Dr. Amar Joshi
Rain water harvesting and recharge consultant  


Water for Life

Water is one of the five basic elements from which creation emanates. Every form of creation is manifested as a combination of one or more of the five basic elements of wind, water, fire, earth and space. (Vayu, Jalam, Agni, Prithvi and Akasha). Water is a finite resource and cannot be replaced/ duplicated.


Water is culture, but it is also nature. It is never either or, but always both. Despite the fact that water is in flux and constantly changes form, the most striking feature of water is nevertheless its sameness: wherever the water is in the hydrological circle/cycle or in the "social circle", whether the water is domesticated or forcing its way down in huge waterfalls in remote mountain areas, it is basically the same.

This nature of water is universal; common to all people through history, and because of this shared feature, water offers unique possibilities to compare human lives and societies across cultures.

Where did the water come from?

Water is so vital to our survival, but strangely enough, we don't know the first thing about it - literally the first. Where does water, a giver and taker of life on planet Earth, come from? Science teachers taught us about the water cycle - evaporation from oceans and lakes, condensation forming clouds , rain refilling oceans and lakes - and it all made sense. Except for one thing- None of the details explained where the water came from to begin with.

That's where stars, already plentiful about a billion years after the Big Bang, enter the picture. Deep within their blisteringly hot interiors, stars are nuclear furnaces that fuse the Big Bang's simple nuclei into more complex elements, including carbon, nitrogen and, yes, oxygen. Later in their lives, when stars go super-nova, the explosions spew these elements into space. Oxygen and hydrogen commingle to make H2O.

It appears to have been bound up in the silica-based materials such as micas and amphiboles which accreted to form the Earth. The heat released during this process would have been sufficient to drive off this water, which amounted to about 0.01% by mass of the primordial material.

Water molecules were surely part of the dusty swirl that coalesced into the Sun and its planets beginning about nine billion years after the Big Bang. But Earth's early history, implies that surface water would have evaporated and drifted back into space. The water we encounter today, it seems, must have been delivered long after Earth formed.


However, the amount of water present in the atmosphere and on land is great enough to make it a significant agent in transporting substances between the lithosphere and the oceans.


Why is water blue?


Water owes its intrinsic blueness to selective absorption in the red part of its visible spectrum. The absorbed photons promote transitions to high overtone and combination states of the nuclear motions of the molecule, i.e. to highly excited vibrations. Blue to blue-green hues are also scattered back when light deeply penetrates frozen waterfalls and glaciers.

Precipitation

Precipitation occurs in a variety of forms; hail, rain, freezing rain, sleet or snow. Precipitation occurs when air is saturated; this occurs when air rises; which in turn usually occurs in one of three ways.

Convective precipitation occurs when air rises vertically through the (temporarily) self-sustaining mechanism of convection

Stratiform precipitation occurs when large masses over air rise slant-wise as larger-scale atmospheric dynamics force them to move over each other.

Orographic precipitation is similar, except the upwards motion is forced when a moving air mass encounters a rising slope.

Monsoons

Monsoon is traditionally defined as a seasonal reversing wind accompanied by corresponding changes in precipitation but is now used to describe seasonal changes in atmospheric circulation and precipitation associated with the asymmetric heating of land and sea.

Southwest monsoon

The South West summer monsoons occur from July through September. The Thar Desert and adjoining areas of the northern and central Indian subcontinent heats up considerably during the hot summers. This causes a low pressure area over the northern and central Indian subcontinent. To fill this void, the moisture-laden winds from the Indian Ocean rush in to the subcontinent. These winds, rich in moisture, are drawn towards the Himalayas. The Himalayas act like a high wall, blocking the winds from passing into Central Asia, and forcing them to rise. As the clouds rise their temperature drops and precipitation occurs.

Northeast monsoon

Around September, with the sun fast retreating south, the northern land mass of the Indian subcontinent begins to cool off rapidly. With this air pressure begins to build over northern India, the Indian Ocean and its surrounding atmosphere still holds its heat. This causes cold wind to sweep down from the Himalayas and Indo-Gangetic Plain towards the vast spans of the Indian Ocean south of the Deccan peninsula. This is known as the Northeast Monsoon or Retreating Monsoon.

Sahyadri and the Indian Monsoon

The monsoon is a widespread air-flow pattern characteristic not only of India but of south Asia and several other continents. It is the orographic control exercised by the Sahyadri and the Himalaya which has given it special significance in the Indian context and which therefore makes an issue of major concern.

El Nino and La Nina relation to Indian Monsoons

El Nino and La Nina are defined as sustained sea surface temperature anomalies of magnitude greater than 0.5°C across the central tropical Pacific Ocean.

When the condition is met for a period of less than five months, it is classified as El Nino or La Nina conditions; if the anomaly persists for five months or longer, it is classified as an El Nino or La Nina episode. Historically, it has occurred at irregular intervals of 2-7 years and has usually lasted one or two years.

Rainfall Climatology of Mumbai

During onset, the rainfall is mainly associated with the convergence of moisture from the southwesterly winds coming from the Arabian Sea and northerly winds from the northern parts of India coupled with the onset vortex. During the active phase which normally takes place in July and August, heavy rainfall is experienced due to one or a combination of some or all of the following meteorological conditions:

Water is quickly becoming an "endangered species" on our blue planet. Urban growth increases storm water runoff, which in turn harms natural waterways. Becoming aware of the current state of our environmental condition is the first step in identifying viable solutions to ensure clean and healthy water for future generations.

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