Gordon Grant, Elizabeth Arnold
Trickling water, birds
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
12 Jun 2005
- Willamette National Forest; Dee Wright Observatory
- 44.260556 -121.801222
- SONY TCD-D8
- Sennheiser MKH 30
- Sennheiser MKH 40
Decoded MS stereo; Sonosax SXM 2 preamp
Show: USFS 100th anniversary
Engineer: Leo DelAguila
Date: June 11-13, 2005
Gordon Grant, Research hydrologist with the USFS Pac NW research station in Corvalis Oregon
00:05 Hi it's Leo. This is Dat #3. It's Sunday the 12th of June and we are at the Dee Wright Observatory at the Willamet National Forest. We're about 5325 elevation. It's a stereo recording, same settings, recorded in Stereo. Elizabeth is the reporter. Yeah, and that is it. It is Dat 3, like I said earlier.
1:53 EA- I can't believe how these trees do, I mean the live trees. How deep do their roots go?
1:57 GG- Well it's amazing these trees are real survivors.
2:05 GG- Their roots have to go down but I think what they have to find are little pockets of finds. Little places where they..trapped in the field. Turns out to be something we're working on.
2:26 EA- but then the tree can only last or grow based on the nourishment in the finds right?
2:32 GG- It's mostly water, I think it's mostly water as to where you can get and keep a tree because this is one dry place out here.
2:50 Leo- Ok, we're all set, just be careful of where you move your foot.
3:03 GG- So I'm Gordon Grant, I'm a research hydrologist with the USFS Pacific NorthWest research station in Corvalis Oregon.
3:12 EA- Then, if you're a hydrologist, hydrologists study water, then why are we in this incredibly dry place?
3:18 GG- That's a great question. So we're up here on the very crest of the Cascade mountains in Oregon. This is a story about water, but when you look around here, one of the first things you notice as you cast your eye over this moonscape of these young, blocky, chunky lava flows that have come out of these cones and volcanoes that we see dotting the skylines here. We need to start at the crest, not only because the water starts at the crest, but also because what we see when we look around is the absence of any water. But what if I were to tell you that in this landscape, this very place where we're sitting, we get between six and ten feet of water coming down out of the sky every year. Water comes down because the Pacific ocean is not too far away and everyone knows it rains in Oregon. But the water that comes down has to go somewhere, so where does it go? You look across this moonscape of lava and you ask yourself, where does the water go? Well there's only one direction it goes. It goes down and it feeds a vast and huge ground water system that feeds the rivers of western Oregon. So what we're looking at here is the very top of what you can think of as a kind of hydrologic sponge, a vast hydrologic sponge that stores not just one years worth of water, but many years worth of water under the ground and it stores it in cracks in fissures, in tubes, in pipes that are formed in the very rock itself. And the volume of that water is huge. We estimate that the volume of water that is just in this one place that you can see, just in the landscape we're looking, it probably on the same order as lake Geneva in Switzerland, but it's all underground. And if you consider the whole cascade range, the parts of the cascade that can store this kind of water, we're talking of volumes in the order of Great Salt Lake. These are cubic miles of water that are stored in the ground itself.
6: 26 EA- Ok crazy question, we're still in the Willamut National Forest. Could it be said that there's more water here thean trees?
6:38 GG- At this point in the landscape there is no question that there is more water than trees. We're surrounded bythe three sisters wilderness area and as we, if we wander away from where we're sitting, we would find ourselves in forests mostly that have colonized and grown up on older lava flows, so this whole landscape is a mosaic, a kind of wedding cake of layered lava flows, one on tope of another, and as the volcanoes erupt and spill their lavas and the lavas run out and solidify then over time the vegetation begins to establish itself. If we3 look aroundo n the rocks we see lichens and beginnings of life, just emerging right on the rock, but over time little pockets of sand and fines accumulate in these little nooks and crannies the vegetation first gets a toe hold , but at this point in the landscape there are more rocks than trees.
7:45 EA- if there hadn't been volcanoes here and this was all covered with trees would there be as much water beneath us?
