Photo credit: Tim Shahan

The Water Cycle

Our lives depends on access to clean, drinkable water. As the human population grows, so does our need to exert control over the water cycle. This control has caused dire and unintended consequences for the rest of the living beings that equally depend on access to clean water. The below illustrations explain how water cycles throughout our planet in different environments.

The Natural Water Cycle

This graphic depicts the natural water cycle. Liquid water evaporates from the earth’s surface and transpires through plants, travels through the air as a gas, condenses on airborne particles forming a sea of clouds, then falls to earth as rain, sleet, or snow, and then evaporates again. Water constantly changes from a solid to a liquid to a gas in a never-ending cycle that is far more mesmerizing than this, or any graphic, can illustrate.

The Urban Water Cycle

This graphic depicts Baltimore City’s urban water cycle. Though water still cycles through being a solid, liquid, and gas, after rainfall, rather than being absorbed by soils and plants that transpire that water into the atmosphere, over 55% of the rain ends up rushing into the yellow pipes that outfall directly into our waterways. In a natural environment, only 10% of that rain would runoff into a body of water. The stormwater carries whatever pollutants are on the street with it (i.e. spilled gasoline, garbage, pet poop, fertilizer, etc.) and discharges into a nearby body of water. To make use of gravity the yellow stormwater pipes run directly next to the red sanitary sewer pipes — both of these pipe systems were installed in the 1920s after the Great Fire of Baltimore and are currently crumbling. This causes the raw sewage in the red pipes to mix with the stormwater in the yellow pipes which ultimately dumps millions of gallons of raw sewage directly into our waterways every year.

At Blue Water Baltimore we are working to restore our waterways so they may continue to nourish us and all of the beings that relay on them for survival.