Water and Man

Small WaterfallWater at Your Service

We all know that life on Earth depends on water. That substance, so common but so precious. No access to water in less than a week means almost certain death. We just can’t survive without it.

But we’ve also put water to work, over the years and here we present some of those services that water has provided.

Rivers

By placing a water wheel into a river with specially shaped fins. You could use the river’s current to turn the wheel. And this could be used to do real work. The most common use was to mill wheat and other cereal crops. But it could also be used to operate some machinery.

It’s main problem as a source of power was that the flow of the river was seasonal and couldn’t always be relied upon.

Canal in Spring TimeCanals

Before the railways, the transport of goods, inland was slow and required a lot of horses and mules to do all the work. However around the coast, ships were used. these were very efficient by comparison.

Rivers would have been ideal had they been perfectly flat, with no rapids and no shallows. In early Europe they began to build the perfect river, they called them canals. They were level and could be used to transport goods much more efficiently using barges. And in the early days these were pulled by horses, which increased the horses’ ability to pull larger loads.

Steam LocomotiveSteam

At the start of the industrial revolution in Britain, the main driving force was that mankind had learnt to harness the power of steam. You just had to boil water until it turned into steam, keep boiling water and you got more steam. The important point here is that steam occupies more space than the same amount of water and as more water turns to steam you get an increase in pressure.

The breakthrough was to realize that that steam pressure could be put to work, to move things like turbines and locomotives. Suddenly there were factories and railways connecting all parts of the country faster than ever before. And it was all made possible by water. The Age of Steam

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