7:55 GG- We're in a very unique place. We're sitting in a part of the cascade range which has had the most active volcanism over the last 100 thousand years of any place in the whole range, so the characteristics of this place are very tied up in that very young and recent volcanic history. There are other parts of the cascades that have also had volcanism over the last two or three million years. They have many of the same properties in terms of storing water, but to a lesser extent. This is the poster child of the hydrologic sponge up here. And what is, it's striking in a way that a story about where rivers come from and where water comes from begins in a place where you can't see water and you can't see rivers. One of the things that you note when you're up here is that, not only is there no water visible, but there's no evidence of river erosion. There're no little gullies, no canyons, all of the features we see, all the relief all the ups and downs, are all due to the lava itself, to where the lava froze, it was like a game of hot musical chairs, where the lava sat down, that's where the features that we're looking at today are found. But none of it is due to the presence and the action of that annual resupply of somewhere between 6 and 10 feet of water because all that water is going down, none of it is running over the ground. We could come out here with a fire truck and a tank and we could rain on this thing all summer long and you'd never see any water, it would all go down. It really is a sponge and this is probably one of the most spongy landscapes on the face of the earth. While there are other places where youc an find the combination,(10:32) to create a hydrologic sponge you need a couple of ingredients. First you need water, and in Oregon we've got it aplenty, second you need these young lava flows that are all of what the Hawaiians call Ah-Ah waki Ah-Ah type flows, what it means is that the structure of the lava itself is extremely porous. We can walk over to that lava and find places where you could put your head in between the holes in the rock. There are places up along that crater where you could climb down into the lava tubes. So think of ourselves as sitting on the top of a sponge that isf ormed of these porous blocks of lava and all the space in between that's where the water goes and so there aren't many places like that, there aren't many places that have that young volcanic rock plus the presence of ten feet of water. We could go to other places like Hawaii and find a similar constellation. There are very few places where you have this setting on the edge of a continent. There are, may be places in Chile that are like this, but this is rather unusal.
12:04 EA- When did most of this occur?
12:08 GG- the lava we're looking at right now is about 3,000 years old. Is this about the right level of generality?
12:23 EA- This is great, now what do you want to tell me about specifically over there, if anything.
12:27 GG- let me back up and tell you a little bit about how the story is going to be filled on this, anything you want here we can talk to. So we're sitting in the middle of the hydrological sponge. From this point we're going to follow the water. But in order to follow it of course we can't just hop on the river and go along, we have to ask where do we next see the water, so we'll go down and look at some very large volume springs which is where we've learned that the water that falls up here emerges and it's the story of those springs and the effect of this big groundwater system that is what gives the rivers of this region a very characteristic behavior and affects their temperatures it affects their sediment, affects the kinds of ecosystems they can sustain, and ultimately affects the way people use them, and so what I want to do here is give you a sense of why the place works the way it does. We're not the first people to realize that this place is a sponge but what we've been trying to do is to learn how the sponge really works, how much water is stored, how old is the water that's stored in that sponge? Where does it come out? What is the relationship between water in, water out? Because it's not as simple as the water that falls out of the sky this year is not the water that comes out of the spring this year, in fact, water coming out of the spring is on average five years old, and I'm going to tell you the story in stages.
14:35 EA- but you're still working on this, you don't have all the definitive answers.
14:38 GG- oh yes, in spite of the enormous value of this water resource, and I'll talk a bit about how valuable it is, the extent to which this big sponge system controls the river all the way to Portland is a relatively new, newly recognized, or newly appreciated, and it's very much a work in progress. It's almost like a set of eye glasses that once youput them on you suddenly see patterns in how rivers work around here that really you couldn't see before.
15:26 EA- so it's like a big sink, collecting point?
15:34 GG- It's like a tank in a way. It would be a mistake to think that the water is stored in something that looks like a tank, because it's dynamic and it's stored in the space between rock, it's not one big giant cistern. It's not a lake that, if you could only get to it you could put a boat on it and float around on it. Instead it's stored in the cracks and spaces that exist within lava flows and particularly around the springs between lava flows, and we'll see that the springs actually emerge at the contex between lava flows, where one lava flow comes in on top of another, and it turns out that is a very rich zone for water to move. And the water isn't just moving¿ so we're up here on the crest, so we've got 5,000 feet of potential energy that is behind every drop of water that falls ont hiss landscape. The water roles off both sides of the crest, like water might flow off the roof of the house. So the rivers that are fed off the east size, the Dechutes river inthis case, has many of the same characteristics of the river I will show you which is the Mackenzie which flows to the west . So this is the roofline of this great, literally watershed, in this case the meeting of two large water sheds.
17:15 EA- Lets go look at some of the rock.
