Water Movement


Reader warning: This post is not about water advocacy or rights. Nope…

Today we’ll get a bit scientific. This is about water movement on land.

I have always known the importance of vegetation in reducing soil erosion and siltation in water bodies, but a week ago, in a hydrology class, after 4 years of university education and 5 years of work experience, I finally really understoooooood the science behind the importance of vegetation/soil cover.

I’ll use a head full of hair versus a bald head. Assuming that both have pores that absorb water when in contact. Because of the hair, the head full of hair will slow down the movement of water which will be absorbed by the pores (infiltration)… Okay I think I’ll just use soil because…I’ll just use soil.

So we have soil that has cover, it could be grass, trees, foliage (dead leaves) vs soil that is bare or soil that is compacted/hard because of activities such as overgrazing (too many cows in one area…yes, this can be a problem). When it rains on soil with cover, the water is slowed down by the vegetation and takes its time to get into the soil pore.We call this infiltration– Movement of water from the soil’s surface into the soil pores. So because the water moving on the surface has been slowed down by the vegetation, there are fewer instances of soil erosion (washing away of the top layer of soil which is super important for production of food).

However, when the soil is  bare,the rainwater lands on the soil, soil particles jump in surprise and land in areas where the water could have had a chance to infiltrate into the soil. These entry ways are blocked by the surprised soil particles.Because the moving water has nothing to slow it down, it simply runs (runoff) over the soil, carrying alot of soil with it. This soil sometimes ends up in water bodies making the water look browish… We call this siltation. This more often than not reduces water quality and quantity. We’ll discuss water quality and quantity some day soon.

I hope you have more clarity on why vegetation cover is important. For more on this, see the fun video below:



3 R’s

We are a wasteful society,

We have a million wants and like ten needs

We seek to fulfill our wants

Are we greedy?

Are we?

I checked out this website called The World Counts… My word! The amount of waste we generate is phenomenal. My goodness. It is in billions of tonnes! Billions! My issue with this, is the effect that it has on the environment. Untreated effluent from factories into waterways, dumping chemicals on soils thus polluting soil, releasing oil into the ocean (poor fishies). Waste is not only an eyesore but is also not pleasing to the olfactory organs (Read: The nose).

So, what can we do?

I. Reduce

By avoiding the production of some of the goods , then production of waste will generally go down in numbers. We can apply this by buying products in bulk, using recycled products (Tissue paper made from recycled material…Almost wrote recycle tissue paper…Eeew!, Printing paper that has the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) which ensures that paper used is from sustainable sources), we can also print on both sides of paper, use goods made locally (will reduce your carbon footprint… 🙂 ), eat less meat (will reduce your water footprint- I’ll need prayers on that one), buy products with less packaging, saving energy, use email,…

II. Reuse

One man’s trash, another man’s treasure… Before trashing any item consider ways in which these items can be put into use in other ways… Glass jars can be used to plant herbs or for jewellery storage, clothes can be given to charity, plastic tins can be used to store food in you energy saving fridge (see what I did there? 😉 ). Reusing requires some creativity.

III. Recycle

This is the most popular R. It is made easier when waste is sorted/separated at the source. I look forward to having a system in my city where each household is required to separate its waste to make recycling easier.But until then, I buy products that have the recycled sign on them. The sign is a triangle made of of three arrows that are chasing each other. What I have recently learnt though,is that on plastics  there often a number in the triangle which indicates the type of resin used to make the plastic. These recycling codes range from 1-7. Normally, only No. 1 & 2 are easily recyclabe.

Use an R this week… 😀




Of Senses and Love

As everyone shares their love on this lovely day. Here are mine:

Of sound:

I love the sound of wind rustling through the trees

I love the sound of a bubbling stream

I love the sound of birds chirruping in the morning

I love the sound of crickets chirping at night

I love the sound of rain pounding on a mabati roof

Of sight:

I love the sight of a sunset

I love the sight of a beautiful colourful sunrise

I love the sight of undisturbed mountains

I love the sight of the vast ocean

I love the sight of a rainbow

I love the sight of colourful birds and butterflies

Of smell:

I love the smell of the earth when it rains

I love the sweet smell of trees

I love the smell of the mountains… the freshness…

Of touch:

I love the feel of sand between my toes

I love the feel of sunshine on my face

I love the feel of a rough tree back

I love the feel of cool water on a hot day

I love nature ❤ 🙂

Just Do It.

