A rainy spring speaks with many voices. Dripping gutters plink like banjos. Sleet makes a ticking sound on the windows. A hard rain, the kind folks call a “gullywasher” or a “frog-strangler,” is so loud that you might have to shout to be heard over it, even without thunder. But a soft rain, the kind that’s slow and steady and good for the garden, murmurs like a lullaby.
On average, an inch of rain that falls evenly on 1 acre drops about 113 tons of water—more than 27,000 gallons. Add it all up, and that’s enough, in an average year, to cover the 48 contiguous states with 30 inches of water, if it stood still.
But it doesn’t. In North America, 70 percent of this water goes back into the atmosphere through evaporation and transpiration. The remainder seeps underground or runs downhill into waterways, creating an average stream flow of 1,200 billion gallons per day.
Those are the other voices, from the whisper of a tiny rivulet that you have to bend over to hear to the whitewater roar of a river bursting over its banks. Where we live, on the eastern flank of a mountain, the streams are the first thing we hear when we wake up after a rainy night—not a single melody, but an oratorio.