Leo wants it done again for sound quality, sit here and say, "lets go look at the rock" and then walk away.
17:56 EA- SO we're talking about all this rock, and how all the water goes, so lets look at it a little more closely. (feet walking away, talking off mic)
18:35 off mic, talking about sponge and holes in the rock, sound quality not very good.
19:18 Ambi of interview site Out: 20:37
20:53 GG- so imagine yourself a raindrop falling out of the sky and trying to choose which one of these holes to land on. We're sitting on of these sort of blocky lava flows and I'm sitting on a rock here and I'm just surrounded byo ther blocks, and in between the blocks is space, I can crawl down into that space, I could easilyhide from whoever in that space, these are the pores of this place. Now what we expect would happen if we were able to sort of slice through the place where we're standing, these pours would not go down forever, in fact the highest concentration isl ikely to be near the surface, but even as you get deeper and deeper down and thus are encountering older and older lava flows as you go down, the same characteristic would apply, so that the water that's falling through these holes is likely to find it's way down, deeper and deeper down, eventually reaching some impermeable layer.
22:10 EA- but we don't know that, do we know that?
22:12 GG- We know that it has to reach an impermeable layer because eventually it comes out, in other words, it's gotta come out somewhere, otherwise the place would have floated away by now. It turns out it's very very difficult to visualize what the third dimension looks like here, what depth looks like here. We're looking, in fact just yesterday I got for the first time, some maps that represent brand new technology for looking at ground water in the third dimension. It's a system called grace and it uses changes in the earth's gravity, as measured from satellites to look for changes in the amount of water that's stored in the ground. The amount, the gravity of the earth, is proportional to the mass, so if you put more water in then you have more mass, so if you have a verys ensitive measurement in the gravity field you can actually tell changes in the amount of water that's present in the ground. We specifically asked the gurus of this technique to look in this place. Unfortunately the resolution, that is the amount, the area of the footprint of this technique is very very large, so people are working to lower the scales but it doesn't show up. At least at first glance it doesn't look like we can see that giant tank of water.
24:05 EA but we can imagine it, which is what we're doing
24:19 GG- I gotta get this picture, this is justa classic, with the tree and the lava and the volcanoes¿
24:40 GG- so you have islands that span a range of ages from today to three million years or less, and if you take satellite images of these islands and line them up, you can actually see the evolution of the drainage system. You can see, the youngest islands there's no evidence of water flow over the surface, and then with time, on time scales of roughly half a million years, you begin to see the rain etching the volcanic landscape into an ever more organized drainage system.
25:23 EA- That was the hard thing for me to think about. That this rock right here will eventually turn into dirt and trees.
25:38 GG- Yeah it's hard, if you hit it with a hammer it's gonna ring and it's hard to imagine but that's one of the beauties of geologic time. It's so long that infintesimal change can add up to something big, that's the essence of it. So you look at these mosses here, these lichens that are just getting established on the rock, and you say, well that's a lichen that's very nice. But in fact, there's a very complex chemistry that's going on now. That's a living thing living on an inorganic substrate and there are acids that are beign produced by that living thing, and the acids are reacting with the minerals, the lava in the basalt, this is all basalt. And so that exchange is the very beginning of the process that ultimately will give rise to soil and all that soil supports. It's easier said than seen and it's easier said than believed.
26:57 EA- But where we are.. if this path wasn't here the water would be coming down and eventually be going down into what we can't imagine¿
27:10 GG- Well lets look over here. This is a perfect example of a vertical crack. So we're surrounded by these huge house sized blocks of basalt lava and between two blocks is this very nicely developed crack system so water is not going to move through the rock clearly, but even though it has, if you look closely, it has little tiny holes, well those are all gas vesicles, those are all where the gas came out of the lava as it was cooling. But more importanlly as it was cooling these blocks were beginning to break apart, they were beginning to contract. And the result were these crack systems that we see here, now that's the perfect vertical conduit for water, that's a vertical river for water, the holes in the sponge, and if you trace it that crack runs 25 feet, so here's an express way for water to get from the surface to 25 feet down in the rock like that.
28:14 EA- do you know how far down it goes?
