The series “About Water in the Profession”

About water, as a substance, probably everything has been written. Dozens, hundreds, and probably thousands of articles, textbooks and popular science texts have taught us that water has a relatively simple molecular structure, exists in three states of aggregation and basically conditions all life on Earth. It accounts for the vast majority of the mass of organisms, in the case of humans it is about 80%, and in jellyfish or some plants it is up to 95%. Without food a person can survive for several weeks, but without water only a few days. The well-worn slogan “water is life” is fully justified.

Water is a carrier of matter and energy. Ocean currents and movements of air containing water vapor transport huge amounts of heat from equatorial zones to cooler zones, transferring about 500 times more energy than the world currently uses.

Water is a natural resource, a raw material used commercially: as drinking water, for sanitation, agriculture and industry. Sometimes water is a solvent for pollutants going into it, intentionally or not, from various sectors of the economy, or simply a receiver of wastewater that one would not know what to do with.

Water is a highly desirable element of urban planning, eagerly used in the design of real estate and recreational facilities. Water is an attractive part of holiday trips, a place for relaxation, the passive kind, but also active, with a range of water sports and other forms of active recreation.

Water is a habitat, a habitat-forming factor that provides conditions for millions of organisms to live and thrive. And sometimes water is a destructive element that humans don’t really know how to deal with. All this we know.

Water is also the object of research and scientific work of a great many fields and disciplines of science. However, even scientists and experts who deal with the subject professionally, when looking at the same object, often see something completely different. Where a hydrobiologist marvels at communities of rare trichinella species or a unique site of quadrupeds, a hydromorphologist analyzes channel structures and flow variability, and a hydrologist sees great potential for energy development or water transportation.

When arguing the need to take one or another action for rational water management, one would have to refer to the results of scientific research. But after all, they are run by naturalists, biologists and water ecologists, as well as environmental engineers, hydraulic engineers, drainage engineers or dam builders. They often work at the same universities, in the same institutes. And everyone has their own data and their own arguments. Sometimes I feel that everyone also has “their” knowledge.

So water can be seen from very many perspectives. For each of us, depending on our education, experience and sometimes worldview, the same river, the same lake, the same water can be something different. We look at the same thing, but do we see the same thing? We asked a group of experts, who deal with water in a very broad sense and a range of scientific fields, what water is from the point of view of their scientific and professional work. Maybe it’s high time to sit down at a round table and try to understand (though not necessarily accept) the arguments and viewpoints of the various parties?

In this issue of Water Matters, we asked a hydrogeologist what water is to him. With this article, we open a series of publications on the role of water in the daily work of practitioners and academics in various water-related fields. We are curious to know which vision of water is closest to you.

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