A Fountain in the Desert: Heritage and Water Wrangling on Colorado’s Western Slope | Jeffrey Widener

Posted on by admin1963 Posted in Fall 2015, Policies | Comments Off on A Fountain in the Desert: Heritage and Water Wrangling on Colorado’s Western Slope | Jeffrey Widener
Figure 1. Aspinall’s dry memorial at Veteran’s Memorial Park in Palisade, CO, August 2012.

Figure 1. Aspinall’s dry memorial at Veteran’s Memorial Park in Palisade, CO, August 2012.

Geographers embrace cultural landscapes as frames for understanding how humans treat places. How we make sense, then, of the ideas behind the creation, conflicts, and emotions imbued in the cultural landscape requires a variety of sources of information—firsthand observation, archives, oral interviews, and primary and secondary resources—to help us form our understanding. There is, in fact, really nothing better than a landscape that piques curiosity, prompting ideas for further study. In the tiny town of Palisade, Colorado, a water fountain honoring former US Congressman Wayne Aspinall represents more than just Aspinall’s legacy in water politics, it represents a larger theme of land and life in the American West.

A few blocks south of Palisade’s tiny downtown district is Veteran’s Memorial Park. In its southeast corner is a bust of native son Congressman Wayne Aspinall. His face looks out toward the Grand Mesa, which has one of the watersheds from which the valley gets its water (Fig. 1).

Aspinall’s bust is part of a water feature that honors his contribution to water conservation on Colorado’s Western Slope. The “Palisade Peach” was a significant player in the water history of the region, making sure that during his tenure in Washington, D.C., that his home region received its fair share of the water that flowed toward the Pacific. Aspinall’s legacy in water conservation makes sense as to why town members honored Aspinall with a water fountain. His words, “In the West, when you touch water, you touch everything,” are engraved in stone.

When I first saw Aspinall’s memorial in August 2012, however, it was dry. The region had been in a drought since 1999. Grand Junction and Palisade city leaders have worked to conserve water in this arid region for sometime, and some residents have tried conserving water as well (Figure 2). And in the early 2010s, the Bureau of Land Management began approving leases that allow oil and gas companies to drill on Grand Mesa.[1]

Perhaps, these were good symbolic reasons for having a dry fountain? It turned out that the fountain was out-of-order, and water returned to it sometime later. Still, that dry fountain represented for me the paradox that exists in the American West. Your eyes tell you that humans have made it appear to have plenty of water, but most of it is in fact quite dry.

Figure 2. Location map for Colorado’s Grand Valley.

Figure 2. Location map for Colorado’s Grand Valley.

Some Water Background

For nearly a century, 80 percent of Colorado’s population has lived on the Front Range (Figure 3). In contrast, 80 percent of the state’s precipitation falls in the higher elevations on the Western Slope and that water naturally flows toward the Pacific (Figure 4).[2] By 2004, however, it could be said that when “someone in Denver drinks a glass of water, 55 percent of the water in that glass comes from the westward flowing Colorado River.”[3]

Figure 3. Colorado’s 2010 Population Distribution.

Figure 3. Colorado’s 2010 Population Distribution.

Figure 4. Precipitation in Colorado, 1981-2010.

Figure 4. Precipitation in Colorado, 1981-2010.

Water use for agriculture gets more attention. Eighty percent of all water in Colorado goes toward agricultural. This statistic gets used repeatedly by environmentalists and urban planners, but it is a number that farmers in the valley would argue against. Farmers claim that agriculture may use, or is guaranteed 80 percent of the water in the state, but agriculture does not consume all of that 80 percent.[4] In the Grand Valley, for instance, farmers reported that a large percentage of the water they use runs off their land and returns to a canal or to the river, proceeding to move downstream for Lower Basin use.[5]

More efficient water-conveying technologies and more effective watering schedules have enabled some Grand Valley farmers to leave more water in the canals and in the rivers (Figure 5).[6] A changing national and regional economy, however, that is based more on services and specialized production than on agriculture, filters over into the ideas of how water should be allocated. People in the valley, for example, are using water that used to go to farmland for their lawns and for recreational activities on reservoirs and in rivers.

Figure 5. Localized, micro-jet irrigation enables farmers to consume and use less water.

Figure 5. Localized, micro-jet irrigation enables farmers to consume and use less water.

Conservation of American West water resources in order to sustain agriculture, industry, and, metropolitan growth were formidable goals of the Bureau of Reclamation and its projects. Projects designed to help struggling farmers get water to their fields during the Dust Bowl era droughts and to provide jobs to those impacted by the Great Depression spun so many pipes and tunnels that the network looks like a spider’s web.[7] Since the Great Depression, Western Slope access to Colorado River water has suffered setbacks as conservationists looked to manage water efficiently so as to not “waste” resources for the sake of progress.[8]

During the 1930s, a prolonged drought resulted in large-scale diversions from the Western Slope to the Front Range. In 1934, the Northern Colorado Water Users Association organized to lobby, often successfully, state and federal leaders to fund projects that would divert water over the Continental Divide. In 1937, Congress approved the building of Green Mountain Reservoir in Summit County and the Colorado-Big Thompson Project—the latter completed after WWII.[9] The growth that occurred in the American West after WWII led to other reclamation projects such as the Colorado River Storage Project, which took more water away from the Western Slope.[10]

Ideas about strategically using and specifically securing every drop of water for consumptive and/or beneficial use are still ongoing in this arid to semiarid region, in spite of the Colorado River basin region’s current status as being in the midst of one of the worst (circa 2015), if not the worst, droughts ever recorded. Essentially, a Colorado drought is not the same as a Midwestern drought; as a Daily Sentinel writer stated it: “A better definition of drought for Colorado might read: A period of insufficient snowpack and reservoir storage to provide adequate water to urban and rural areas.”[11] Especially dry years invite new ideas.

Water disputes arise constantly. Laws are perpetually changing, and no one knows what Mother Nature will do from year-to-year. Some years, local American West newspapers are heavy with columns commenting on proposed bills and studies, amendments and filibusters, and water checks and rations. Government committees and subcommittees battle it out, while conservation districts across the West butt heads with progressive state and local governments seeking to grow their populations and their industries—channeling the water here while impacting people and places there.

Water in a Colorado Drought

During the late 1970s, the nation was able to see how efficient the reclamation projects in the American West were. Specifically, in 1977, the worst drought in the region since the Dust Bowl era was made even worse because too many people were tapping into the short supply of water. By mid-August of that year, Grand Valley Project managers had to issue a 1908 call on the Colorado River—“all diversions with priority dates after 1908” were shut down, which included diversions “from both the Colorado River main stem above the project’s roller diversion dam in De Beque Canyon and from tributaries above there.” The Daily Sentinel unfurled the incredible give-and-take complexity of the situation:

Denver may continue…to store inflow of water to Dillon Reservoir and to make diversions from the Blue, Williams, Ford, and Fraser Rivers if an amount of water equal to the flows of those streams is released from Williams Fork Reservoir on the Williams Fork River. The Colorado-Big Thompson project may continue to store or divert flows of the Colorado River above Lake Granby and Willow Creek, provided the Bureau of Reclamation releases an equal amount from Green Mountain Reservoir… John Savage of Grand Valley asked why his junior pump on the Colorado River was shut off when there is water in Green Mountain Reservoir. The only answer The Sentinel could run down was that by placing the call on the river, the Grand Valley Project shifted to the junior appropriators the task of requesting releases… Colorado Springs, Aurora, Pueblo, Colorado Fuel and Iron Co. and other transmountain diverters that do not have reservoirs for release of replacement water have been shut off. The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project quit making diversions through the Charles Boustead Tunnel in the middle of June, when water in the Fryingpan River and tributaries dropped down to minimum amounts of water which must be left in streams under operating principles for the project… Some water does double duty at Vineland. It either generates electricity at the project hydro-electric plant or runs hydraulic turbines that provide power to run pumps lifting water to the Orchard Mesa and goes back into the Colorado River through a canal to a point above the diversion dam of the Grand Valley Irrigation Co. This process is called checking-back. Gates across the tailrace of the power and pumping plant divert the water into the canal taking the water upstream. Because Plateau Creek flows into the Colorado River below the roller dam, the water users in the Plateau Valley were not affected by the call. Ute Water Conservancy District, however, is prepared to replace water being diverted from Plateau Creek by water purchased from Ruedi Reservoir through the Colorado River Water Conservation District. The Redlands Water and Power Co., which diverts water from the Gunnison River in the canyon south of Grand Junction, placed a call on the Gunnison River earlier this summer. Redlands is using what water is available to generate as much power as possible and is buying power from the Public Service Co. of Colorado to lift 70 feet of water to four canals on the Redlands. The Denver Board of Water Commissioners has refused to release 28,662 acre-feet of water stored this year in Dillon Reservoir which the Colorado River Water Conservation District argues must be allowed to flow down the Blue River into Green Mountain Reservoir under terms of 1955 and 1965 stipulations and decrees. A hearing will be held in Federal District Court in Denver Aug. 19 and 20 on the motion of the river district to require Denver to comply with the decrees and release the water.[12]

