Dry run

I listed, in my previous post, the names of some of the tributaries of Pine Creek. What I did not mention then was that although this part of the world has received more than average rainfall through the month of August, many of the creeks, hollows, and runs are currently producing but a trickle. Ground water reserves, it seems, are not easily slaked. Because I am not a hydrologist, I wouldn’t know where to begin to calculate the annual water budget of an area like ours but I can tell you that bulk flow is one of nature’s most powerful forces. Evaporation, condensation, and transpiration draw moisture from the soil and from oceans and lakes and up into the atmosphere, precipitation returns it to Earth, and gravity and capillary action draw moisture down into the soil and then deeper to contribute to ground water. Such reserves feed the water table which is exposed to the atmosphere, and the cycle begins again. What has always amazed me is how water, its availability and its level of reserve, cycles through the year in a fairly predictable way. The countless and interconnected parts of our biosphere are delicately balanced such that the water table is rarely overflowing. Plants and animals use what they need and tributaries drain the hills of surplus. Although we may like to think, perhaps because of the often deep contours they have carved, that tributaries flow all of the time, many do not. And so it is that this lengthy preamble explains both the title to this post and the image below of the dry bed of Elk Run just above its confluence with Pine Creek. I have always been struck by the balance of nature and worry about human influence and impacts. Perhaps many of you know of hydraulic fracturing and its demonstrated effects on local geology and hydrology, not only here in Pennsylvania, but around the country. The gas industry has surely put many of us to work and has perhaps reduced our dependence on foreign sources of energy, but at what cost? It is naive to believe that this newly applied technology will be without impacts. Unfortunately, we probably won’t know of them until it is too late.


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