28:17 GG- That's a really good question. We know that this landscape is probably, probably has 1 to 2 miles thickness of lava, that is the lava's at least that thick, if not more, but the movement of water is only occurring in the uppermost, roughly quarter mile of that , and probably a lot less, probably in the first couple hundred feet is where most of the action is going on. Because one of the things that's going to happen is that with depth, the pressure of theo verlying rock, is going to start taking those spaces and squeezing the sponge if youwill so that the available pore space for water to move in is going to be much more restricted. Another thing that's affected this place is that we've had glaciation, repeated glaciation. Glaciers have come and gone. Now the rock we're looking at is not glaciated because it's only about 3, 000 years and the last glaciers around here were about 12 to 15 thousand years old, but in other parts of the cascades glaciers have repeatedly moved upand down the mountainside. And the effect of that too is both to compress, add an additional weight burden, but also to produce a lot of water that's going to be carrying fines and glacial flower down into the rock as well, and so we think one of the ways that the sponge starts to seize up over time, is probably due to the glaciers as well.
30:12 EA- Got it, so where does the water go?
30:17 GG- So where does the water go, well that's a mystery, but we're beginning to solve it. The water can go down until it reaches a layer or impermeable zone. Because we're so high, up in the mountains here, the water's going to continue tos eek, gravitationally seek, the lowest point in the landscape. At some point, and at some points, that impermeable layer is going to re-emerge back on the surface, that is we're going to be down low enough in the section as we move away from the crest that the water will have an opportunity to actually reemerge and it reemerges as very large volume springs that supply the rivers of western and central Oregon, and I'm going to take you there.
31:22 EA- is there anything I should be asking at this point?
31:27 GG- let me ask you a little bit about.. I know this is a story about the forest service, I'm aware of that. This isn't just a story about geology and rock and water, but where I'm going with this, so you know is that youw ill be astonished at the clarity and the quality fo the water that comes out of these springs, it will blow you away, even you. Bring your water jugs. It is the best water you'll ever taste. What we're doing here, actually there's another place where youc an stand up on the lava and see the water coming out. What I want to take yout o tonight is a spring that is fed by these lava flows, by the water coming down, and that's hobbitland, so it's that that will tie it in. I don't know how far you're going to want to go with the rock and the absence of trees, but here's the rock, here's the sponge, here's where things start.
33:04 EA- I'm gonna have to say, relate it back, you don't need to tell me how the forest service needs to manage this place, but we do need to relate it back to the valueo f the resource
33:23 GG- and the water as a forest service issue, that's where I'm going with this.
33:30 EA- Great, great. Here's a perfect one! Stick your head in here, that's great.
33:45 GG- Ok, so here I am, in this crack between the giant blocks of lava. It's cozy in here, wouldn't be a bad place to hang out during a winter blizzard. You know you imagine yourself the stuart little type running around in here, youcould reallyhave a heyday with these cracks.
34:19 EA- OK we believe you, it's porous.
34:25 Le0- Come on over here guys, there's a little sparkle of light over here. What's that, Oh it's water, you can see the water, there is water coming down, dripping. I just saw it, it's wet. That's little water dripping there.
34:53 EA- Alright so what do we see.
34:55 GG- Oh look at that, we're looking at the underside of one of these blocks and glinting in the sunlight you can see these drops of water, that's probably the end of the spring snows that have somehow left a residual film, and that film is all coalescing on the underside of these rocks and you're seeing drops of water about to begin a great unknown journey through subsurface.
35:26 EA so can we stain it red and then go down to see where it comes out?
35:30 GG- that's a great question. We have fought long and hard about how we can use tracers in this landscape. One of the problems is this is all forest service land, this is, these are wilderness areas, we aren't about to start dumping radioactive isotopes into the water supply but we wonder if there might be things like fungi, tiny spores that would be distinctive enough that we could use them as tracers. My hunch is that if you were to inject this lava field with those sorts of features you'd have to wait a long time for those to come out . They would not come out. Probably about 5 years so it wouldn't happen. Off mic, and once we get to the springs we can talk about how old the water is¿ fades away
36:53 Leo- ok we're going to role at this part where we had the interview at this gigantic crevice, rock that is dispensing little droplets¿
Ambi for interview 37:38 Out: 40:06
40:23 EA- The interesting thing about em was they'd give them transportation to the job, but then they'd have to find their way home because they'd have money¿
41:02 Leo- look at this, hey, it's dinner, oh, look at you (talking to road kill? Roadside creature? Something squirrelly/mic-ish?)
They're trying to meet up with someone 41:30's
42:05 Weird background music
42:24 GG- But is it an unhealthy river? Depends on your point of view, and you can't pretend that it's something about the river is intrinsically unhealthy, cuz the river doesn't care.
