Tag Archives: Water

What Can You Find in a Drop of Sea Water?

The ocean is vast! It covers 70% of the Earth and is home to the largest animal ever to have lived on our planet- the blue whale. It’s easy to get caught up in the majesty of the ocean’s magnitude, but have you ever thought about what you can find in just a single drop of seawater?

sea water

Let’s zoom in and take a look! Left: phytoplankton, right: assorted zooplankton There’s a whole other world living on this microscopic level! When you go for a swim in the ocean, these little guys are floating all around you. According to the Australian Department of Environment and Energy, a single liter of ocean water contains around a million phytoplankton, half a million zooplankton, a billion bacteria and four billion viruses! Never heard of phytoplankton or zooplankton? Let’s learn a bit more about them and why they are so important.

sea water 1


Assorted diatoms Phytoplankton are the basis of the oceanic food web. They are tiny, planktonic (free drifting) organisms that use photosynthesis to convert sunlight into energy. They contribute over half of the world’s oxygen through photosynthesis! Pollution (pesticides, oil, heavy metals, etc.) can be extremely harmful to phytoplankton- and when they take a hit from our harmful waste- entire oceanic communities are damaged.

sea water 3


Krill Microscopic zooplankton are actually miniscule animals. Some zooplankton will grow out of this planktonic stage of life, but others will always remain tiny drifters. Zooplankton feed on phytoplankton, bacteria and other zooplankton. Although zooplankton are small, some of the ocean’s biggest animals dine on them. Remember the blue whale- the largest animal to have ever lived on planet Earth? They subsist entirely on zooplankton (mainly krill and copepods- the zooplankton that the character Plankton from Spongebob was based off of). Want another reason to marvel at these critters? Many of these organisms, namely a group of phytoplankton called dinoflagellates, are bioluminescent, which means they can produce their own light and glow in the dark! Dinoflagellate bioluminescence Keep microscopic, oceanic plankton happy by keeping our oceans clean! And don’t forget about the millions of organisms floating around you next time you take a swim!

Check out these links if you want to learn more:

Bioluminescence: https://askabiologist.asu.edu/glow-dark-plankton Importance of plankton: http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/copepod/about/what-n-why.html
TedEd plankton video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFQ_fO2D7f0
Harmful algal blooms: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/why_habs.html

Written By: Talia Niederman

sea water reference

Catalina Island’s Fresh Water

Water is an essential part of life for almost every single animal on planet earth. Without water, life on this planet may not have ever been possible. Human beings are no exception. Humans rely on water as a biological necessity as well as a tool for advancing civilizations. We have used water for many purposes for centuries for transportation as well as a source of energy used to power our earliest factories thanks to water wheels in streams and rivers. Eventually humans developed indoor plumbing for more sanitary restrooms and kitchen sinks doing away with outhouses and outdoor wells. Technological revolutions have allowed humans to populate areas where finding access to fresh water was historically difficult if not impossible. As our population increases our water consumption increases as well, but our supplies are no longer able to meet the demand in many parts of the world. Catalina Island is a prime example of this problem and how it is being managed.

Humans have inhabited Catalina Island for many centuries and possibly millennia. Though Catalina spends most of the year without rainfall, the native Tongva people always had access to fresh water thanks to small natural ponds around the island that could hold water year round such as Haypress Pond and Echo Lake.

Fresh Water 1

After the Tongva people were removed from the island during the 1800s eras of ranching, farming, and even mining came to the island. Ownership of Catalina changed hands several times over the years but eventually settled in the control of William Wrigley Jr. who helped stabilize the small community of Avalon and make it a tourist destination. Avalon would continue to prosper and William Wrigley Jr. helped establish many other camps and facilities around the island like the boarding school at Toyon Bay. The year round population of Catalina Island has now reached nearly 4,000 people and receives around 700,000 annual visitors. This amount of people far exceeds the historic water supply of the island. During the winter months the average water usage in Avalon is around 200,000 gallons per day and nearly 800,000 gallons per day in during the busiest summer days. To meet demand for water on Catalina Island, fresh water wells were established around the island over the years and the Middle Ranch Reservoir was constructed to hold the water for treatment and distribution.