The 1908 call that occurred in 1977 limited the Front Range’s use of Colorado River water, initiating proposals for securing more water that have not stopped coming.[13] Residents on the Western Slope have learned some things—particularly that they needed to pay attention to the water flowing downstream that they did not use but that Lower Basin states were able to use without paying for it.[14] Despite the Western Slope’s senior rights to the Colorado River, water managers became exasperated because there is no set division between the Front Range and the Western Slope of the state’s 3.9 million acre-feet share of the water as established by the 1948 Upper Colorado River Commission. The only thing in place, dating from over 100 years ago, is that many Western Slope places tied to the Colorado River, such as the Grand Valley, have senior water rights that stipulate set amounts of water they are entitled to, thus enabling river districts to place calls on the Colorado River. Western Slopers are worried about these rights, given that their representation in the political arena, sans Aspinall, has been weakened and that there are no plans for reining in population growth projected to occur on the Front Range (Figure 6).[15]

Figure 6. Aspinall’s fountain symbolizing conjunctive water use in the American West.

Droughts and Ideas Continue

Droughts continue to be a catalyst for change. The year 2002 was pivotal for Colorado and was significant for the Front Range because this region was in one of its worst droughts on record.[16] That year marked the second driest year for the state over the past 40 years (1977 was number one), leading all Colorado River basin states to begin taking water conservation measures.[17]

In December 2002, Colorado’s government passed Senate Bill 156. [18] This bill allows the owners of water rights to apply through the water courts to gain instream flow rights, with more options for what is considered to be consumptive/beneficial use of water. For example, water in streams, rivers, and lakes could be “used” and maintained for recreational purposes, for the enhancement of picturesque landscapes, and for sustaining fish, wildlife, and other ecosystem-related functions.[19] The bill also helped change the idea that “if you don’t use it, you lose it,” to one that encourages conservation.[20] A Trout Unlimited representative stated that SB 156 gave “Colorado a powerful new tool to improve the health of its rivers, which is good for the fish, for the anglers,” and for other elements associated with the New West economy.[21] The framers of the bill formed it on the idea of conservation easements or land trusts, in which landowners capitulated development rights of their properties in exchange for tax benefits and for the sentiment of helping protect the environment.[22] Not everyone was on board with the proposal, including farmers and even some environmental groups.[23] The 2012 drought marks the third worst drought year reported in Colorado. The wetter 2011 did keep water storage facilities in better conditions to handle the water shortage, but 2012 reminded Grand Valley residents of water flux.[24]

By 2050, Colorado will likely have a 1.5 million acre foot shortfall because its population will probably double. Grandiose ideas exist for how to deal with the water side but not for controlling population growth.[25] For example, the Colorado Aqueduct Return Project, better known as the Big Straw Project, conceived by Ralph E. “Butch” Clark, an environmental planner from Gunnison, would move water from the Colorado and Utah borders into the Colorado River basin for Western Slope communities.[26] The idea of piping in water from the Midwest comes up occasionally.[27] An $11.2 billion project proposal surfaced in 2012 to build a 670-mile-long pipeline to ship water west from the Missouri River. An article from Oklahoma’s Tulsa World warned that “Any plan for diverting significant amounts of water from the Missouri would encounter opposition…in the Midwest given [its own] drought and competition for water resources.”[28]

A number of other issues affecting the Western Slope’s access to Colorado River water exist. These include the decades-long salinity issues and efforts by the Bureau of Reclamation to lower salt levels in water flowing to Lower Basin states and into Mexico.[29] As well, a group was working at one point to raise awareness about arsenic levels in the drinking water, often a problem where mining and agricultural activities take place.[30] Oil shale and gas development will continue to haunt water supplies in this region, too.

Even though Front Range communities and Lower Basin communities are making improvements to use water more efficiently, those enhancements only masquerade the larger issue of uncontrolled growth and consumption in the American West. This, in fact, makes it extremely hard for farmers and agricultural regions to survive when there is no water. While every drop of water in the Colorado has been accounted for—for a fountain that commemorates heritage to a local community, a car wash, a fish ladder, a house, a golf course, or for an orchard—not every drop has to be consumed. Indeed, the cultural landscape in the American West mirrors important clues to how we value this precious resource. More care, however, could be taken to sustain its permanence in this arid region.


Jeffrey M. Widener is the GIS Librarian and an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. Jeffrey is a cultural and historical geographer with varied research interests—including conservation, cultural landscape change, place attachment, geography education, and the digital humanities. This paper stems from a chapter of his dissertation entitled “Holding True: Agriculture in Colorado’s Upper Grand Valley,” a study that explores how farmers in this small irrigated corner of the American West survive as the world around them develops at a furious rate. He can be reached at jwidener@ou.edu.


[1] Marija B. Vader, “GJ Council Unveils New Plan for Watershed,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), June 5, 2003; Mike McKibbin, “‘Don’t Drill in Watersheds,’” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), March 6, 2006; Sally Spaulding, “Trust U.S. with Water, City’s Told,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), March 13, 2006; Mike McKibbin, “Residents Flood BLM with Water Worries,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), March 16, 2006; Mike McKibbin, “State, Fed Agencies’ Help Sought on Watershed Worries,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), April 27, 2006; Sally Spaulding, “Protests over Grand Mesa Leases Yet to Be Resolved,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), April 27, 2006; Mike Wiggins, “Watershed Ordinance Approved,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), September 7, 2006.

[2] Chris P. Jouflas, “Water-Wise: Time Has Come for Formulating Statewide Compact,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), May 11, 1986.

[3] Josh Nichols, “Local Group Gets Look at Issues Upstream,” Grand Junction Free Press (Colorado), June 29, 2004.

[4] Trout Unlimited boosted the percentage to 90. See: Trout Unlimited Colorado Water Project, A Dry Legacy 2: Progress and New Threats in a Drought Year (Boulder: Colorado Water Project, 2003), 3; likewise, this article: Michael C. Bender, “Owens to Push for Laws to Foster Water Projects,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), December 11, 2002, put the figure between 85-90 percent. 80 percent is what many Grand Valleyers I spoke to agreed on.

[5] Mark Harris, in Panel on Drought and Agriculture, “Natural Resources of the West: Water and Drought,” Colorado Mesa University Water Center Seminar Series, aired online on December 3, 2012.

[6] Heather McGregor, “Despite High-Dollar Budget, District Keeps Low Profile,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), July 14, 1996; Bruce Talbott, in Panel on Drought and Agriculture, “Natural Resources of the West: Water and Drought.”

[7] Thomas E. Cronin and Robert D. Loevy, Colorado Politics and Government: Governing the Centennial State (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993), 67-68.

[8] George Sibley, Water Wranglers: The 75-Year History of the Colorado River District: A Story about the Embattled Colorado River and the Growth of the West (Glenwood Springs: Colorado River District, 2012), 2-5, 405.

[9] Marija B. Vader, “Officials Claim Fed Agency Waters Water from W. Slope,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), January 7, 2001; Carl Abbott, Stephen J. Leonard, and Thomas J. Noel, Colorado: A History of the Centennial State, 4th edition (Boulder: University of Colorado Press, 2005), 383.