42:37 EA- I went to Sri Lanka and it was tsunami damage. Define damage? What do you mean by it? It wasn't people's homes it was ecological and I was like wait a minute. Ok, we're going to just be quiet and then we're going to get out.
43:15 on, in car, talking softly
FX 43:50, door open beeping, doors closing 44:14
44:30's talking about car lights, more doors opening and closing, getting jackets
44:54 GG- I call the attention of the jury to the fact that we are standing in a grove of trees and if you listen carefully you hear the sound of mountain water.
45:04 EA- how many miles did we just come?
45:07 GG- we dropped down I would say maybe 10 miles down slop, maybe 3,000 feet in elevation. And we're surrounded instead of by lava, by Douglas firs, that are maybe 100, 125 feet high and probably 150 to 200 years old.
45:43 EA- so you're going to try to tell me that the water came from up there, went underground, and is coming down out here.
45:46 GG- I'm not going to tell you, I'm going to show you.
45:48 EA- Ok, let's go
45:54 Ambi, whistling and walking, good, twigs cracking Out: 48:47
48:46 GG- SO this looks like a big lake but in fact it's a huge spring complex where water is just coming out of the ground, in many places just like we see. All along this edge of this thing. This is probably a 5 or 6 acre spring complex and what's happenig right here is that we're standing right above where the water is very quietly and gently issuing forth and it's probably 20 feet right here, that's clearly just water coming out of the rock, rock's all moss covered, and at this point we're standing on an old lava flow. The water is actually flowing out of a contact between two lava flows, and it's right at the zone where a young lava flow came in on top of an older lava flow, where you can imagine that well, lava is a lot like water, that is it does the same thing that water does, it seeks the lowest part of the topography wherever it goes, so typically whenever a lava flow occurs it will follow the lowest part of the landscape, now where is that usually? That's usually in the river valleys, so often where lava flows will be the wet, the lava river will actually follow the natural river, the river with water in it. When that occurs the interaction between the hot rock and the cold water results in an enormous amount of fracturing, breaking, steam, maybe you've seen the pictures of the lava falls entering the ocean, the kind of things that go on there. Well that same sort of contact between two lava flows is therefore going to be a place full of cracks and fissures and holes where the rock is no longer solid so that's going to be a very good place for water to issue forth, and we find that many of the springs are at the contex between two lava flows. One way to think of it is it's as if the water is following it's former path through the landscape, the water still remembers where it used to flow even after the lava has come in on top of it.
51:49 EA- so this spring then is coming out of some kind of crack here between two different periods of lava.
52:02 GG- Probably two different aged lava units. SO the water coming out here, you know it's june, but if I bring you back in September, even if it hasn't' been raining in two months, the flow will be just as constant and just as cold.
52:26 EA- now how do we know this water isn't just snow melt, or rain?
52:34 GG- well it did rain about a week ago and the snow's been melting all spring so that's a logical question. One thing we do that gives us some idea of how old the water is, and by old I mean how long has it been since the water war precipitated, came out of the sky. Water has, in a sense, what the water does when it falls through the atmosphere, is it takes a snapshoto f the chemistry of the atmosphere at the moment where it falls, when it falls. Well it turns out the chemistry of the atmosphere is constantly changing. One of the things that's changing in it is the concentration of radioactive substances, many of which were derived from the bomb testing that occurred throughout the late 1950's and sixties. SO even though bomb testing was halted in the early sixties, the products of those tests are still in the atmosphere with us. And with time, because these are radioactive substances, they're decaying, but the water that's falling through the atmosphere actually takes some of the chemistry, the radioactive chemistry at the time that it falls out of the sky and retains it even as it moves through the ground system, mixing with water that came in in other times. So the trick is that if we take a sample of water here and we measure the isotopic signal looking at specifically tridium or tridiogenic helium, we get an average of the age of all the water that has mixed in the ground, and when we do that (this is the work of one of my graduate students anne Jefferson) we learn that the water that's coming out of the spring is about five years old.