Fresh Water 2

Photo Credit: Southern California Edison

For most of the 1900’s these ground water reserves were plenty to supply all of the residents of the island. In 1991 a desalination plant was constructed to help supplement the fresh water supply with the ability to add nearly 240,000 gallons of fresh water per day if needed.

Fresh Water 4

Photo Credit: Southern California Edison

The need for fresh water and growing population finally came to a head on in August of 2014 when Catalina was placed under stage 2 water rationing. The historic California drought had brought the middle ranch reservoir down to nearly 1/4th of its maximum capacity and all of the other wells on the island were just as strained. Residents and businesses of the island were forced to reduce their water usage by 25% or face penalties. At the beginning of 2016 a second desalination plant was installed to help reduce the strain on the reservoir by adding an additional 150,000 gallons per day, but it still was not enough. In September of 2016 Catalina was placed under stage 3 drought conditions. Under stage three residents were forced to reduce their water usage by 50%. As things were looking their worst and the reservoir sitting at nearly 1/10th of its maximum capacity, Catalina was in desperate need of rain. Luckily the southern California area had a record year for rain including a record-breaking 24-hour rainfall period and the reservoir and wells were filled to pre drought levels. Although the water stocks were replenished water conservation remains a top concern for island residents as Catalina still remains in stage 1 drought water rationing for the foreseeable future.

Saving Water 101

The drought in California isn’t new, but it definitely is not getting any better. Here, on Catalina Island, we feel the effects of the dry weather in Southern California with full force. The lack of rain is magnified on the island, as our reservoir gets smaller and smaller, and substantial rain is not in the forecast. At CIMI, we have been doing our fair share to cut down on the amount of fresh water we use, from installing low-flow faucets, toilets and shower heads, to reducing the amount of water used in our kitchen. Even on the dive deck, we are filling our foot rinse bins with saltwater and promote the CIMI challenge to opt out from showering while you’re at camp! Here’s a few ways you can help reduce your freshwater usage, on the island or off—

  1. Turn off the water when you’re not actually using it! This may sound silly but people forget that while brushing their teeth, washing their hands, or taking a shower, you don’t always need the water on. Turn the water off while you’re shampooing or while your toothbrush is scrubbing away.
  1. Install low-flow faucets and shower heads. Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 9.45.59 PMPeople don’t realize how much water they use when showering. In one minute alone, a shower can use 5-10 gallons of water! Installing low-flow shower heads will reduce that number to 2.5 gallons or less per minute. In your sinks, low-flow faucets are a great replacement as well. This will help to preserve our fresh water and save money on your water bill.
  1. Reduce your energy consumption! Reducing the amount of energy you use also reduces water usage. Energy production accounts for the second highest use of freshwater, after agriculture. Anything from turning off the lights to driving less will help with our water crisis.
  1. Wash full loads of clothes and dishes. Make sure that when you run the dishwasher or washing machine, it is full. Doing laundry is a huge contributor to water use in homes. Save energy and save water! Small and large loads of laundry use about the same amount of energy. Additionally, 90% of the energy that washers use is for heating water, so wash your laundry on cold.
  1. Recycle your water! Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 9.46.09 PMWhile larger scale changes can be made, like using grey water to flush your toilets, any recycling of water is helpful. After you make pasta or boil veggies, use the remaining water for your plants. Outside, create a simple rainwater catchment system or divert your gutters to water your yard. Remember, drought resistant plants are a great substitute for traditional lawns!

Written By: Jaclyn Lucas

Water: The Most Precious Life Source!