[10] George Sibley, “‘Water Wrangling’ for the West Slope,” Post Independent (Glenwood Springs, CO), October 28, 2012.

[11] The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), “Grand Valley Drought & Water Conservation,” http://www.gjcity.org/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=2147485668 (last accessed December 3, 2013).

[12] William H. Nelson, “GV Project Issues Water Call on Colorado River,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), August 16, 1977.

[13] Sibley, Water Wranglers, 312.

[14] Michael Moss, “Battling for Colorado Water: ‘Greed, Growth, Power Grabs,’” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), July 18, 1982; Bob Silbernagel, “Water Lease Plan Stirring Controversy,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), June 20, 1990; Gary Harmon, “McInnis Wants to Tighten the Faucet on California,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), January 10, 2002; Sally Spaulding, “Water Pressure: Legal Battle Looms if Drought Lingers,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), September 5, 2004.

[15] Chris P. Jouflas, “Water-Wise: Time Has Come for Formulating Statewide Compact,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), May 11, 1986; Mike McKibbin, “Growth Doesn’t Depend on Water, Board Is Told,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), January 16, 2002; Marija B. Vader, “Lawmakers Expect West Slope Water to Be Target,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), July 14, 2002; Gary Harmon, “Water Bill down Drain,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), February 28, 2004.

[16] Bruce Talbott, in Panel on Drought and Agriculture, “Natural Resources of the West: Water and Drought;” Aaron Porter, “Water Wars,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), October 14, 2002.

[17] Scott Condon, “Drought of 2012—Sign of Times?,” The Aspen Times, December 3, 2012.

[18] Gary Harmon, “Water Bill Awaiting Governor’s Signature,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), May 2, 2002.

[19] Shannon Joyce Neal, “Gov. Undecided on Senate Water Bill,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), February 19, 2002; Gary Harmon, “Walcher: It’s Time to Change Water Law,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), February 20, 2002; Gary Harmon, “Compromise May Leave More Water in Streams.” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), March 14, 2002.

[20] Gary Harmon, “Farmers, Developers Blast Water Proposal,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), April 18, 2002.

[21] “Trout Unlimited Applauds House Passage of SB 156,” April 25, 2002, http://www.tu.org/press_releases/2002/trout-unlimited-applauds-house-passage-of-sb-156 (last accessed March 28, 2013).

[22] Gary Harmon, “Compromise May Leave More Water in Streams,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), March 14, 2002.

[23] Gary Harmon, “Farmers, Developers Blast Water Proposal,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), April 18, 2002.

[24] Scott Condon, “Drought of 2012—Sign of Times?, The Aspen Times, December 3, 2012; Bruce Talbott, in Panel on Drought and Agriculture, “Natural Resources of the West: Water and Drought.”

[25] Summit Economics and The Adams Group, Water and the Colorado Economy (December 2009), http://www.summiteconomics.com/FRWP_Econ_Final_2011910.pdf (last accessed March 3, 2013), 5, 7-9; Drew Beckworth and Dan Luecke, Filling the Gap: Commonsense Solutions for Meeting Front Range Water Needs (February 2011), http://www.westernresourceadvocates.org/gap (last accessed January 13, 2013).

[26] Zack Barnett, “Water Project Would Be Big, Bring Boom to Area, Backer Says,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), March 17, 2002; Zack Barnett, “Big Straw Should Be Studied, Says River District,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), April 17, 2002; Mike McKibbin, “River District Continues Backing of Big Straw,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), October 17, 2002; Erin McIntyre, “Sizing up Big Straw: Pros, Cons of Formidable Water Project Are Discussed,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), December 11, 2002.

[27] Marija B. Vader, “Lawmakers Expect West Slope Water to Be Target,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), July 14, 2002.

[28] “Major Pipeline among Ideas for Aiding Arid West,” Tulsa World, December 11, 2012.

[29] U.S. Senator Bill Armstrong, “All Water Not Created Equal,” The Palisade Tribune (Colorado), April 8, 1982.

[30] Shannon Joyce Neal, “Group Raises Awareness of Grand Valley Arsenic Levels,” The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO), April 27, 2001.

Visualizing Post-Fire Landscapes | Peter Goin and Scott Hinton

Posted on by admin1963 Posted in Fall 2014, Policies | Comments Off on Visualizing Post-Fire Landscapes | Peter Goin and Scott Hinton
Ariel view of the Angora Fire burn area and Fallen Leaf Lake, 2011.

Ariel view of the Angora Fire burn area and Fallen Leaf Lake, 2011.

On June 24, 2007, in the vicinity of Seneca Pond, located near North Upper Truckee Road in the Angora Lakes area at Lake Tahoe, California, unnamed persons failed to supervise an illegal campfire. The result was a wind-driven firestorm punctuated by a rapid-moving crown fire. This conflagration destroyed 254 homes, caused $140 million in property damage, and scorched 3,100 acres. The fire threatened the watershed of Lake Tahoe, and the consequences remain under investigation to this day.

In 2008, Coordinator of Photographic Research Scott Hinton and I proposed a project to present a time-based, visual study of the Angora post-fire landscape development. It was partially funded by the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), Academy for the Environment, and the work on the project continues to this day. We selected ten sites in the post-fire landscape, and digitally photographing the same vantage points over a period of now multiple years, providing investigators and the general public an opportunity to assess post-fire change and development.

It is surprising how few resources are dedicated to evaluating post-fire landscapes. The visual ramifications of fire are obviously evident, yet rephotographed post-fire landscapes are rarely presented in scientific journals or within the popular media. This proposal initiates a solution—to present a visual study of post-fire development on the Angora Lake Fire. Coincidentally, it is extremely rare for visual artists to join in the investigative process of landscape management, a domain usually reserved for quantitative scientists. This project, while modest on many levels, initiates a process of including the refined visual language of the visual arts, in this case using photography, for evaluating landscape change. The underlying premise of this secondary advantage is that art does indeed matter. In my personal experience, I know from my work conducting the project Stopping Time: A Rephotographic Survey of Lake Tahoe (1992: University of New Mexico Press) that scientists are in need of a visual baseline for future analysis. I still receive multiple requests for the use of comparative views (historical and contemporary).

Our collective point is that visual analysis of post-fire landscapes is sorely needed, and there are currently no publications dedicated to skilled, professional visual-comparative views of post-fire redevelopment in the Tahoe basin. The objective of this project is to present, for the first year, a digital database of 24 rephotographs of ten sites (240 photographs). This provides both individual photographs, and a time-based merge of each site’s rephotographs. For the second year, we moved the photography schedule to once a month, from June 2009 to June 2010. Starting June 2010 we have moved the photography schedule to every other month: June, August, October, December, February, April, June. On April 11, 2014, Scott Hinton completed the 58th survey that brings the project to 580 rephotographs. The team has been compiling additional folders of images that are not of the specific sites, but detail plants, construction, water and other changes around the Angora Fire site. This allows investigators to evaluate the photographs individually, or collectively as a time sequence.

View from Echo Peak looking east and north across the burn area in 2012.

View from Echo Peak looking east and north across the burn area in 2012.

The hypothesis is visually simple; that is, the Angora Lake Fire landscape is currently undergoing considerable change, from decisive redevelopment to passive regrowth. Documenting this evolution should provide a dramatic visual analysis useful beyond the structure of the collaboration. The visual database will be made available for reputable researchers, and for any other governmental entity, and for the media and general public, and an exhibit of panels of the photographs will be prepared.

I supervised the site selection, and the digital rephotography (GPS locators). Coordinator of Photographic Research Scott Hinton supervised the fieldwork. During the first phase of the project, two Advanced Photography students from UNR, Richie Bednarski and Kathy Gordon, were employed to assist with the field photography and phase-one project assembly. This was a great opportunity for these students to gain experience in a professional environment. During subsequent years, staff members Megan Berner and Margo Jones Duevall along with students from the Research Experience for Undergraduates program (funded in part by the National Science Foundation) participated in Angora Fire rephotography as members of our fieldwork team.

