By Christopher Nyerges
Timothy Hall, a former Highland Park resident who has worked globally to plant trees and find underground water, recently gave the Sunday lecture at WTI, a community service nonprofit in Highland Park.
Hall’s topic was the life and work of Stephan Riess, a Bavarian-born mining engineer who came to the United States in 1923 and became a pioneer and maverick in the study of water, specifically, the source of water. Hall, a board member of WTI, had the good fortune to meet Riess in 1982 and apprenticed with him until Reiss’ death in 1985.
Hall began his presentation by describing the prevailing “surface water” theory of the hydrological cycle which holds that the amount of water on earth is finite and constantly recycled through evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. The water from rain descends to the lowest level with rivers flowing into lakes and streams.
Reiss was convinced that the surface-water theory was incomplete, in part because during mining activity, large volumes of water were often encountered at the top of a mountain range, suggesting a water source other than runoff or ground water.
This observation led Riess to the lifelong study of “rock fissure aquifers.” Unlike conventional ground water wells, which contain surface water that has permeated sand and gravel, rock fissure aquifers are virtually limitless “sources of pure, potable water flowing through the fissures of the otherwise solid and impermeable rocks,” Riess wrote in 1959.
“Primary water” is the term used today to talk about water that is not part of the hydrological cycle, but rather forms deep within the earth and flows through impermeable rocks. Riess did not coin the term, but he spent his adult life proving its existence and drilling for it.
In his lecture, Hall reviewed the science on primary water, including the work of Steve Jacobsen, a geophysicist at Northwestern University.
Hall also reviewed the two main proofs of the existence of primary water. One is the volume of water that has been found in numerous drillings in areas where the hydrological cycle is too low to account for such plentiful water.
Another proof involves testing water for tritium, an isotope of hydrogen found in surface water. When water is tested and there is no tritium, it is assumed to be primary water, said Hall.
Shortly before his death in 1985, Riess was nominated by Christopher Bird, co-author of “The Secret Life of Plants,” for The Right Livelihood Award, established in 1980 when the Nobel Prize committee declined to establish a prize in environmental science and protection. Unfortunately, Riess died before the selection jury gave full consideration. The book, “New Water for a Thirsty World,” by Michael Salzman, is dedicated to Riess. WTI honored Riess for his life work in 1985.
Hall closed his lecture by explaining that drilling for water is a costly proposition that government entities are hard pressed to fund: At one point, Hall formed a company to locate primary water but was unable to get government contracts to drill for that water.
The day may come when primary water is more easily accessed, but for now, Hall recommends that people, especially in dry regions, treat water as a precious commodity that must be conserved and recycled.
To learn more, see www.primarywaterinstitute.org.
Christopher Nyerges is an educator, author, and journalist. His web site is www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.