From Cloud to River
There once was a little drop of water named Skipper. He lived in a tight community of droplets in the clouds. From a young age, he and his friends knew that they were destined for something great; they just never truly knew what . . .
Then, one day, the moment they had all been waiting for arrived. The clouds rumbled. Bright flashes lit up the sky. Skipper could feel the excitement, the fear, the anticipation and the uncertainty in the air. Everyone was waiting expectantly, waiting for the moment that they would be released into the great unknown. For most of their young lives, they had waited and watched as the world passed them by, but Skipper was ready to join the world down below - this was the moment he was destined for.
Skipper held his breath and braced himself as he started to fall at a speed that made his head spin. The wind blew him from side to side. A mixture of fear and excitement encompassed him. Before he could panic though, he landed in a large area, filled with other droplets, droplets he didn’t know, droplets that didn’t look like him, droplets that formed a river. A small smile crossed his face. His adventure had begun.
Skipper’s New Neighbours
Curiously, he observed his surroundings. He was in a foreign place with droplets that didn’t look like him at all - they were bigger, fuller, and some were carrying little particles within them. Skipper’s thoughts were interrupted when an older drop of water approached him. Skipper noticed that the older drop was a greyish colour, with hints of brown. “Where are you from, kid?” The older drop asked in a deep, gruff voice.
“The sky.” Skipper replied. He was happy someone decided to talk to him.
“The sky?” The older drop repeated thoughtfully.
The older drop nodded. “I also came from the sky. I used to look just like you.” An expression crossed the older drops face as if he was remembering days from long ago.
Skipper looked at his own belly, then at his new acquaintance’s belly. “What happened?”
“Your environment changes you.” The older drop said, slowly moving away. “The longer you stay in a place, the more you become like it.”
Skipper knew if he stayed in the river any longer, he would become a product of his environment - a dirty droplet carrying particles in his belly. He didn’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
While thinking about this new situation, Skipper accidentally bumped into another drop of water. This one was even more peculiar than the one he had just met and, even though he looked sparkly, he was anything but sweet – this drop of water was filled with bitterness.
“Watch were you’re going!” he blurted out
“I’m sorry” Skipper replied. He couldn’t help but wonder why this drop was so different from him but decided to just keep quiet for the time being. Skipper’s curiosity, however, got the best of him and after scraping together all the courage he could, he posed this question to his new neighbour.
Silence passed between them, and for a moment Skipper regretted asking the question in the first place. Just as he was about to leave the salty drop of water answered him.
“I used to be just like you, clear, clean. But that was such a long time ago. You ended up in a river, well; I ended up in a puddle. I stayed there until I soaked into the ground. Slowly, I moved deeper and deeper into the soil. Things around me became darker and darker. The light was gone and I thought it was the end for me. But then, I started feeling myself changing. I couldn’t see it, but I knew a change was taking place. I now realise that minute particles of minerals and salts started to infiltrate my very essence.”
Skipper listened, intrigued by the story.
“Eventually I stopped moving through the soil and I found myself in an underground dam of sorts. I heard some of the others referring to an aquifer or something along those lines - all foreign words to me.”
“How did you end up here?”
The salty drop of water sighed. “One day we felt the earth shake. No one really thought anything of it, but before we knew it, we were on the move again. This time it was up through a long vertical tunnel. It became brighter and brighter and eventually, we reached the surface and flowed into this river. And here we are.”
The Water Treatment Works
Skipper wanted to ask more questions, but as he opened his mouth he was interrupted by a loud tremble. He was on the move once again. This time his journey was a lot more aggressive. He heard loud noises coming from every direction. He felt himself being tossed around in various directions as the world around him became darker and darker until he couldn't see anything anymore. He didn’t dare ask what was happening. It didn’t seem as if the others would have an answer for him.
Vibrations pulsed through him. He didn’t know what was happening to him. But he could feel it. Before he could even comprehend what was happening, he was flung through the air. As he looked down, he saw a spectacular sight. Bright sunlight shone above him. Large concrete tanks that seemed to be interconnected, numerous pieces of strange equipment and some people who diligently went about their tasks lay beneath him. What was this place? He wondered. Where was he? Why was he here? Just as he came crashing down, his eye caught something that gave him a clue to what was happening: “Welcome to Your City’s Water Treatment Works.”