Study Area

The Angora Fire Study (AFS) area covers 3,100 acres and is a mix of National Forest and private land. The visual collection points are spaced through the western portion of the Angora Fire study area. The majority of burned acreage is National Forest land, but private property, especially scorched homes, barns, and other property such as sheds and garages, accounted for the measurable financial loss.

View from Echo Peak looking east and north across the burn area in 2012.

The fire started below Angora Peak and Upper and Lower Angora Lake, burning to approximately 7,300 feet above sea level. Prevailing winds blew the fire east along Angora ridge and the north flanks of the Tahoe Paradise subdivision. The severity of the fire was exacerbated by topography, changing winds and forest condition—severely dry undergrowth, abundance of flammable material, and the proximity of housing to indefensible tree density. It is important to note that many locations in the Angora Fire landscape had been actively managed for fuel reduction, and this is evident in areas where trees survived the fire. While the winds provoked severe spreading of crown-to-crown fire, some areas were less impacted due to prior fuel reduction.

The forest composition of the Angora Fire Study area is a mixed conifer forest composed of white fir, Jeffery pine, incense cedar, California red fir, sugar pine, lodgepole pine, quaking aspen, western white pine and Mountain hemlock. The history of human/forest interaction within the Lake Tahoe Basin differs from most of the Sierra Nevada due to the heavy lumber needs of the Virginia City mines. Historical documents reveal that the entire Lake Tahoe Basin was logged and the current forest composition is largely a mixture of second and third growth trees. This is critical to the restoration of the post-fire landscape of the Angora Fire. In the late 1890s, George Gruell states in Fire in the Sierra Nevada that a fire burned up the Angora Ridge, and photographs from 1925 and 1929 document the brush revegetation of the slopes above Fallen Leaf Lake and the hillsides above Seneca Pond to the fire lookout. Heavy logging and the suppression of fires in this landscape have increased forest densities, creating hotter fires that remove the nutrients from the soil due to the severe heat. The combination of ladder fuels along with high-density housing on the edge of forestlands caused the severity of the Angora fire.

AFS Point A - Angora Fire Lookout (N38˚52’55.02” W120˚03’17.54” Elevation 7288’). Top: August 2008 Bottom: April 2014.

AFS Point A – Angora Fire Lookout (N38˚52’55.02” W120˚03’17.54” Elevation 7288’). Top: August 2008 Bottom: April 2014.

Rephotographic points

Two photographs stitched together into a panorama make up this view looking south and west from Angora Lakes Road at the fire lookout. The right side of the image contains the origins of the fire near Seneca Pond. It is possible to pick out the lush area of green surrounding the pond. Angora Creek and many of the tributaries flow around this area, creating a documented higher water table. Throughout the year, timber removal and windfall have changed the immediate tree infrastructure. The terrain below Angora Ridge is composed primarily of fir and lodgepole pine. While both species of conifers are fire resistant, both grow in thicker stands that typically burn in whole stand fires. Jeffery pine, located in the lower elevations of the Angora Fire, tends to burn in more frequent low-intensity fires.

Angora Lakes Road provided an access point to contain the fire. Fuel reduction below the ridge also helped to minimize a catastrophic full-crown fire across the entire ridge. On the left section of the photograph, stands of trees remain intact after the fire, even as wind and topography provoked high fire intensities. Between September 2009 and October 2009, two dead trees fell during heavy winds as the first major storm moved into the area. The frequency of photographs provides critical data to the changes and when these changes occur during the first year of study.

AFS Point B – Seneca Pond (N38˚51’49.92” W120˚03’04.5” Elevation 6599’). Left: August 2008 Right: April 2014.

AFS Point B – Seneca Pond (N38˚51’49.92” W120˚03’04.5” Elevation 6599’). Left: August 2008 Right: April 2014.

It was critical to include Seneca Pond for two reasons. First is proximity to the start of the fire, and second to document this important riparian habitat. Seneca Pond is now an oasis surrounded by the burn area. Today, active tree removal is clearing the forest of deadfall and also preparing the area for revegetation. To the west, stumps have been left but shredded to help with decomposition. Topography near the pond is more level but elevation change is abrupt to the west and north. The foreground image area has maintained a more uniform prefire habitat, while the background ridge contains visual data to forest composition change. The mixed conifer forest around the pond contains thick stands of Jeffery pine, lodgepole pine and white fir.


AFS Point C – 633 Zuni Lane (N38˚52’19.56” W120˚02’23.16” Elevation 6497’). Left: August 2008 Right: April 2014.

AFS Point C – 633 Zuni Lane (N38˚52’19.56” W120˚02’23.16” Elevation 6497’). Left: August 2008 Right: April 2014.

AFS Point D – 571 Cayuga Street (N38˚52’11.7” W120˚02’15.96” Elevation 6523’). Left: August 2008 Right: April 2014.

AFS Point D – 571 Cayuga Street (N38˚52’11.7” W120˚02’15.96” Elevation 6523’). Left: August 2008 Right: April 2014.

The human/wild-land interface of the Tahoe Paradise subdivision is a complex mosaic of residential housing and forestland. On the other side of the street from AFS Point C is a thick stand of lodgepole pine marked with a National Forest Service land boundary. The fire moved through this section of forest with less severity and was mainly a ground fire; d embers and the flammable housing materials created intense fires igniting the houses on the boundary of the subdivision. Subsequent studies of this fire region indicate that housing structures caused high-risk fire zones, leading to increased fire severity. AFS Point C documents the rebuilding of the houses and three surviving conifer trees in the immediate foreground. The lot where AFS Point D is located has not been rebuilt while the houses in the nearby lots have been.

Site D Notes

Tree loss is minimal over the four years. The trees that immediately surrounded the residence burned during the fire and were removed, the trees that remained did not suffer from the crown fire. The fire was intense but fuel ladders and fire defense saved a stand of Jeffery pines. Roughly 60 trees were lost at this site. Ground cover is on a steady increase, including mountain whitethorn, grasses and Jeffery pine seedlings. There has not been any construction to the lot at Site D and a marker indicates that the property is now under the ownership of the California Tahoe Conservancy.

AFS Point E – 1432 Mt. Diablo Circle (N38˚52’32.88” W120˚02’15.96” Elevation 6440’). Left: August 2008 Right: April 2014.

AFS Point E – 1432 Mt. Diablo Circle (N38˚52’32.88” W120˚02’15.96” Elevation 6440’). Left: August 2008 Right: April 2014.

AFS Point F – 1278 Mt. Diablo Circle (N38˚52’37.5” W120˚02’22.08” Elevation 6419’). Left: August 2008 Right: April 2014.

AFS Point F – 1278 Mt. Diablo Circle (N38˚52’37.5” W120˚02’22.08” Elevation 6419’). Left: August 2008 Right: April 2014.

Interviews with firefighters and eyewitnesses as well as video examination indicate that many houses ignited from burning embers produced by house fires upwind. A cycle of spotting from house to house in this area ended only when the fire ran into a buffer of trees with reduced house density to the northeast of Mt. Shasta Circle.

Setting data-collection points in Tahoe Paradise subdivision is critical to the short-term study of landscape revegetation and also to long-term landscape development. The effects of the fire were severe, as embers ignited houses in this area. AFS Point E reveals rebuilt houses, but the camera location is on a parcel that has not seen any construction. While many of the houses are being rebuilt, some land is being transferred to the California Tahoe Conservancy.

AFS Point F has not been rebuilt. On the first day of data collection, the landowner was watering the wildflowers and grasses and was trying to decide if he would rebuild. The property to the right of AFS Point F also indicates National Forest boundary markers. Trees surrounding a house in the right portion of the photograph reveal how fortunate some were as the fire moved through the area of Mt. Diablo Circle.

Site E Notes

There has not been any rebuilding at Site E. Different vehicles are parked for extended periods of time at the driveway to Site E. Some site work has occurred at Site E, most notably the placement of a partial tree trunk. Mountain whitethorn continues to increase as a ground-cover brush. There has been steady growth by an aspen tree near the center of the photograph. Growth was slowed due to a below-average snow pack in 2012.

