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New report: Challenges and Opportunities in the Hydrologic Sciences

The “blue book” has been updated and you can read and download a pre-publication PDF on the National Academies’ website for free. I’ve just been listening to a CUAHSI webinar summarizing the report, and I was please to see that a lot of the questions I’m interested in were highlighted by the committee that updated the report. For instance, there was specific mention of urban hydrology (and how changes to flowpaths and quantity alter water quality), the co-evolution of hydrology, landscapes, and life, and the need to understand the controls on the low flow extent of streams. I’ll be reading sections of this report in coming months, and if you want to get a sense of the state of hydrologic science, you would probably do well to start here too.

Cynthia Barnett, award winning water journalist and author, to speak at UNC Charlotte

Cynthia Barnett

Cynthia Barnett (photo supplied by Ms. Barnett)

I’m excited to announce that Cynthia Barnett will be speaking on campus next week. She’s an outstanding thinker and writer about water conservation, particularly as it pertains to the eastern United States, where our sense of water-richness has lulled us into complacency.

From the press release:

Award-winning journalist and author Cynthia Barnett will visit UNC Charlotte to discuss water ethic for America at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 21, in the College of Health and Human Services, Room 128.

Barnett’s talk is the first stop for a tour about the book “Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis,” scheduled for national release Sept. 20. “Blue Revolution” is said to be the first book to call for a national water ethic. Barnett uses the Catawba River as an example to illustrate the important role that water plays in America’s energy supply. The book combines investigative reporting with solutions from across the country and the globe to show how communities and nations have come together in a shared ethic to reduce consumption and live within their water means.

Barnett also is the author of “Mirage: Florida and the Vanishing Water of the Eastern U.S.” A veteran journalist, she won the national Sigma Delta Chi prize for investigative magazine reporting and a gold medal for best nonfiction in Florida book awards.  A book signing follows this free, public presentation, which is cosponsored by the UNC Charlotte Ethics Center, IDEAS Center and the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences.

BlueRevolutionCoverCynthia will also be available to meet with students and faculty in CHHS 128 from 4 to 5 pm. Please stop by, say hi, and ask your water questions.

I’m currently devouring a copy of Cynthia’s new book, so look for a review of the book here or elsewhere in the coming weeks.

Gifts for future hydrologists

Cross-posted on Highly Allochthonous

Doing some last minute shopping for the young’uns on your list? Want to inspire a love and respect for the natural world? Then take the kid outside for a hike up a mountain or splash in a stream and let them experience first-hand how amazing Earth’s landscapes can be.

But if you want to give something a bit more material, then here are a couple of water-themed books I recommend for kids. Most of these have been tested on my almost 3-year-old, so my age recommendations have only one true calibration point.

For preschoolers


“I pass through a gateway
of high stone palisades,
leaving the land behind.
Cool silver moonlight
sparkles and dances
on my waves.
I am the sea.

Thomas Locker’s Water Dance follows the water cycle with lyrical prose and beautiful paintings to accompany each store of water. Locker’s lovely paintings could also be used without the text, just as a way to point out waterfalls, storms, oceans, etc. and to spark a conversation with a young child about their experiences with rain or other hydrological phenomena.

Where the River BeginsMany preschoolers prefer listen to stories with a clear plot, and might have a hard time identifying with the sea, stream, and storm of “Water Dance.” If you think that’s the case for the preschooler on your list, I recommend another Thomas Locker book, “Where the River Begins.” In this book, two boys and their grandfather set out on a hike to find the source of the gentle, meandering river that flows past their house. They trace the river to a rapidly cascading mountain stream that begins in a quiet pond. On the way home, they get caught in a rain storm which floods their path. There’s some hydrology embedded in there, but msotly a clear narrative for the plot-driven preschooler. My daughter approves of this book.

A Drop Around the WorldFor early elementary age readers
A Drop Around the World
by Barbara McKinney is an amazing book that follows a single water molecule from raindrop on the Maine coast to glacier melt in Switzerland to a monsoon flood in India and back to the eastern U.S, with many more stops along the way This vividly colorful book uses the water molecule as narrator and has nifty little symbols for the phases and their changes. It also emphasizes the trans-cultural importance of water. Young readers can hunt for the water droplet with the smiley face hiding on each page. The last two pages provide a legend for the little symbols giving more hydrological info for adults or interested kids. There’s also an educators’ guide to go with the book. My nearly 3-year old liked looking at the pictures, but the story hasn’t drawn her in quite yet, so I’d put this book in the 4+ age range. Perhaps it’s that plot and character identification problem again…

Letting Swift River GoJane Yolen’s Letting Swift River Go tells the tale of the damming of the Swift River in western Massachusetts to form the Quabbin Reservoir in the 1920s and 1930s. The story is told from the point-of-view of a young girl who watches her hometown and the surrounding farmlands and forests disappear under the rising waters. I really like this book because it integrates issues of water and society within a compelling narrator with whom children can identify. I put this book in the early elementary category, but my daughter has enjoyed listening to the story, though it verges on the long side for her attention span. I look forward to many more years of reading this story with her and the discussions I am sure it will engender as we walk in the reservoir-side parks along our local Catawba River.

tree-rings-fleck.jpgFor older kids
One book I haven’t read yet, but which I am anxious to get my hands on is John Fleck’s “The Tree Rings’ Tale: Understanding Our Changing Climate.” Fleck is an outstanding science journalist at the Albuquerque Journal and water blogger. The early reviews of his new book have been highly complimentary, and I love the idea of how he interweaves a history of the Colorado River with the science of dendrochronology and climate change.

Though not exactly a fly-fishing or white-water rafting trip, or even a walk along your local creekside greenway, the books above still make fine gifts and may even spark inspiration in a future hydrologist.