Skipper was perplexed. Outside he heard words like Coagulation and Flocculation being thrown around, but before he could even start to wonder what it all meant, he felt something moving around him - a liquid that twisted and turned around him as if trying to dance. He looked at it with curiosity. It was at that moment that the liquid pierced his belly. He watched as this liquid moved straight through him, touching the particles he had carried. Then, in the blink of an eye, the particles in his belly were gone - instead, it was floating in front of him. He watched the particles as they passed him by, slowly clumping together.
Skipper was so intrigued by all of this that he barely noticed that he was once again in new surroundings. These were anything but chaotic – it was calm and peaceful. Slowly, ever so slowly, the particles around him started to sink. Skipper looked down and saw the particles move to the surface below and settle there. Everything had come to a quiet stop.
Even though most of the particles had settled to the bottom of the Sedimentation Tank, a term he heard from outside somewhere, Skipper still saw a few fine particles around him. He was, however, more interested in what he saw beneath him - sand, sand and more sand. Was he back in the river? He wondered. No, this wasn’t a river - there was no sky visible. Not that he could see. Something else was different as well. Instead of moving forward and across the sand, he could feel himself being drawn into it. He felt the grains of sand pushing on him from all sides until it felt like he couldn’t breathe. Then, just when it felt like he couldn’t bear it any longer, he felt the pressure decreasing - he could move freely again! Looking around, he saw other droplets with the same flustered expressions on their faces as they picked up speed and flowed into a deep dark pipe. The fine particles he saw just before this ordeal were gone.
"Ah, the wonders of filtration" Skipper heard one of the other drops remark. "I just love leaving those nasty particles, no matter how small they might be, behind on the sand."
"Have you been here before?" Skipper exclaimed. "Could you tell me where are we going to next?”
“Oh yes!” The drop replied. “This is not all that new to me. I’ve been recycled through this plant a couple of times.” Skipper was excited. He seemed to have made a new friend, something that made him feel a whole lot better about the entire situation.
“Look,” his new friend whispered, “Now that all the particles are gone, you can see the bacteria that have been lurking around.”
Skipper didn’t know what to make of the strange creatures. “They’ve been here all along?” he asked. “Will they hurt me?”
The other drop seemed to be enjoying his distress just a little too much. “No, they can’t do anything to you. In a couple of seconds, they will be inactivated. That yellowish cloud in the distance kills them off and within a couple of minutes they will be completely harmless.”
Before Skipper could ask any more questions they were at the dosing point. He could feel the chlorine swirl around him and when it was all over, he felt clean and at peace.
Peace at last
The next location was Skipper’s favourite. There were no loud noises, no sudden movements - just a gentle hum as if everyone around him breathed a sigh of relief. He found himself in a dimly-lit place, a place that was clean and peaceful. He found himself in a reservoir. While adjusting to this new environment he started wondering why he needed to go through all of these treatment processes and what was in store for him next. He started to replay his journey in his mind and realised that all of this was intended to remove the impurities around him. Someone was interested in him and his friends. Someone was interested in purified water. His journey had removed all the physical and microbiological pollutants. He looked at the drops of water around him and saw that they were all happy and content, no longer upset and afraid. He thought back to the bitter drop of water he met back in the raw water storage dam and realised that even some of the chemical pollutants, that made that drop so bitter, had been removed. Everyone seemed so much nicer.
What makes it all worthwhile
Skipper was so lost in thought as to why someone would be interested in him and his friends that he didn’t even realise that he was on the move again. He started moving faster and faster and before he knew it, he was being pushed through a series of tunnels. The pipework directed him up and down, steered him from left to right until he slowed down and came to a complete standstill once again. He still felt some pressure behind him. He was filled with anticipation, watching expectantly to see what would happen next. He held his breath as he heard something turn. A gentle flow pushed him forward and out into the light.
Skipper felt himself falling through the air and heard various voices surrounding him. Before he knew it he found himself in a clear container. He could see in every direction. He could see people. They were talking and laughing. Someone was smiling as they picked up the object he was in. They brought it to their mouth and he felt himself moving forward. Some of the droplets moved into the person’s mouth. He could see that drinking the droplets made the person happy. The person slowly lowered the glass. As they talked to someone else, they quickly tossed him and the remaining droplets into a large metal box. He felt himself being pulled down again into darkness, into more pipes. But he didn’t care. For a moment he saw the light. Skipper felt happiness. His kind, the little droplets of water, made people happy. He had a purpose - one greater than he ever could have imagined.