Site F Notes

There has not been any rebuilding at Site F. There has been a steady loss of dead trees over the past four years. Many of the trees near the residence have either fallen or been removed. The tight grouping of the lodgepole pine provided unique shapes when surrounding trees fell. Active planting of wildflower seed had steadily increased over the first four years, with exception to the bottom left area that still remains void of substantial plant vegetation. Site F is unique due to the pronounced foreground, middle ground and background. The view of the ridge beyond Site F provides visual evidence to the active management of the post-fire landscape. In the middle of the photograph, the land has been cleared of dead tees.

AFS Point G – Mule Deer Circle ( N38˚52’56.88” W120˚02’26.94” Elevation 6385’). Left: August 2008 Right: April 2014.

AFS Point G – Mule Deer Circle ( N38˚52’56.88” W120˚02’26.94” Elevation 6385’). Left: August 2008 Right: April 2014.

This view is looking west and north toward Angora Peak just above the riparian area of Angora Creek. The trees had already been cut in the foreground prior to the start of the project (Spring 2009). The hydro seeding from the previous year was successful with the open land filled with blue flax. The stumps in the foreground of the photographs from 2008 indicate the size of trees that made up the forest prior to the Angora fire. A close spacing of trees that were 50 to 100 years old allowed the fire to move up the ridge as the fire moved east on the south flank of Tahoe Mountain. Timber removal has begun in the middle ground of the photograph.

The standing trees are an example of most of the forests of the Sierra Nevada region. Tight clusters of trees offer ample ladder fuel for fire expansion. Mountainous terrain adds to the volatility with dynamic transitions in fire patterns. Research by Dr. Alan Taylor, University of Pennsylvania Department of Geography (Taylor et al. 2000), suggests that both forest types (Jeffery pine forest/lodgepole pine, Fir forest) would have occurred naturally prior to early settlement in the Tahoe Basin, but were separated by elevation at roughly the 8,000-foot contour. Above 8,000 feet, low temperatures and high-moisture conditions would have only infrequently allowed ignitions to grow into large fires. Below 8,000 feet, in warmer, drier areas, frequent ignitions would have occurred and resulted in relatively lower fire intensity.

AFS Point G documents changes in forest composition, post-fire. How this forest is managed will help determine the likeliness and severity of fires in the future. If managed similar to the past 100 years, a thick forest composed of white and red fir along with lodgepole pine will regrow and allow for the thick fuel loads that have already proven catastrophic to the human/wild-land interface.

AFS Point H – Elk Point Drive (N38˚53’06.12” W120˚02’25.38” Elevation 6428’). Left: August 2008 Right: April 2014.

AFS Point H – Elk Point Drive (N38˚53’06.12” W120˚02’25.38” Elevation 6428’). Left: August 2008 Right: April 2014.

AFS Point I – Lookout Point Circle (N38˚53’48.48” W120˚01’51.9” Elevation 6583’). Left: August 2008 Right: April 2014.

AFS Point I – Lookout Point Circle (N38˚53’48.48” W120˚01’51.9” Elevation 6583’). Left: August 2008 Right: April 2014.

Post-fire landscapes are highly susceptible to water runoff and erosion. Both AFS Point H and I demonstrate landscapes that are in this transition zone. Many efforts have been enacted to help stabilize the hillside above AFS Point I, including but not limited to hydro seeding, netting and water diversion. The intensity of the fire along the ridge engulfed nearly the entire forest above AFS Point I, leaving little protection against heavy water runoff. AFS Point H documents the construction to divert the water into a channel that leads into Angora Creek. Both locations are important rephotographic sites as they offer evidence of how water runoff is managed.

Site I Notes

One of the most radical reconstructions in the study. A substantial amount of earth was moved for the rebuilding of the house. Water has continued to cause challenges due to the upland slopes’ lack of vegetation. Wattles (round straw barriers) were placed along the hillside in an effort to manage the water flow, but the house continued to have issues with water from the upland slopes. The above-average winter of 2010-2011 had water running out of the garage and ponding in the driveway. Starting at the end of 2011, substantial work was done to divert the water around the house. Current observation would prove the work was a success. No trees survived the fire in Site I. There is a continued change in the number of dead trees that are still standing. Between October 2010 and October 2011, there was a substantial amount of trees that either fell or were removed.

AFS Point J – Tahoe Mountain Road (N38˚53’48.48” W 120˚01’51.9” Elevation 6383’). Left: August 2008 Right: April 2014.

AFS Point J – Tahoe Mountain Road (N38˚53’48.48” W 120˚01’51.9” Elevation 6383’). Left: August 2008 Right: April 2014.

This point is the eastern boundary of our study area. The Angora Fire continued to burn to the east over the southern edge of Tahoe Mountain and almost to Camp Richardson. Tree removal in this area was active near the road (stands of trees were predominant, left). Noxious weeds and brush have grown from a sporadic mix about a foot high the first year to a thick covering averaging three feet high during Summer 2009. At the end of Summer 2009, seedlings had been planted in the area. These seedlings are pines and Incense Cedar. These seedlings have been documented photographically as the forest around Site J continues to evolve post-fire.

Site J Notes

Between October 2009 and October 2010 there was removal of some of the vegetation and planting of seedlings. Many of the seedlings have started to become established. Mountain whitethorn and other brushes have become established in the site. Site I and Site A contains visual data useful for establishing tree-fall rates over time. For Site I, many of the younger trees fell in the first year leaving the more mature deadwood. In the third year of the study, more of the mature deadwood began to fall.

This type of project is a cornerstone of my teaching and research. I commonly work with disciplines from history to geography to urban studies to landscape architecture. I want students to understand that the Fine Arts is not an isolated, rarified field considered nonessential by the general public, but instead a vital field of study employing a complex visual language ideally suited for interdisciplinary collaboration. The benefits to the greater northern Nevada community, including Lake Tahoe, are rooted in historical documentation and public education. Collectively, the community should see what is happening in post-fire development, and the results of this study will be available for the media online via published articles and dedicated Websites. The visual baseline offers an opportunity for future rephotography, providing the groundwork for greater analysis and more significant funding.

Peter Goin is a Foundation Professor of Art at the University of Nevada, Reno, and is the author of numerous books focusing on the managed landscapes of the Great Basin and beyond.

Scott Hinton is Coordinator of Photographic Research at the University of Nevada, Reno who’s projects and studies examine the human landscape of the western United States.

The Edge of Light: Wendover | Brian Rosa and Adam Ryder

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Two thousand miles west of New York City, Interstate 80 crosses the final hurdle of the Rocky Mountains, the Wasatch Range, and drops down onto the Great Basin that covers much of the interior West. On the last day of a week-long road trip, we passed Salt Lake City and drove two more hours across the Bonneville Salt Flats, a startlingly white and largely featureless expanse, a remainder of the Pleistocene Lake Bonneville, eerily geometrical in its flatness. Signs on the shoulder warned us not to fall asleep at the wheel. It was 2010, and we were on our way to Wendover, Utah, to participate in the artist-in-residence program at the Center for Land Use Interpretation, which maintains an outpost in this isolated but historically important pocket of the West.

Bifurcated by the state line, Wendover, Utah, and West Wendover, Nevada, form a community that straddles the border of nowhere and nowhere. Established in 1906 as a maintenance stop on the Western Pacific Railroad, early Wendover was home to a small population of rail workers and miners. A couple of decades later, William Smith, proprietor of a service station (then Wendover’s sole business) literally hit the jackpot when Nevada legalized gambling in 1931. Smith converted his shop, which was right on the state line, into the Stateline Casino, today the Wendover Nugget. The Nugget was soon joined by four other casinos on the Nevada side, which collectively form the area’s economic backbone. West Wendover is comparatively populous and financially prosperous, with suburban-style tract housing, a golf course and a shopping center. Cross into Utah, though, and the Wendover community is economically restricted by the state’s gambling and alcohol laws; the town has little business of its own. Residents, mostly Latinos, commute across the border to work in the casinos.