54:56 EA- so it takes 5 years to go from the spot we were just at, to come out this spring
55:06 GG- the five years is the average age for all the water that's falling in the basin and contributing to this spring at this time. The time it might take for a single drop, this is where it gets a little hard to explain, but let's give it a try. Imagine sort of like a garden hose, we all know that if you have a garden hose that's been sitting around in the hot sun, when you first turn on the spigot the water that first comes out of the hose is not cold, but hot, so the water that's coming out of the hose is not the same as the water that's going into the hose. Right? And there's a certain amount of time that it takes for water to go from the spigot to the end of the hose and you know that length of time because that's the point where it starts getting cold again. But that's a different amount of time. That's like the time it would take for a drop to go from the top of the ridge to the spring. But if you were to sample the water coming out of the hose you would actually get a measure of how long, what the age of the water that's been in the hose, which is a different age, a different time than the amount of time it takes to travel through. SO water has different times attached to it. We like to think of the water as being the water that fell out of the sky, but it doesn't work that way. This is actually the way we're learning. These are fairly new insights. One way to think of it too(57:03) if you think of a waterbed, if you were to push on the upper part of the waterbed, and lets say you have a drain at the bottom, you push at the top, the waterwould come out the bottom but it would not be the same water that you pushed on, so during a given year, the water that falls out of the sky is effectively pushing the old water out. The new water in, it'snot the same water, so that's part of learning how this plumbing system works is trying to figure out how these different time scales work.
57:56 EA- so this is probably happening all over the place.
57:58 GG- This is a particular wet spot in the forest. It's a rather unique place and it's really one of my favorite places, first because it's so close to the road, and there's no sign, no indication at all, of what's going on here. That's one of the things about these springs here is that in spite of their astonishing beauty and importance, many are not very well known, and this is something we found in the course of trying to trace out where the waters come from. (58:38) Much of it comes from these spring features which aren't even on the map. The water is really clear, and it's really cold. Come, I'll show you where we measure it.
59:10 leo wants walking away sounds
59:26 Ambi, walking away.
1:00:46 Water Ambi Out: 1:03:33
1:04:23 GG- It ain't easy.
1:04 36 Leo catching up to EA and GG in woods, setting up by water to interview
1:06:14 Leo positioning by trickling water in background
1:06:40 water trickling
1:06:45 EA- ok, so here's where the sponge you were talking about is starting to leak a little out, but it's not where you're saying, it's reaching the impermeable layer, right?
1:07:04 GG- The fact that water is coming out here tells us that it has reached an impermeable layer. The only way that water will imerge at this point is if it's been funneled down through that pile of basalt and has reached a place where it essentially cn't go any further and it is essentially moving horizontally at that point, or slightly downward and horizontally, and then where the impermeable layer, or the top of it has been stripped off, in this case I suspsect the reason why there's a spring here may have something to do with the fact that there was a large glacier in this valley. Essentially the glacier acted as a rasp and eroded many of the, much of the overlying rock and thereby in a sense liberated the flow in a sense, and we've seen that in other places as well, that one of the reasons that the springs are where they are may owe something to their not so long ago glacial history.
1:08:21 EA- why are these springs so interesting to you?
1:08:28 GG- The springs are interesting to me on several levels. On just a purely scientific level they are one of the few windows we have into understanding how, what I'll call the plumbing system of the cascade mountains works. If we want to know how water flows through massive piles of volcanic rock, where most of it is underground. We only have a few places where we can peer into it and get some sense so these springs are kind of like that. They're windows, they're portals where we can take measurements, we can measure the flow, we can measure the temperature, we can measure te chemistry and all f that tells us something about the water's journey before it reaches this point. In fact it uniquely talks to the journey through the rocks. There's been no interaction with the surface of the superficial environment until this point. SO they're very special places on that level. (1:09:40) They're also remarkable in the sense that, the little boy in me that always wanted to know where the river began, well by god, here the river begins. You really see it, you see the river coming out of the rock. (1:09:58) And it turns out that there aren't that many places, there are other kinds of places where you can see big springs coming out, like for example limestone, landscapes that have a lot of limestone in them often have big springs as well, but it's rare to see water emerge with such volume directly out of the earth. And I guess that relates to a third piece of that. These are esthetically wonderful places. This is like a little hobbitland we're in, of ferns and moss and cold clear water, water you could certainly drink right out of the ground. It appeals to the senses as well. (1:10:49) But perhaps at the most deeply resonant level, water, this is where the water that goes on to organize rivers, that goes on to support human beings, cities, all the uses that we put water, this is where it starts, and so it's important in my view to understand something about where the water comes from as a way of helping us understand how we want to manage it and think about it in the future. (1:11: 26)
1:11:26 EA- hence the word water shed.
