Spinning the Record – Summer 2015
It goes without saying that without water there would be no life as we know it. Found in every cell in our bodies, the tasteless, odorless, colorless compound of two hydrogen atoms and an oxygen atom comprises 60 percent of our total body weight. Equally important, water’s solvent ability enables our cells to utilize the nutrients, minerals, and chemicals critical to life-sustaining physiological processes.
The only natural substance found in all three physical states—liquid, solid, and gas—at temperatures normally occurring on Earth, water is essential to every aspect of human civilization. Industry, agriculture, transportation, sanitation, power, recreation—none would be possible without abundant supplies of water. In addition, every manufactured product requires water. It takes 10 liters of water to produce one sheet of paper. Translated into more tangible terms, 137 gallons of water were used to manufacture the paper for the magazine you hold in your hands.
In the U.S. we tend to think of water scarcity and pollution as third-world problems. But more than half of the United States is currently experiencing some form of drought. Even Vermont, with its abundance of lakes and rivers and plenty of precipitation, is not immune to water challenges. Lake Champlain, a major source of drinking water for nearly 200,000 people in more than 20 towns and cities in Vermont, New York, and Quebec, has long been affected by contaminated runoff from farms, roads, and developed areas. A landmark bill that is currently working its way through the legislature will launch a cleanup effort for Champlain and other waterways that is expected to take decades.
At Norwich, faculty and students are engaged in groundbreaking research aimed at solving water-related issues at home and abroad. From measuring the toxicity of groundwater in Africa, to mapping landslides and erosion of Central Vermont’s Great Brook watershed, to finding ways to convert stormwater runoff into drinkable water, Norwich minds are hard at work.
And since the mid-19th century, Norwich-educated hydrologists have been at the forefront of hydro-engineering. From urban waterworks to hydroelectric dams, and water conservation to wastewater treatment, Norwich graduates permeate every area of “wet” infrastructure.
The British physician and preacher Thomas Fuller (1654–1734) said, “We never know the worth of water until the well is dry.” While Fuller was speaking in figurative terms, his words can also be taken quite literally. May the stories in this issue give you a greater understanding of how Norwich is making a difference through that most miraculous of molecules, H2O.
For the Record,
Diana L. Weggler