Prosperity here was not always so uneven. During World War II, Wendover, Utah, was host to the largest bombing range in the country, training bomber crews across the vast desert. It was from the Wendover Army Air Field that Colonel Paul Tibbetts took off in the Enola Gay, bound for Guam and then Hiroshima. The war effort boosted the town of 200 people into a small city, with its own hospital, library, interfaith chapel, bowling alley and multiple movie theaters. At its height Wendover housed 23,000 military personnel in 668 buildings. After Japan’s surrender, the air field became obsolete and fell into disrepair. The Air Force departed for good in the ’60s and ceded the derelict property to the city. Today only two dozen of the military buildings remain.

The unique topography of the region, which lies at the foot of the Toana Range of mountains and the Leppy Hills, offers the opportunity for unexpectedly dynamic vistas. Trudging up to the promontories that loom over town, we had oblique views of the city, of the perfectly straight and flat stretch of Interstate 80 through the salt flats and of the monolithic communication arrays. From this vantage on a clear day, we found ourselves at one of the few points where the earth’s curvature can be seen on the horizon with the naked eye. At night, while the Utah side was nearly lightless, the casinos and hotels and parking lots on the Nevada side glowed bright as day, projecting a harsh screen of light on newly built tract housing, piles of concrete rubble from building demolitions and the mountains beyond.

In this series we present a collection of nighttime photographs of Wendover that record our investigations of the area. We explored the interstitial, unoccupied spaces at the edges of the interstate, among the ruins of the military base, and between the nightlife zones and the casino workers’ tract housing. We set out to document the ambient light emitting from commercial, municipal and residential light sources in an attempt to find a mythical “edge of light“ in the high desert.

Prints from this project have been on display at Exhibition Hall 2 of the Center for Land Use Interpretation since May 2012. They have also been exhibited in London, Boston, and Durham, North Carolina.

The text of this piece was originally published in Places Journal in February 2011. All photos © Brian Rosa and Adam Ryder 2010-2014.

Website: http://siteunseenprojects.com

The Discarded Museum: Illegal Dumping and the Archive Outside | Larissa Nickel

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Larissa Nickel, Illegally Dumped Objects, Digital Photograph, 2013

Larissa Nickel, Illegally Dumped Objects, Digital Photograph, 2013

A year after his death in 1992, John Cage debuted an exhibition titled Rolywholyover: A Circus at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, an exhibition the composer, philosopher, writer and artist had organized with curator Julie Lazar. Incorporating Cage’s methodologies of indeterminacy and chance, the exhibition was described as a composition for museum, invoking a curatorial strategy based on I Ching principles and a computerized database of selected objects that produced an exhibition in continuous flux, which could not be viewed twice in the same arrangement. The title Rolywholyover, was adopted from Finnegans Wake by James Joyce, a word suggesting movement or to roll, in infinite revolutions—a circus of museum. In conversation with Daniel Charles, Cage explained, “By combining the spaces of different works, the environment can spontaneously give us anything that we could have produced artificially. There is always an ecology, and that ecology is alive. And the works, no matter how numerous they may be, can always melt into it. Whence its multiplicity.”[1] This multiplicity is a complex analysis of objectivity and subjectivity formed into a collective performance through the concept of exhibition as a cultural ecology or as a social process.

Each object presented in Rolywholyover had a strange form of social agency that wasn’t determined by its materialism, but by its network—a social network that was created by continuously recombining objects in the museum.The exhibition embodied a Duchampian ideology in recombining the readymade as a socialized network of engagement, and as random composition whereby the composition is constantly redefining the relationship between viewer, object, space and meaning. Rolywholyover: A Circus was presented at a museum. However, there is another heterotopic archive of random accrual and milieu, another cultural ecology that houses a similar collective activation that was created by Cage in his composition for museum—the museum outside, the archival landscape of the illegal dump site and its object discards without a voice.

Larissa Nickel, The Crate, Digital Photograph, 2013

Larissa Nickel, The Crate, Digital Photograph, 2013

The Voice of Things

The Crate

Halfway between cage (cage) and cachot (cell) the French language has cageot (crate), a simple openwork case for the transport of those fruits that invariably fall sick over the slightest suffocation.

Put together in such a way that at the end of its use it can easily be wrecked, it does not serve twice. Thus it is even less lasting than the melting or murky produce it encloses.

On all the street corners leading to the market it shines with the modest gleam of whitewood. Still brand new, and somewhat taken aback at being tossed on the trash pile in an awkward pose with no hope of return, this is a most likeable object all considered—on whose fate it is perhaps wiser not to dwell too long.[2]

—Francis Ponge

Larissa Nickel, Intervention C, Digital Photograph, 2013

Larissa Nickel, Intervention C, Digital Photograph, 2013

Composition for the Discarded Museum

To consider a dump site as a form of museum is to critique and exalt both the museum and the dump, presenting objects of valued material culture and objects of discarded waste culture on the same level playing field—interchangeable, mutable, relative—a chess match of cultural occupation. The museum has long been seen as a social forum, a site dedicated to the Muses, a civic space intended to facilitate dialogue where narratives are fluid and intersect in collaboration with individuals, objects and their ideas. Inside museum galleries, objects receive their narrative voice, their place in the archive, and their historical position. Outside in the dump, objects await another tale, an environmental story of the effects of the earth and sun, while the presence of an occasional wanderer, seeker or dumper continuously rewrites the object’s story and its archive.

The use of artistic and cultural interpretation in this heterotopic dumping space is defined by discarded relations, intersections, emplacements and networks in which objects and apparitions are continually juxtaposed, or released of their predetermined functions to allow us to reconsider or re-present our discards as an archaeology, a genealogy, or an early form of museum—the cabinet of curiosities or Wunderkammer. This aesthetic message of museum as medium can convey complexities or multiplicities in meaning. It can also provide experimental research methods to contribute to the understanding and reinvention of the planet and the possible ways we inhabit it or relate to it.

To apply this narrative to a site of illegal dumping reflects and repurposes collective action towards cultural reuse and public agency, fluidly moving from object to social meaning and yet around again. Re-presenting dump sites with the museum techniques of collecting, documenting, preserving and interpreting can galvanize creative potential and use illegal dump sites as a social forum to act as provocateur, catalyst, creative producer and facilitator, thereby progressing towards a new genealogical method of ecological responsibility and cultural agency that never ends. As the Museum of Jurassic Technology quotes Charles Willson Peale, “The learner must be led always from familiar objects toward the unfamiliar, guided along, as it were, a chain of flowers into the mysteries of life”[3]—a place where familiar objects become unfamiliar again.

Larissa Nickel, Intervention D, Digital Photograph, 2013

Larissa Nickel, Intervention D, Digital Photograph, 2013

Earth: Nice material for a sculpture. —Don Van Vliet, also known as Captain Beefheart[4]

With an expansive landscape and natural open spaces, the Antelope Valley is a region on the periphery of Los Angeles known as the High Desert portion of the Mojave, crafting an ecosystem that consists of a convergence between people and land attributed to the historical initiatives of real estate investors enticing those seeking land to escape the urban stack for suburban sprawl. This exurbanite community of rural, suburban and urban relations has resulted in blighted areas where open space equates to a place for dumping unwanted material culture on the edge of housing complexes, abandoned or private property, or in the middle of the desert where it spills over into a landscape filled with Joshua Trees, rabbit holes and creosote. The issues of illegal-dumping prevention, awareness, and eradication efforts are typically the responsibility of government agencies and public service organizations, however, in 2013 my arts collective Hinterculture created Desert Engagement: Hinder Swill Achieve Recycled Trash (DEHSART), an artist-led engagement initiative in response to the prevalence of illegally dumped waste in the desert that aimed to inspire innovative strategies for creative transformation of the natural environment and our social relation to discarded materials.

