If you've looked out of an airplane window while flying over the central or western United States, chances are you saw lot of the "little" circles on the ground. They are center-pivot irrigation circles. In these systems, water is pumped from an well in the center of the circle from an underground aquifer and distributed through a giant sprinkler hundreds of yards long that pivots around a central point. In the past, large spray guns were used to shoot water through the air onto the crops, but nowadays more efficient low-pressure sprinklers hang from the pipes to spray water close to the ground, which is a much more efficient method that saves water.
This NASA satellite photo shows crop circles in Finney County, Kansas. These irrigated plots are 800 and 1,600 meters in diameter (0.5 and 1 mile). This area utilizes irrigation water from the Ogallala aquifer, that underlies an area from Wyoming to Texas.
Irrigation water use: Center-pivot sprinkler irrigation
If you've looked out of an airplane window while flying over the central or western United States, chances are you saw lot of the "little" circles on the ground. They are center-pivot irrigation circles. In these systems, water is pumped from a well in the center of the circle from an underground aquifer and distributed through a giant pipe hundreds of yards long; the whole systems pivots around a central point. In the past, large spray guns were used to shoot water through the air onto the crops, but nowadays more efficient low-pressure sprinklers hang from the pipes to spray water close to the ground, which is a much more efficient method that saves water.
Power-generation plants, including Beaver Valley nuclear plant in Pennsylvania, produce power by using heat (in this case, from a nuclear reactor) to convert water into steam. The steam, very hot and under a great deal of pressure, is pumped through pipes to turn the blades of a turbine, which is connected by a shaft to a generator. The generator spins and produces electricity.
One very significant by-product of thermoelectric facilities is heat from the power-production equipment. Plants withdraw lots of water (which is why they are often located alongside rivers and other water bodies), use it to cool the equipment, and then need to release used water back into the environment. Releasing hot water back into rivers would harm the ecology, so many power plants have tremendous cooling towers, where hot water is sprayed inside and evaporation is used to cool the release water before it goes back into the environment.
This photo shows hydraulic mining activity at the Malakoff Diggings in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in the 1870s. Hydraulic mining was a variation on ground sluicing where the water delivered to the site would be shot through a nozzle at high pressure onto the face of the cliff, thereby washing away tons of boulders, gravel, dirt, and, in the hopes of the miners, ounces of gold. These "water cannons" were indeed very powerful—they could throw 185,000 cubic feet of water in an hour with a velocity of 150 feet per second (Sierra College). The environmental destruction they could do was also powerful.
Credit: USGS and the Bancroft Library, University of California.
Roman aqueduct at Pont du Gard, Gard River in southern France
This picture shows the Roman aqueduct at Pont du Gard, crossing the Gard River in southern France. The aqueduct was used to supply water to the town on Nimes, which is about 30 miles from the Mediterranean Sea. Although the water ended up in the baths and homes in Nimes, it originated about 12 miles away in higher elevations to the north. The total length of the aqueduct was about 31 miles, though, considering its winding journey.
Aqueducts were not the Roman's choice for water-delivery systems, as they would use buried pipes when possible (much easier to bury a pipe than build an above-ground system). Although aqueducts use gravity to move water, the engineering feats of the Romans are shown in that the vertical drop from the highlands source to Nimes is only 56 feet. Yet, that was enough to move water over 30 miles. And, if you think you can see the aqueduct in this picture "leaning" to one side, it is a illusion, as the vertical drop is only 1 inch for the 1,500 foot length. It is estimated that the aqueduct supplied the city with around 200,000,000 litres (44,000,000 imperial gallons) of water a day, and water took nearly 27 hours to flow from the source to the city. (Source: Wikipedia).
Credit: Alex Romosan, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Aqueducts: The California Aqueduct provides water for southern California
This is a photograph of the California Aqueduct where it crosses Interstate 580 near Tracy, California. Much of this water is bound for Los Angeles. Millions of people live in Los Angeles and in southern California, and we all know that wherever there are people, there is the need for fresh water. Much of southern California is actually a desert and the scarcity of water is of huge concern to that part of the country. Aqueducts are one way that water is supplied to this dry and thirsty area; without aqueducts like the California Aqueduct and other water-delivery mechanisms, much of California would be as sparsely populated as other desert areas without fresh water.
This photo shows trout fingerlings in hatchery on Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation, Washoe County, Nevada. Fish farming is only one aspect of aquaculture. Aquaculture water use is water associated with raising creatures that live in water—such as finfish and shellfish—for food, restoration, conservation, or sport. In many lakes, rivers, and reservoirs around the country, recreational fishermen enjoy catching fish that have been raised in fish ponds and released to natural waters. Aquaculture production occurs under controlled feeding, sanitation, and harvesting procedures primarily in ponds, flowthrough raceways, and, to a lesser extent, cages, net pens, and closed-recirculation tanks.
Three Gorges Dam: The world's largest hydroelectric plant
In 2012, the Three Gorges Dam in China took over the #1 spot of the largest hydroelectric dam (in electricity production), replacing the Itaipú hydroelectric power plant in Brazil and Paraguay. The Three Gorges Dam has a generating capacity of 22,500 megawatts (MW) compared to 14,000 MW for the Itaipu Dam. But, over a year-long period, both dams can generate about the same amount of electricity because seasonal variations in water availability on the Yangtze River in China limit power generation at Three Gorges for a number of months during the year.
The height of Three Gorges is about 594 feet (181 meters (m)) and the length is about 7,770 feet (2, 335 m). The dam creates the Three Gorges Reservoir, which has a surface area of about 400 square miles (1,045 square kilometers) and extends upstream from the dam about 370 miles (600 kilometers).
In the United States, the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River, Washington, is the largest, with a generating capacity of about 6,800 MW (5th overall worldwide).
Thermoelectric power: A geothermal power plant, Iceland
This is the Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant in Þingvellir, Iceland. It is the second largest geothermal power station in Iceland. This plant actually serves multiple purposes. The station produces approximately 120 Megawatts of electrical power, and also delivers over 400 gallons of hot water per second, servicing the hot water needs of the Greater Reykjavik area. (Source: Reykjavik Energy).
A domestic well is a common way to get water for home.
This is a common sight in south Georgia, much of which is underlain by the Floridan Aquifer system, which is a very productive aquifer. This picture shows a well system that provides all the water that a family in this part of the country needs. The water is also of such high quality that no treatment is needed, so the water literally goes from underground right into the children's' drinking glass.
This well works electrically, with a pump being submerged in the well casing, which is seen as the white pipe on the right side. The large silver container is the storage tank to hold a certain amount of water pumped up from the bottom of the well casing. The small black box is a pressure sensor that detects when the water level in the storage tank gets low and then turns on the pump to draw more water. The small white tube coming out of the bottom of the storage tank goes to the house, with the red knob giving the family the ability to shut off the water going to the house.
Lake Lanier, just north of Atlanta, Georgia, is the main water supply for millions of people downstream. Lake Lanier is a U.S. Corps of Engineers reservoir that provides multiple uses for millions of people in north Georgia. Buford Dam has a hydroelectric facility inside the dam that produces electricity for Atlanta and surroundings, kayakers and fishermen make heavy use of the Chattahoochee River as it flows south below the dam, houses line the reservoir shores, and the lake is one of the most used water bodies for recreation in the Nation.