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Water Barely Retained


  The weather in August is turbulent on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The swirling of heavy clouds hintsthat rain is on its way.

  Before it comes, Lhamo Damdru must move thecow dung drying in front of his tent to a safer place. It isthe family’s only fuel. Although rain causes extra stressat home, frequent precipitation nourishes the grassland,enriches water resources of the wetland, and favors herdingin general.

  Rainfall is the simplest way to provide water forwetlands on the plateau. After rainfall, the river byFlower Lake swells, where Sonam, Lhamo Damdru’sdaughter, fetches water for her family. The family of tenexhausts a 40-kilogram tank of water in a couple of days.Herdsmen of Zogye County, Aba Prefecture, SichuanProvince, have imbibed water from the wetlandsfor generations. However, they have been botheredrecently by decreasing supply.

  Yu Sigang, deputy magistrate of Zogye, explainsthe respective rainfall retention situations of yesterdayand today. Historically, several days of rainfall could besaved in lakes, ponds, and rivers for one to three months.Today, however, two or three days of rain will only survivefor several days or a week at most. For many years,the county has seen steady rainfall, which has not beenretained. Locals assumed the grass was to blame.

  Qinghai-Tibet Plateau possesses the youngest soilon China’s mainland. Millions of years of weatheringhave left the soil only 20 centimeters deep. As timepasses, countless creatures live and die, making thesoil fertile enough to nourish grass. Most of the grassis buried into the earth and the roots are responsible forreinforcing the soil and retaining water.

  As the temperature rises early in the morning, wateron the surface begins to evaporate and forms dew onplants. The dewdrops accumulate slowly and patientlysend water underground before the sun rises high in thesky. This is an extremely important method for storingwater resources on the plateau. It is through such persistentgathering that the wetland can rid itself of relianceon monsoons because water can be more evenly transportedthrough the river, which is estimated to have totalmoisture storage capacity of 700 billion cubic meters.

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