Hinterculture, PSA, Digital Illustration, 2013

Hinterculture, PSA, Digital Illustration, 2013

Hinterculture explores a critique and examination of place by mining these illegal dump sites for social, cultural and aesthetic meaning. With a focus on the regional histories and ecological concerns in the Antelope Valley and its desert space, Hinterculture’s public art and engagement project DEHSART examined the use of artistic and cultural interpretation in a place defined by relations, intersections, emplacements and networks in which objects and apparitions are continually juxtaposed as curiosities. As an eco-art project, DEHSART explored artistic methodologies with elements of science, engineering, and design to inform transdisciplinary action for tackling ecological issues and reveal an experimental curatorial approach that embraced recycling, reuse, repurposing and creative strategies combined with disciplines of cultural anthropology, economics, sociology, archaeology, geography, history and environmental studies. Engaging the public through art and new media relational structures, DEHSART investigated the use of art and material-culture ideology in the form of an unconventional museum exhibition space to instill the idea that waste is a resource.

DEHSART asked many questions about waste, viewing it not just as an environmental problem, but as a process and a convergence of humans and nature, of rejected material cultural, social value judgments, infrastructural and economic challenges, and most potently as a source of creativity. Intervening within a researched mapping structure of found dump sites, public art works were created from the illegally dumped materials. Through the use of mobile technology and social media channels, the materials that were formally considered deserted found a new voice as re-contextualized Duchampian readymades charged with new meanings environmentally, socially and conceptually. The focus on the social, the interaction, and the relational space generated potential to create insight, meaning and sustained cultural response to the perceived constraints of illegal dumping grounds to provide opportunities to reshape the aesthetic conditions of the desert and its ecosystem through social inclusion in nature, culture, and placemaking.

Larissa Nickel, Intervention B with Jennifer J Moxyfofo, Digital Photograph, 2013

Larissa Nickel, Intervention B with Jennifer J Moxyfofo, Digital Photograph, 2013

Reassembling the Museum

Follow the actors in their weaving through things they have added to social skills so as to render more durable the constantly shifting interactions.[5]

Transforming illegal dumping and the abundant flow of materials consumed and discarded by humans in pursuit of sustenance and enjoyment shares an affinity with the creative process itself. Combinatorial creativity, with its emphasis on the theories from Dada, combines existing bits of material, our knowledge, our memories, our landscape, our psychological resources and our creativity into a capacity to put together new material and new interpretations of the world. Connecting the discarded, the deserted, and the wasted resources found in the archive of the museum outside, the rejected heterotopia of the dump reassembles again and again in an actor-network of constant revolution.

Art as a form of interacting agents and networks has the ability to create dialogue around the challenges and concerns of environmental conservation of ecosystems, biodiversity, and resource management. Reflecting on illegal dump sites as the forgotten museum outside, this discarded space of both difference and representation can establish our overlooked discarded objects as microcosms of infinite potentiality, where chance and the subculture bricoleur can remix the continual flux of unnecessary waste into reanimated material cultural as an art form that continually restores waste as a resource, transgressing the limits of time and place—rolywholyover.

[1] Cage, John and Charles, Daniel. For the Birds: John Cage in Conversation with Daniel Charles. New York:Marion Boyars Publishers, Incorporated, 1995. Print.
[2] Ponge, Francis. The Voice of Things. Trans. Beth Archer. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1972. Print.
[3]Wilson, David.“Introduction and Background.” The Museum of Jurassic Technology.Web. Accessed 31 May 2014.
[4] Corbijn, Anton, dir. Some YoYo Stuff: An observation of the observations of Don Van Vliet. Perf. Don Van Vliet, David Lynch, Sue Vliet. Music ℗© God’s Golfball Productions. A T Production, 1993. Film.
[5] Latour, Bruno. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2005. Print.




Particulate Matters: Settling the Dust on the Owens Dry Lakebed | Emily Green

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LADWP gravel operation for dust suppression on Owens Lakebed. © Emily Green 2013.

On January 28, 2013 the Owens Lake Master Plan Committee gathered in the Tallman Pavilion at the Bishop fairgrounds in Inyo County, California. Its roughly three-dozen members—representatives from a smattering of agencies, environmental non-profits, tribes, and local activist groups—were there to see schematic renderings of habitat restoration proposals for the Owens  Dry Lakebed.  They’d spent the last two years sweating the details of how strategically managed wetlands, boardwalks, and other amenities might be incorporated into more than 40 square miles of dust control work being done by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Three of the most respected landscape architecture firms in Southern California had been brought in to consult on the plans.

However, walking in hopeful was no guarantee of walking out that way. Martin Adams, the LADWP’s Director of Water Operations, had an announcement from his board of commissioners. The Master Plan Committee was to understand that there would be some quid pro quo involved in the habitat value integration. Enumerated in an accompanying memo, soon known as the “must have list,” were the following:

  • • At least half of the estimated 92,000 to 95,000 acre-feet of fresh Owens River water currently being used for dust suppression on the dry lake must be returned to the aqueduct for export to Los Angeles. In increasingly dry times, the water going to dust suppression was more than a third of the aqueduct supply, which Los Angeles had to make up with water pumped from the stressed Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in Northern California.
  • • Los Angeles must be allowed to extract brackish groundwater from beneath the Owens Dry Lakebed to augment freshwater used for dust suppression. Adams estimated that the aquifer beneath Owens dry lake could sustain annual pumping of 10,000 to 15,000 acre-feet annually, or enough to cover 10,000 to 15,000 acres under a foot of water. Inyo County is warily considering allowing 7,000 acre-feet to be pumped.
  • • Local and state authorities must approve “waterless” dust control methods such as tilling the ground and chemical stabilizers to replace shallow flooding.
  • • Los Angeles must be given sole control of the lakebed instead of having to seek leases and permissions from its owner, the California State Lands Commission.
  • • After Los Angeles finishes treating 45-square-miles of the lakebed for dust, its obligation must be capped. Whatever else might blow off the 110-square-mile lakebed would be someone else’s problem.
  • • The Master Plan’s habitat elements must be restricted to areas currently being treated.
  • • LA must be allowed to violate air pollution regulations without facing fines when transitioning from wet to dry dust control methods. Construction is dusty.

Owens Lake Master Project by LADWP & Nuvis Landscape Architecture and Planning, April 2013.

None of the points were new. All had come up in meetings and formal comments of a draft plan in the previous year. However, in planning committees, there are no “must haves” only “would likes.” Moreover, no one in the room had the power to oblige the demands of Los Angeles.

What the list did do was segregate a member of the Master Plan committee, a local air quality regulator named Ted Schade, and identified him as the biggest obstacle between the group and what it wanted.

In 23 years with the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District, the 56-year-old civil engineer has forced the LADWP into an estimated $1.2 billion worth of dust suppression work. His office’s recent issuance of yet more mitigation orders for Los Angeles is likely, by Adams’ estimate, to drive that number up to $1.6 billion. Schade is so resented by Los Angeles that Adams and others name Schade personally when telling consumers that 15% of what they pay in their water bill is diverted by a “runaway regulator.” In October 2012, in a law suit filed in federal court, the LADWP expressly demanded that the Great Basin’s air pollution control officer covering Owens Valley be taken off any business involving the city.

And so, this, the centenary year of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, began with the LADWP making its underwriting of artful treatment of the Owens Dry Lakebed contingent on it being let off the hook for further dust control work.


LADWP shallow flooding dust suppression method on Owens Lakebed. © Emily Green 2013.

For the first 50 years that it diverted Owens River water to Los Angeles, the LADWP denied that dust was a problem on the river’s former lakebed. When in 1976 scientists at China Lake Naval Weapons Center in Ridgecrest, California, photographed clouds carrying an estimated 40,000 metric tons of fine alkali grit billowing out of the Sierra into the neighboring Mojave Desert foothills of Kern County, the LADWP claimed that Inyo County had some of the best air in the country and that, “there has been no substantiation of adverse health effects of alkali dust.” In 1987 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deemed the severity of the fine-grain pollution issuing from Owens dry lake as the worst in the country, outside of forest fire smoke, as often as 24 days a year.  LADWP was on record that the land impacted by its water exports was “such a small area we think it is insignificant.

Los Angeles only accepted the problem and responsibility for its part in it after 1997, when then Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan appointed the no-nonsense Tennessean S. David Freeman as general manager of LADWP. By the following year, under the former head of the Tennessee Valley Authority, Los Angeles began working in earnest on an Owens Valley dust control plan for submission to the regional, state, and federal air quality regulators.