Water…it’s everywhere! As the most precious resource to living creatures on Earth, water constitutes about 71% of the planet’s surface, with 96% of it belonging to the oceans. The amount of freshwater on Earth exists on a much smaller scale, with most of it being contained far below the ground or frozen as glaciers. Water is also in constant movement thanks to our friend The Water Cycle, which means it is changing form and redistributing all the time, a feeling I’m sure we can all relate to during our busy day-to-day lives.


Access to fresh water is vital to our very survival, yet so many around the world still lack this basic human right. Water is such a huge part of what makes us human that it is only fitting our friend H2O receives its very own international holiday!

Mark your calendars for March 22, because this is the day we celebrate all things water, known as The Water Cycle! The Council of United Nations first conceived World Water Day in 1992, its purpose being to highlight the importance of freshwater on Earth and how people globally interact with water. World Water Day encourages and highlights initiatives developed by people across the world to preserve this precious and scarce commodity.

Senegal Mission water

This holiday hopes to raise awareness regarding how water is distributed globally, and how many people around the world, approximately 1 in 6, still do not have access to a source of clean, reliable drinking water.

Water connects people throughout the entire stream of the human narrative, and is a constant resource that all people, throughout time and culture, have shared. It is embedded in our lives on a day-to-day basis, from basic survival needs, to agriculture, to entire industries, and is the most heavily relied on resource in human existence.

Here at CIMI, water is an incredibly important and sometimes scarce resource. water dropMost of our daily activities revolve around water activities, like snorkeling, kayaking, or tidepooling. For freshwater, we rely on only a few very shallow groundwater wells located in the middle of the island to supply most of our freshwater. The other portion of our freshwater comes from a desalinization plant near the small city of Avalon. It is incredibly expensive and time consuming to desalinize ocean water, which makes this process a relatively difficult source to rely on.

Right now Catalina Island is considered to be in an extreme drought, which means we all need to do our part in saving water…anyone up for attempting the CIMI shower challenge? We challenge YOU to save your shower and utilize your natural ocean baths during your stay with us! To succeed at this challenge, you must skip showers for your entire stay, and receive endless bragging rights in return.

World Water Day encourages us to observe all aspects of how we interact with water. It is a day for all of us to understand the importance of water in our own life, and how our lives might be different if we did not have access to clean, reliable drinking water. The reality for many people is just this.

So take your day on March 22 to calculate your own water footprint, or perhaps meditate on some creative solutions to saving water in your own life…whatever you do, celebrate our friendly polar molecule H2O and all it has to offer!

World Water Day on Twitter

World Water Day on Instagram

World Water Day on Facebook

Lifestraws, an innovative way to filter water!


Water in Motion: The Freshwater Cycle

Seventy-one percent of the Earth’s surface is covered in water that is constantly in motion. The total amount of water in the world never really changes, it just takes on new forms and moves to new places, from sky to sea to ground. This process is called the water cycle, and it is the reason we have clouds, rainfall, rivers, groundwater, and an ocean teeming with life.


One of the things that makes water such a unique molecule is that all of its stages (ice, liquid, and gas) can exist naturally on Earth. As one water molecule travels through the water cycle, it may pass through all three of these stages. During the process of evaporation, the water that gets collected in oceans, lakes, and rivers heats up at the surface and turns into a gas, sending gaseous water particles into the atmosphere. Humidity increases as more water vapor accumulates in the air.


As water vapor rises into the atmosphere, it begins to cool down, condensing back into a liquid phase. Water molecules are polar, so they are attracted to each other. When water droplets clump together in the sky, they form clouds.


When enough water vapor condenses in the atmosphere to make water droplets heavy enough to fall back down to Earth, precipitation occurs. Precipitation can come in many forms: rain, snow, hail. It can be caused by both rises and falls in temperature. When the temperature decreases, more water vapor condenses into a liquid. If it gets cold enough, the water freezes as it falls from the sky, creating snow or hail. Conversely, when the temperature increases, evaporation also increases. This brings more water into the atmosphere, causing rain. That is why warm, tropical places get so much rainfall. Precipitation of all kinds helps replenish freshwater reserves on Earth, like lakes, rivers, and groundwater.


