorganisms, which attract this vapor and transform it in clouds. Those clouds lead then to rain.

In a full water cycle, the rain falls on a rich vegetated Earth. The Earth is cooled down and temperate. The Earth has opened pores, and takes water to recharge its body, composed of a soil rich in carbon and fungi. The rain recharges our rivers and springs. This water also infiltrates into the soil to recharge the aquifer, before moving back to the oceans.

In a full water cycle, there are two cycles:

  • The big water cycle moves water from the ocean to inland and back to the ocean.
  • The small water cycle, which represents 50% of the rainfall, is created by the water transpired by trees. This cycle produces local rainfall events thanks to green photosynthetic growth.

The full water cycle and the forests give a consistent moisture throughout the year. The cycle guides the seasons, animals’ reproduction and migration, or the plants’ cycle. But it also cleans the rivers and the lakes and gives us clean water to drink. The full water cycle doesn’t create flood or drought. So why do we have floods now?

The half water cycle: the watershed death spiral

In the last 100 years, human cleared the forests, built roads and cities, drained wetlands having a rich and fertile soil, and monetised water and soil. We built cities on the coasts and ensured that water can quickly drain away on the concrete ground and not in our homes. Clean water is rarefied, but we engineer solutions and still find water by drilling wells into the aquifer, so we can continue the industrial agriculture race. Additionally we depleted our rich soil and removed the possibility for the Earth to cool down with the photosynthetic effect.

As a result, the landscape is dehydrated and the Earth’s surface has warmed up. You could imagine a dry sponge, that is unable to absorb water quickly. The water quality has decreased, floods are more frequent, drought events are longer and deadly fires start happening yearly around the world.

The hot Earth’s surface creates zones of high pressure, especially along the coast where cities expand. However, on the ocean, the pressure is low. The water vapor tries to reach the land and is pushed back by this high pressure air. Slowly, the pressure builds up and leads to the repetitive thunderstorms and floods. Sadly, those floods are usually followed by long drought events, creating the perfect conditions for fires to start again. This is the watershed death cycle, and this is happening NOW.

Our way forward

The reality is hard to accept, it is sometimes easier to follow the movement and wait for someone’s else to take action. It could be your government, your council or those smart engineers. However, each individual has a role to play in restoring the damaged water cycle. And you are part of it!

The first key is to learn from nature. The problems we observed are on the human side, not on nature’s side. And the first thing to do is to return water to the Earth and not holding it. Legendary people like Rajendra Singh proved to the world that you can bring back water to deteriorated land. For this, the full water cycle was brought back, including the small cycle.

At a large scale, we need to build more water terraces, and waterbodies systems that can recirculate water into the soil and into the system slowly. We need to find the water veins and recharge them.

At an individual scale you could:

  • Plant a tree and learn from its growth. Observe how water brings life to it and how water circulates in the soil.
  • Create biodiversity, and attract insects. Do it in your garden, in your balcony, at the community garden or in a laneway garden.
  • Enriched your soil with your food scraps by starting composting.
  • Hold water and don’t drain it. You could have a swimming pond with the water coming from the roof of the house or a rainwater tank. Ultimately replace concrete around your house with permeable soil.
  • Conserve the forests and take part in developing green cities.
  • Advocate for water protection and water rights.
  • Develop your civil courage and relentlessness. Know what is right and do it!
  • Educate yourself and become water literate, then spread your knowledge.
  • Direct your investment to the right cause. By working with water, you can see results within months.

Hopefully this post will spark interest in your sustainability journey and will give you the key to explain to others that what we currently observe is not normal, and we are responsible for it.