Onsen-inspired ‘water walls’ can heat and cool homes, Hungarian inventor says | The Japan Times

There were quite a few interesting hot springs news stories this week and this is the first one I chose to highlight.  It shows how helpful hot springs can be to creativity and innovation!

Matyas GutaiMatyas Gutai got his inspiration for a new way to build walls in 2003 as he stepped in to a “rotenburo” (open-air hot springs) while he was in Japan studying sustainable architecture at the University of Tokyo.  His patented modern walls flow water to supply heat to the home combined with a geothermal pump that stores energy in the off season.  For the full story, click here: Onsen-inspired ‘water walls’ can heat and cool homes, Hungarian inventor says | The Japan Times.

Dancing Hot & Cold

The big news in the hot springs world this week was a 4.8 earthquake near Tofino, BC.  After the earthquake, the hot springs in Maquinna Provincial Park ran cold.  It was a reminder of the intricate dance between water and earth that is needed to make a hot spring.

How does this dance happen?  First, there is an aquifer – an underground body of water.  The aquifer’s partner is the crust of the earth.  The aquifer flows gracefully between layers of impermeable rock, percolates through layers of permeable rock, descends into the depths then bubbles back up again, to emerge at the surface touched by memories of its encounter with earth.  The perfume of sulfur or calcium tells the story of this dance; it is the perfume of the stone through which the aquifer has ventured.  If the water has descended far enough, it will be warmed.  If there is magma nearby, the water may be so hot it emerges as a geyser of boiling steam.  Where the stone holds iron, spring water may be red. Where the stone holds gases, spring water may emerge giddy from its dance, all fizzy and sparkling.


Open source from USGS http://earthquake.usgs.gov/learn/glossary/?term=subduction via wikimedia commons

So what happened in Hot Springs Cove, BC?  Maquinna’s springs are on a major fault line within the Cascadia subduction zone.  Surface water descends to a depth of 5 km where it is heated before returning to the surface to emerge at about 50C (122F).  The epicentre of  January 7th’s earthquake was about 24 km below the surface, about 20 km away from the springs.

But enough of dry geology.  What about the dance?  In this case, the dance took up again after a brief intermission and the hot springs are returning to normal.  But I see this as a reminder that all life is but a dance and we never know what interruptions tomorrow may bring.  So for today, find a hot spring, enjoy it, and spend time dancing with those you love.  Tomorrow is another day, another dance.

To learn more about the Maquinna hot springs, see Outdoors with Juan.  He’s even got a VIDEO posted at the end of his review!  http://www.owj.ca/hot-springs/2006-04-02-cove/cove.html