As precipitation occurs, some of the water gets soaked up by the land, while some flows over the land’s surface and feeds into rivers and streams. This is called runoff, or surface runoff. The physical geology and topography of the land plays a big role in determining where the water will run. For instance, water is more likely to run quickly over something impervious, like a road, versus porous soil. It also likes to flow downhill and into previously-made canyons and gullies. Many years of runoff in the same place will cause erosion, carving out the land into channels where the water likes to run until the landscape is forever changed. That is how the Colorado River created the Grand Canyon.


The water that falls to Earth and does not flow over the land gets absorbed by the ground. An aquifer is an underground layer of permeable rock or sediment where groundwater gets stored. The water table is the level underground where this water sits. Eventually, groundwater can reenter the water cycle by seeping into other bodies of water or by getting pumped out of the Earth by humans.

It is possible for the same molecule of water to remain in the water cycle for over 100 million years before it gets broken apart by photosynthesis or other natural processes. That means that the same droplet of water that passed through a dinosaur’s body could be passing through your own body right now. Because of the interconnectedness of the water cycle, every dam we build, every well we dig, every piece of trash we drop on the ground has the power to affect water sources hundreds of miles away. And eventually, almost all water ends up in the ocean. That is why it is so important to be aware of how our actions can affect the environment around us, because everything we do has the potential to impact the resources that we all need to survive.

Check Out this Cool Interactive Watercycle: http://water.usgs.gov/edu/watercycle-kids-adv.html

How Is Sand Formed?

Sand is a result of the breakdown of Earth’s crust. Sand is formed over a long period of time by water, wind, gravity, and tectonics, among other forces. Water provides movement of sediment from the beginning of streams and inland areas down through the land. As sediment is transported it becomes more worn. While heavier sediment settles along river banks and streams, lighter sediment gets carried to the ocean. Gravity assists the motion of material down streams, rivers, and cliff sides. The smashing of rocks together causes fragmentation of rocks. Like gravity, wind contributes to the movement of materials in powering waves, currents, and the eroding of surfaces. Fine sand is also transported to various locations by the wind. Plate tectonics work together with gravity and water to push rocks upward and then wear them down. These are some common causes that construct sand but depending on location others may exists, such as animal involvement.

These forces cause decomposition of the Earth’s crust to make fine sediment we refer to as sand. Depending on where you are located sand can look different. Different region’s sands are composed of various materials. California for example has many beaches composed of quartz grains. Quartz grains are minerals found in many different kinds of sedimentary rocks and igneous rocks found in Earth’s crust. Once the sedimentary and igneous rock is weathered away, quartz grains are what remains due to ability to resist weathering. Other locations such as the Hawaiian Islands have beaches that are composed of parrotfish poop. Parrotfish consume coral when biting and scraping algae off dead coral, this coral is then passed through their intestines and excreted. Other beaches in New Zealand are referred to as black sand beaches because of their black color which is a result of being composed of volcanic lava fragments. Yet others are made entirely of shells like those in West Australia. Thus, every beach with its abundant sand always has a story of how it came to be formed.


We would like to thank you for visiting our blog. Catalina Island Marine Institute is a hands-on marine science program with an emphasis on ocean exploration. Our classes and activities are designed to inspire students toward future success in their academic and personal pursuits. This blog is intended to provide you with up-to-date news and information about our camp programs, as well as current science and ocean happenings. This blog has been created by our staff who have at least a Bachelors Degree usually in marine science or related subjects. We encourage you to also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, and Vine to see even more of our interesting science and ocean information. Feel free to leave comments, questions, or share our blog with others. Please visit www.cimi.org for additional information. Happy Reading!