Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Water Bears at Hastings!
Never heard of a water bear? Well, they are very small, and very, very peculiar animals. Dr. Carl Johansson, from Fresno City College, spent some time at Hastings in late May, collecting water bears. Carl and crew have that rare sense of appreciation for these tiny "water bears". They are distinct enough to have earned placement by some in their own Phylum. How so? They require a good dissecting microscope to see, appear to be related to arthropods, are cute as buttons, but can be dried out entirely and not die. This "cryptobiotic state" allows them to get through the dry California summers. During the winters, they bob around in mosses, under lichens and in cracks of rocks, shingles, and detritus. They are clumsy, creep awkwardly and their muscles are made of only one or a few cells. They bound around, putting food in a mouth where it enters a relatively typical invertebrate gut. Muscles are connected to an exoskeleton (dark lines in the sketch). They twitch the muscles that are attached to plates in their exoskeletons. They can bend and move their feet awkwardly. Some can live in salt water, but most need fresh water, or at least damp lichen. They have no lungs or gills; they must get oxygen through their skin. They make eggs that are often used by experts to identify different species. Most species lay 2-6 eggs. A pile of tardigrade eggs would be a small nest indeed. Dr. Johansson kindly provided a photo of California tardigrade, Hypsibius oberhaeuseri, which is shown as a photo through a microscope (below). You never know; these little guys could be bouncing all over that lichen growing on your roof!

Water Dissappears
We know we had 30,000 gal. of water in the storage tanks on June 5 at night and the next morning, it was gone. Headquarters was out of water. No cold showers, in fact, no showers at all. Jaime, Eric and I wandered around, walking the pipelines and eventually found enough valves to shut off by the Lower Barn to see the tanks start to fill. It was not until June 11 until Jaime and I walked into a huge pit down by the Hastings well. Hidden by tall weeds, none of which were green, we set up the backhoe and dug down to the 1930's pipe. Although we replaced most of this 1930's-era pipe about 15 years ago, this means we discovered our pipe maps were wrong. This pipe was obviously live. We followed it back towards the well. Both at the break and as far as we went, the 2" steel pipe was so rusted that just grasping it firmly would punch a hole. It had to be replaced.
So, we worked with the fine folks at the Berkeley campus in Physical Plant and we arranged a contract with Maggiora Bros. from Watsonville. On July 9 they started work (photos). This may take a while. Huge stones and boulders were found by the entry gate to the Lower Barn. But, that was all and the trenching has gone smoothly since they broke a chain on those rocks.
This will finally replace all the original Hastings pipes and we now have an accurate map of all the junctions, valves and pipes. We are doing this work with a desing to accomodate the future (hope!) funding that will allow us to start using the Arnold Spring again. This spring stopped in 1989 at the Loma Prieta earthquake. We switched entirely to the well, but the spring is back on. If we can refurbishg the other 2.1 miles of pipe, we could stop pumping. But for now, we have to fix the lines from the Hastings well to the Lower Barn.