Local youth wins second place in district speech contest

Submitted

Jonathan Knapp of rural Bern won second place in the statewide Conservation District Speech Contest held in Seneca in November.

Knapp won first place in the Nemaha County Conservation District Speech competition held in mid-October, due to him being the only contestant. In early November, he competed in the district competition against one other student near Holton, and got the distinct honor of second place.

Knapp is 15 years old and homeschooled. He entered the competition to get practice in public speaking.

“The most challenging aspect of the speech was writing it in such a way that it would be interesting to listen to, as opposed to just giving a list of facts,” Knapp said.

According to Knapp, the speech topics rotate every year, and are related to agricultural conservation. The 2019 topic was “Watersheds, Our Water, Our Home.”

Watershed Speech

It has been said that a fish doesn’t know it’s wet until you take it out of water. We could say the same thing about watersheds. We might not know their importance until they were compromised. So what is a watershed, anyway? A watershed is a piece of ground that water can run over or through. They are often bowl-shaped, meaning that all of the water in a particular watershed flows down to the same destination. It can be as small as a teacup or bigger than the Nemaha Valley.

To understand the value of our watersheds we must understand the value of water. We humans are around 93 percent water as newborn babies and our bodies need clean water every day to make fresh blood. This blood supplies our tissues with nutrition, oxygen and infection-fighting T-cells. We need water to keep up our blood volume and thus our blood pressure.

Water is necessary for regulating body temperature, lubricating joints, shock absorption, excretion, and helping flush out toxins through urine, sweat and tears. Water maintains the structure of the plant cell wall, carries nutrients and is part of respiration. Plants are essential to insects, fish and animals, and people need all of these things.

We use water for drinking, cooking, bathing, arts, sports, hydro-electricity, medicine, and even unusual things like cutting metal. I’m gushing over water, but we’ve literally tapped a well of its uses and there’s a flood of information to discuss! All of this flowing, running, springing, spouting, gurgling water covers around three-fourths of the earth. However, only one percent of that isn’t salty. That one percent rushes, trickles or drains right through our watersheds. These watersheds conduct zillions of water molecules to the grand water stores of the earth.

Imagine that you are a water molecule. You were located in an average size 50-ton cloud until a few seconds ago when you began your journey down to planet earth. As you are descending you contemplate whether you’ll take the form of snow, sleet, hail, mist or rain by the time you arrive at the watershed awaiting you. You are made of exactly two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. (Water is nothing more and nothing less. If just one Hydrogen atom was added to you, you’d become H2O2 – hydrogen peroxide. ) That’s precision technology!

By now you may be feeling pretty proud of yourself – you can do all kinds of things! You’re also an antique! You were there on day one of creation, and no matter how you are used you are always recycled, often through watersheds. You may have dripped down the Red Rock Canyon in Oklahoma, trickled down the Blue Ridge Mountains and evapo-transpired from the GREEN leaves of many trees. You may have rushed through the gills of a megalodon, been guzzled by Adam and Eve or carried by blood through the heart of a T-Rex. IF you were a molecule of water you might have done all of the things.

After the T-Rex cycled the water through its body, the water could have filtered down to groundwater storage and slowly made its way to the ocean. From there it would have evaporated up, leaving the salt and minerals behind, and entered a cloud form as clean water again. Or, it could have taken the recharge route from the T-Rex and filtered through layers of soil and rock in a watershed to an underground stream called the groundwater flow.

The water could have been sucked up to ground level again by a bubbling spring, or seeped up to a lake in the flats, or been drawn up through the roots of a tree and pumped into the juicy fruit it produced. A person might have devoured the fruit and utilized the water the same way the T-Rex did. If the water seeped up to a pond, lake or stream, it could have been evaporated as a gas into the atmosphere and condensed into a liquid and then precipitated as snow or hail. It could melt and run down a shed to a stream or be sublimated back up to a cloud to precipitate another way.

There are 2,267 watersheds in the U.S., and I counted 30 watershed districts in the 23 counties represented here today. Here are a few sheds – Wolf Creek, Pony Creek, Frog Creek, and Lyons Creek and I live in the Turkey Creek. These names remind us of the wildlife our watersheds preserve.

Wildlife, plants, and (most importantly) people are all terrific reasons for us to take care of the land in our watershed. This requires thoughtfulness of others in the same watershed. Water travels and can take trash, brush and dirt with it. Careful consideration of composting sites, controlled burning, and debris management help keep us from compromised watersheds.

In working against erosion of our soil we can keep up our farm ponds and terraces. We can also plant grass, trees and cover crops as well as buffer and filter strips to help hold the soil in place. These strips also protect water bodies from pollutants such as sediment, nutrients and organic matter. We can leave grass clippings after we mow which not only conserves water but also provides nutrients for the soil. Composting does the same thing.

Doing these things helps slow and direct water flow which keeps it from cutting ruts in mine or someone else’s land. It prevents erosion and keeps our sheds cleaner. Additionally, we can work to keep pollutants from daily living out of our water drains. It is amazing how clean water can become after traveling through layers upon layers of rock and soil. Natural filters don’t always eliminate toxins, such as nitrates, though, so it is important for us to consider the placement of our sewage drain-offs and lagoons. Being purposeful in these practices is loving my neighbor.

In seeking to protect our watersheds from harmful chemicals, toxins and pollutants we must also be very careful to keep in line with our Constitution. In the first, third, fourth and fifth articles, and in the third, fourth, fifth and eighth amendments, personal property rights are strongly upheld. If we are going to make laws about watersheds they had best be in harmony with our Constitution which protects our people, who protect our watersheds.

There is so much we can learn about water, and the way it travels through watersheds and recycles over and over around the world. Watersheds are one more drop in the bucket towards the conservation of water. And, by learning and applying so much about them we don’t have to wait until they’re compromised to appreciate them.

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