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Geosciences LibreTexts

11.1: Prelude to Water

  • Page ID
    8848
  • Entrenched meander of the Colorado River, downstream of Page, Arizona. High cliffs, that lead down to a river with narrow shores.
    Figure: Entrenched meander of the Colorado River, downstream of Page, Arizona.

    All life requires water. The hydrosphere (Earth’s water) is an important agent of geologic change. It shapes our planet through weathering and erosion, deposits minerals that aid in lithification, and alters rocks after they are lithified. Water carried by subducted oceanic plates causes melting in the upper mantle material. Communities rely on suitable water sources for consumption, power generation, crop production, and many other things.

    Tall ancient pillars with arched entrances supporting a canal that piped water from the mountains to Roman cities.
    Figure: Example of a Roman aqueduct in Segovia, Spain.

    In pre-industrial civilizations, control of water resources was a symbol of power [1; 2]. Two thousand-year-old Roman aqueducts still grace European, Middle Eastern, and North African skylines. Ancient Mayan kings used water imagery such as frogs, water-lilies, waterfowl to show their divine power over their societies' water resources [3]. Mask facades of the hooked-nosed rain god, Chac, are prominent on Mayan buildings such as the Kodz-Poop (Temple of the Masks) at Kabah in the drier northern lowlands of the Yucatan peninsula but much rarer in the tropical, wet regions to the south. Control over water continues to be an integral part of the governmental duties of most modern societies.

    Mayan stone figure with a long elephant-like nose representing a water deity.
    Figure: Chac mask in Mexico.