The Colorado River basin drains much of the state of Arizona

Heavenly fall has arrived in the desert at last! Daytime temps are in the nineties and the nights are cool and crisp. Last year about this time, we spent a few days in Sedona, at a cabin near Oak Creek. The trees had not yet begun to turn, but the night sky was astonishing. Glittering stars formed a magical dome overhead. I sat on a stone bench overlooking the creek and watched the water rushing and gleaming under the starlight. The nighttime voices of the stream were riotous as it splashed across rocks, bubbled and chuckled along banks.
I felt I had been transported into another world, a miraculous universe of stars and water. The water molecules inside of me perked up in response to this wild laughing stream. Of all the water found on our planet, only a tiny fraction flows in lakes, streams and rivers. Barely half of the available fresh water on Earth is held beneath the surface in aquifers and underground pools. Some of this ground water is ancient, stored beneath rock since the last Ice Age. These two sources are the entirety of our available drinking water.
That night at Oak Creek I marveled at the unceasing nature of the rushing stream. Lately I’ve been learning about watersheds and have been reminded of the fact that the hydrological cycle is one of the largest physical processes on Earth. Driven by the sun, surface water in oceans, lakes and rivers either evaporates, or is taken up by plant roots and transpired through leaves in the form of vapor. These two sources of moisture collect in the atmosphere, cooling and condensing and ultimately falling in the form of either rain or snow. The precipitation falls into oceans and onto land where it is channeled through watersheds into waterways such as Oak Creek. Here in Arizona and everywhere on Earth, a healthy vibrant stream is a marvel.


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