1:11:36 GG- the term watershed is an interesting one because it conjures up images of a shed, of a metal roof with water falling off both sides. The real concept of a watershed is that it's more like a basin, like a set of cupped hands. What we're seeing here are in a sense the conduits that take water through that. Normally, in most landscapes, in many landscapes, the water runs in fairly shallow pathways through the soil and through the rock, doesn't go through deep ground water systems like this water does. Couple of feet down, ten feet down, is where most of the water action is happening, because under that you encounter bedrock which is the impermeable layer. This is a rather unique landscape in a sense because it has this pourosity, this, in which the water can actually percolate and go quite deep. There are other landscapes where that's true as well, big aquifers, like in the middle of the country, like I was saying limestone terrains, Florida has big pathways for water, the Ozarks, these are all places where water moves deep under ground. But it's particularly striking here.
1:13:17 EA- good, we'll let you get some sound
1:13:50 Water ambi for interview, some talking.
1:16:43 good water ambi, loud Out: 1:20:00
1:20:20's Leo catching up to EA and GG
1:21:14 EA- that's a Douglas fir, what, 400 years old
1:21:17 GG- probably, at least 300/400 years old. Now if you're gonna be a tree, this is not a bad place to be. Think about it this way, if you're a tree in this landscape the biggest problem that you have is that it doesn't rain, most years, from about june to September. One of the reasons that conifers have done so well here is because conifers can actually control how much they transpire. (1:22:02) People, when a hydrologist looks at a tree he sees a pump, a very efficient pump. Pumping up water, sucking it up. It's a pump, it's a drying rack, it's a lot of other things too, but there's certain, it's certainly a pump. And so a big Douglas fir living next to a source of perennial water in this landscape is literally made in the shade.
1:22:32 EA- so we shouldn't be surprised to see a huge tree so close to the spring.
1:22:37 GG- we shouldn't be surprised. I'm guessing this thing must be 8 feet, 9 feet across, and probably we can't see the top of it, but it looks like one of those trees that goes maybe 200 feet. It has to suck that water all the way to the top. That turns out to be one of the real interesting problems facing a tree is how do you suck that water up? And that's probably what limits their size ultimately is how far they can, how high they can pull water under tension up into the heights. But this, if you had to choose a place to be a tree, this is a good one.
1:23:29 EA- Well you know, you work for the forest service, so why is any of this of any importance to the forest service?
1:23:49 GG- well, I think water is fundamental to the forest service, if you go back to the reason why the forest reserves were first created, back in 1897 with the passage of the organic act. There were three reasons given by congress, one was to improve the forest and maintain the forest, the second was to provide a sustainable supply of timber, and the third was to provide for "favorable conditions of flow." Now that's a remarkable phrase. "favorable conditions of flow" it's almost a kind of wershock, you know, what do you see in this phrase. They just say flow. Several points though. Water has been with the forest service since day one. From the beginning of it's history, from the beginning of it's history as an agency. Managing for favorable conditions of flow has been one of the mandates that has directed it. And I think over the years there's been a balance, a tension between the different sorts of missions that the forest service was set off on in that early legislation. But managing for water, thinking about water, thinking about how the other things the forest service does, managing for timber, managing to maintain forests, protecting forest reserves against wild fire. How does all that interact with water. How does it fundamentally, how does what we do in the forest change the hydrologic system and how does what we learn about the hydrologic system inform the way we do and manage the forest and the hill slopes, so it's kind of built into the mission, it's fundamental and my sense is that it's coming ever more fundamental with time as water rightfully begins to be recognized as a both absolutely, fundamentally essential component of our civilization, despite all the technological advances, we're still the most basic level, water drinking seeking using organisms, and we're made of water, and that fundamental truth, we can't change that. So as we look at the kinds of challenges we're faced with, challenges of development, challenges of changing or variable climate, challenges of natural hazards, water is just woven into the fabric of that. So understanding where water comes from , what it doesn, how do we sustain quality, how do we sustain quantity, what sorts of quality and quantity do we need for what purposes and at what cost. This is the question that we're facing not just as an agency but as a society. SO I see the forest services contributing to that and I see research on how water works directly contributing to that. (sorry I bolded all that, it was all so good!)
1:27:27 EA- that was a great answer.
1:28:02 GG- I want to show you how we do a bit of science out here if that's of interest.