11 Trillion Gallons

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Eleven trillion. In case you forgot, or haven’t had your coffee yet, counting goes like this – hundreds, then thousands, then millions, then BILLIONS, then…Trillions.

That is 11 followed by 12 zeros – 11,000,000,000,000. Some calculators don’t even have this many placeholders. Scientists and mathematicians don’t even waste their time writing it out long hand, they just add exponents to the number to save the space. If you want to be obnoxious it is 11 thousand billion.

For all intents and purposes trillions is the highest number set most people ever contemplate, and that is usually only when speaking about the number of stars in the heavens, or the ever evolving national deficit. Outside of science labs, nothing in our lives is quantified in quadrillions…yet. Thankfully.

Here is something everyone knows: California needs water. A lot of water. A tremendous amount of water. An unfathomable amount of H2O. Enough water to make your head swim! (Figuratively and literally) The last time humanity contemplated water on this scale, some old guy was building an Ark.

Here is something you may not know. Define “A Lot of Water” – over 11 trillion gallons worth of ground water, according to atmospheric geeks over at NASA. However, it is not just a lot of water we need here, it is specifically a lot of rain and snow, in the right places at the right time. California recently had a large storm. It was one of the biggest in recent memory and it dropped torrents of rain; over 5 inches in some places. A meteorologist in Florida did the math on that storm and estimated that the state received nearly 10 trillion gallons of water in the form of rain. Problem solved right? Wrong. With recent wildfires all over the state and other man-made factors a tremendous amount of this water becomes runoff, storm pollution, mudslides, and evaporated standing water. The earth is not quenching her thirst at the same rate the rain falls. Compound this with the fact that in 2014 the Sierra Mountains had the lowest snow pack since 1977 and the third lowest ever recorded.

“Those are some discouraging statistics” you might posit, “but a gallon is a gallon is a gallon. A good rainy season and we should feel better, right?”

Imagine it like this – eleven trillion gallons is more than 30 million acre feet of water. Pine Flat Reservoir, just east of Fresno, is about 2.5 miles wide and 4 miles long at its furthest points. It holds 1 million acre feet of water. Now multiply that by 30 and we start to put a dent in the drought numbers. Too hard to imagine that? Try this – 11 trillion gallons of water is more water than all of California uses for domestic and municipal purposes annually, and we have some awfully big cities! Four of the biggest cities by population in the top 15 in the country to be exact. Eleven trillion gallons is twice the annual water flow of the Colorado River. You remember that little 1,400 mile river that made the Grand Canyon…the second biggest hole on earth?! Here is yet another way to contemplate it. The largest reservoir in the U.S. is Lake Mead, outside Las Vegas, and 11 trillion gallons is 1.5 times bigger than that. The numbers truly are mind boggling.

It is easy to say we need water, but it is harder to understand the scope of the need.  So next time you accidentally leave the faucet on, or take a few extra minutes in your shower, think about these images and save where you can. We’ve all heard the PSA’s and can recite them in our sleep, but they are telling a very important story and one we all need to listen to. Unless, of course, you are excited for an arid future reminiscent of Mad Max. It was an exciting movie after all, and such awesome costumes!

With this recent rash of current storms and hopefully more on the way try to enjoy all the liquid love. Oh, and if all that doesn’t get you motivated here is something all boaters are very passionate about. Remember that awful weed known as hyacinth that is choking every waterway north of Fresno? Yeah, rain water flushes that out too, so keep it coming Mother Nature. We will take as much as you can give.

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