03.04.14Alan Harris

10 Important Reasons Water is Better than Helium

Water Ballons by Urbanicsgroup
Water balloons make much better tools for fun in the sun!
Photo Courtesy of Urbanicsgroup

Even though Helium won an Oscar in 2014, water is still better.

Some readers may wonder about the source of inspiration for this post. I read Flipboard on my iPad almost every night. I have several boards about water and several on business. One night while reading Forbes, an article about helium caught my attention.

As I read the article I found myself mentally comparing helium with water. Balloons quickly popped in my head and seven more ideas followed. Irrigation and smart controllers were a bit of a stretch, but I weave those words into as many conversations as I can…sometimes twice. 

 Is it really important that water is better than helium? Probably not. After all helium is an element while water is a molecule. However, we are running out of one of them. As to which one, the answer may surprise you. 

10 Reasons Why Water is Better than Helium

1.  Balloon Fights

Let’s face it. You can’t have a proper balloon fight with helium balloons.

2.  Inhaling

You aren’t tempted to inhale water like you are tempted to inhale helium so you can sound like Mickey Mouse. Please don’t try to inhale water. It will only make you cough and sputter.

3.  Skating

You can ice skate on frozen water…not so much on helium which at absolute zero is still in liquid form.

4.  Storage

Water is easily kept in a rain barrel, cistern, pond, lake, etc. instead of metal industrial tanks. Water can also be left free to roam in creeks, streams and rivers.

5.  Leaks are easier to detect

Water leaks can usually be seen or detected though sometimes they may appear in the form of a car swallowing sink hole, algae growing on pavement or an unusually high water bill. Helium leaks can’t be seen.

6.  Recycle

All water is used again whether recycled by man or nature. A Helium Recovery System to capture, recycle, and purify 15 L per day of helium can cost over $100,000. However, the equipment the helium cools can cost 5 to 16 times as much as the recovery unit.

7.  Irrigation

While helium is used to cool sensitive laboratory equipment it can’t be used to quench a plant’s thirst.

8.  Smart controllers

Even the most advanced irrigation smart controller doesn’t need helium to be cooled.

9.  Heavier than air

This one really is important. Water evaporates and rises up in the atmosphere where it cools and comes back to the earth’s surface in the form of rain, sleet, hail or snow. Helium is lighter than air and is one of the few elements that goes up, up and away into space. The earth’s atmosphere does not hold helium.

10. Won’t run out

While earth’s supply of water is finite, we will not run out of water…globally. In Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California the story of enough water is a different story. Helium on the other hand is anticipated to effectively run out in 30-40 years depending on the source. New helium is created naturally, but at a very, very, very slow rate.

 The Good News and Bad News About Helium

•  Good News – the federal government supplies about 42% of the helium in the United Sates.
•  Bad News – helium is expensive to store and the federal government was scheduled to get out of the business by 2015.
•  Good News – The Helium Stewardship Act of 2013 kept the federal government in the helium business for the time being.
•  Bad News – The price of helium increased 13% from last year reflecting a change in methodology designed to more closely match market forces and encourage industry conservation. Using price increases to promote conservation…sound familiar?

Why Did the Federal Government Get into the Helium Business?

A federal helium program was created in 1925 to ensure helium would be available to the government for defense needs. We needed to make sure there was enough helium to float the zeppelin air ships. As decades passed the program evolved to supply the government with refined helium for research and aerospace uses.

How Will the Federal Government Get Out of the Helium Business?

The new law establishes an auction system for the sale of federally owned helium stored in the Federal Helium Reserve, and mandates all property, equipment and interest held by the United States in the reserve be disposed of by September 30, 2021. Prices are expected to increase each year as the reserves are drawn down. Prices steadily increasing…sound familiar?

If you liked this post about why water is better than helium please leave a comment, share it with a friend, check out my previous posts , follow me on Twitter @h2oMatters and check out water stories I am reading on Flipboard:





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Alan Harris

Alan Harris is a water management pioneer. With roots in landscape architecture, Alan has worked with irrigation throughout his career experimenting with hydrozones and a variety of high efficiency irrigation systems. Now, over thirty years in the landscape industry, Alan continues to stay apprised of the latest technology even in a sales leadership capacity as our Director of Sales Operations and Regional Sales Leader for our landscape maintenance division. In addition to his contributions to this blog, Alan keeps his hand in water management as a regular contributor to Lawn & Landscape Magazine.


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