Just Do It

Look familiar? That is Nike’s 80’s slogan, which was inspired by a murderer. I kid you not. Google on the history of that slogan… only after you’re done with this post sil vous plait… 🙂

Nobel Laureate the late Prof. Wangari Maathai once shared this story on the humming bird:

One day a terrible fire broke out in a forest – a huge woodlands was suddenly engulfed by a raging wild fire. Frightened, all the animals fled their homes and ran out of the forest. As they came to the edge of a stream they stopped to watch the fire and they were feeling very discouraged and powerless. They were all bemoaning the destruction of their homes. Every one of them thought there was nothing they could do about the fire, except for one little hummingbird.

This particular hummingbird decided it would do something. It swooped into the stream and picked up a few drops of water and went into the forest and put them on the fire. Then it went back to the stream and did it again, and it kept going back, again and again and again. All the other animals watched in disbelief; some tried to discourage the hummingbird with comments like, Don’t bother, it is too much, you are too little, your wings will burn, your beak is too tiny, it’s only a drop, you can’t put out this fire.

And as the animals stood around disparaging the little bird’s efforts, the bird noticed how hopeless and forlorn they looked. Then one of the animals shouted out and challenged the hummingbird, in a mocking voice, What do you think you are doing? And the hummingbird, without wasting time or losing a beat, looked back and said, I am doing what I can.

Hummingbirds are among the smallest of birds, most species measuring in the 7.5–13 cm (3–5 in) range. The bee hummingbird is measures only 5cm! They are  colorful birds with iridescent feathers which means that their feathers change colour in different angles…Too cool. They flap their wings so fast (about 80 times per second) that they make a humming noise. Hummingbirds can fly right, left, up, down, backwards, and even upside down. They are also able to hover by flapping their wings in a figure-8 pattern. They have a specialized long and tapered bill that is used to obtain nectar from the center of long, tubular flowers. It’s feet are used for perching only, and are not used for hopping or walking.

If a 5cm creation can do what it can, there really is no excuse to lack of action for the rest of us who have the opposable thumb.

So, if you can plant a tree, pick some litter, avoid pollution of water , soil and air, sustainably use natural resources, harvest rainwater, take care of an orphaned animal, contribute towards an environmental cause, recycle, reuse and reduce… Just Do It!




Lessons from the Beaver World

As the world’s population increases, there is a growing demand for various resources. The main resource under stress is water. Water is required for the production of food and energy which are essential for human survival. The same water is required for ecosystem services and human uses such as domestic, drinking and sanitation.

To meet most of these needs, we have opted to use various infrastructural and technological methods such as the building of reservoirs. Unfortunately with these developments, the ecosystem has more often than not been left in the backseat. Even worse, in majority of the locations whereby these developments are taking place, the main stakeholders, the riverine people both upstream and downstream are rarely consulted. The immediate economic benefits override the long term effects on the environment and the people.

Beavers are aquatic rodents famous for building dams, canals and lodges (homes). They build these dams to provide still, deep waters which act as protection against its predators. They first place vertical poles, then place branches horizontally and finally fill the gaps between the branches with a combination of plants and mud until the dam holds enough water to surround their homes. These flooded areas become productive wetlands which are rated as the world’s most valuable land based ecosystems. It is said that after beavers abandon their lodges/ponds, as the wood decays it eventually transforms into marsh. Amazing…Huh?

And before I forget, these cute little engineers do not exist in Africa… 😦

What do beavers therefore teach us?
It is possible to have dams that are not only economically beneficial but also ecologically and socially beneficial. This can only be achieved if dams are built after wide stakeholder involvement and a series of analyses (cost benefit analyses, environmental impact analyses and social impact analyses). If beavers are able to leave the environment better than they found it, so can we.