As mitigation terms were hammered out, Schade’s office faced a fundamental question. Just how much of the lakebed showed because of LA’s pumping? How much ground should its dust suppression work cover? To find the answer, in 1997, the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District hired a hydrologist from the Desert Research Institute in Reno, NV. “We asked him to create a model of what Owens Lake would look like if DWP never came,” Schade says. “Luckily, the DWP keeps really good records, so the Desert Research Institute created a mathematical model using rainfall data, temperature data, diversion data and it concluded that the lake would have been at about 3,600 feet above sea level. So we said, ‘Everything below that is DWP’s responsibility. That is the regulatory shoreline’.”

Not all, or even most, of the 110 square miles within the regulatory shoreline would need treating. A roughly 30-square-mile brine pool in the northeastern quadrant of the original terminal, saline lake had turned into a wind-resistant gel without any help. But the eastern border of the lakebed was volatile ground. According to retired UC Davis physicist Thomas Cahill, part of the problem was that the Lone Pine earthquake of 1872 had tilted the floor of Owens Valley. “The entire lake was tipped down in the west 30 feet,” explains Cahill, “The result was an area about one mile wide on the eastern shore that was exposed to the wind.”

And the winds in Owens Valley, says Cahill, are notorious. “The natural situation is extraordinarily bad,” he says. “Owens Lake lies in an enormous, deep valley, which funnels the wind across the lakebed, where you can have a wind of 70 miles per hour at chest height and zero at your feet. It tends to take sand and move it, abrading the crust that’s there. Look at old wood phone poles, and you can see the bottom has been chewed away.”

More than a dozen suppression methods were considered in the lead-up to the first mitigation projects, including covering the lakebed in used automobile tires, but only three were eventually approved for widespread use: gravel cover, plants, and shallow flooding. Gravel, at $33 million per square mile to install, was deemed prohibitively expensive. Plant cover, most of which had to be salt grass, cost $15 million per square mile to install, then it needed irrigating. By far the cheapest immediate fix for a water company was to install bubblers to provide shallow flooding. LADWP estimates that the up-front cost of this was more like $12.9 million per square mile.

Observers such as Schade expected LA to opt for the once-over-and-it’s-all-over approach. “The old lake was a lifeless place,” he says. “We assumed that the DWP would focus on gravel.” But, as work steadily progressed, of the roughly 40 square miles now treated, 36.25 square-miles were treated with shallow flooding.


LADWP salt grass plant cover dust suppression method on Owens Lakebed. © Emily Green 2013.

It was 2006 when Mike Prather of Eastern Sierra Audubon began seeing and getting reports of a renaissance on the old lakebed. “We had people who for years had been birding remnant wetlands around the shores,” he says. “We had seen a lot of bird use on [a] postage stamp-sized habitat back them. So we knew that once this project was coming about, that if water was going to be spread out there, there were going to be a lot of birds. That’s what came to pass.”

Prather began leading tours. There were snowy plovers, teal, wigeons, egrets, stilts, sandpipers, gadwall, mallards, geese and more. Stilt-legged elk appeared prancing through rippling new shallows. Worried that the oasis might dry up if the LADWP switched to “waterless” dust control methods, Prather and Andrea Jones, director of the California Important Bird Area program, approached wildlife agencies, Inyo County, and the LADWP to see if there wasn’t some way that areas treated with shallow flooding might also be managed as official bird habitats. They also wanted to work with LADWP on a sensitive way that it could drawdown aqueduct export water used for shallow flooding while not vampirizing valuable new habitats that had been created on the lakebed.

“We started a Conservation Action Plan,” recalls Jones. “We worked for a couple of years, but we never really had the buy-in of LADWP. Then, in 2009, one of the general managers, David Freeman, saw there was a real benefit to the CAP progress. We’d managed to bring all the parties together. He said, ‘Let’s take this process and formalize it.’ They had a facilitator; they had every stakeholder, the agencies, the miners, and the grazers. So that’s the process we’ve been in for the last couple of years writing the Master Plan.”

Freeman, who had brokered the dust deal back in the 1990s for then Mayor Richard Riordan, had in 2009 been dragooned back to his old job by then-embattled Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Less than a year later, after being caught in the crossfire between Mayor Villaraigosa’s office and city council over rate increases needed to cover the cost of renewable energy, conservation, and solar programs, Freeman left the LADWP.


Almost 200 sensors have been placed across the Owens dry lakebed to monitor the frequency, severity, and density of autumn dust storms. As Schade got steadily better at monitoring, and the most emissive parts of the lakebed were pinpointed, Los Angeles was sent remediation notices and the LADWP treated the areas, mainly with shallow flooding by freshwater from the Owens River.  Dust storms that used to push fine-grained air pollution particles more than 100 times the federal standard, dropped to levels closer to 10 times the federal standard.

As the mitigation notices kept coming, however, the LADWP began to cry foul. “The first plan in 1998 had about 16.5 miles plus some wiggle room for dust controls,” says Adams. “In 2003, a new plan had 29 square miles. The 2008 plan had 43 square miles!” According to Adams, the amount of water now diverted from the aqueduct to dust control in Owens Valley is 95,000 acre-feet, or enough to cover those many acres in a foot deep of water, or, as the LADWP describes it, roughly what residents of San Francisco use in a year.

This would be a lot of water even in good times, and these are not good times. Southern California’s imports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta are shrinking while the cost of the water is rising and, over on the Colorado River, member states are preparing for drought-caused shortage declarations.


LADWP test plot for tillage dust suppression method. © Emily Green 2013.

As Seattle energy executive Ron Nichols assumed general manager-ship of LADWP in early 2011, the bill for Owens Valley dust control had exceeded a billion dollars and the choice of shallow flooding had resulted in a third of LA’s fresh water supply being diverted from the aqueduct system for Los Angeles to the dust suppression bubblers out on the lakebed. When a new dust abatement notice for 2.93 additional square miles arrived that summer, Nichols called in the lawyers in what has proved a sustained assault on the 1998 dust deal. Schade and Great Basin also went to the courthouse, filing suit against LA for non-compliance on an outstanding order.  By October 2012, over in federal court, LADWP was suing Schade’s department, naming him personally as a capricious and rogue regulator, and also naming the California Air Resources Board, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the California State Lands Commission, and the federal Bureau of Land Management as colluders. As the Los Angeles Times covered the suit, Nichol’s predecessor at LADWP, David Freeman, asked reporter Louis Sahagun, “Ever heard of a polluter who didn’t claim a regulator was biased?”

The recurring theme of the lawsuits is that Schade mis-drew the regulatory shoreline at an all-time-high elevation. Adams argues that it should be re-set at the elevation measured in 1905, the year William Mulholland returned to LA with Owens Valley leases and also the year that the lake was at a near record low after a decade-long drought. The switch to a 1905 contour would mean that not only would Los Angeles be off the hook for more work, but it would have also controlled 25 square miles of playa outside of the adjusted regulatory shoreline.


Last April, Adams was back in front of the now somewhat diminished Owens Lake Master Plan committee. He’d come to show an impressive set of new drawings by the Orange County landscape architecture firm Nuvis. Working with Nuvis (one of three firms that had been collaborating with the Master Plan committee), LADWP took the habitat and viewshed elements of the Master Plan and combined those ideas with its “must have” list. This new hybrid, Adams told the group, was now called “The Owens Valley Master Project.”

According to Adams, the reception was warm. “We got some very good reactions,” he says. “Most people said, ‘It’s like the Master Plan.’ We said, ‘Exactly.’ It has some decisions, but those decisions weren’t going to be made by the planning committee.”

Those decisions include widespread use of an as yet un-validated waterless dust control method called “tillage,” which will have to be approved by regulators including Schade before the meandering furrows shown in the Nuvis schematics could be plowed into the lakebed. “We’re hoping that tillage, basically like farm tillage, will be approved,” says Adams. “It costs about 10% of what it costs to do flooding. It’s a huge savings for rate payers.”

Adams has support from Schade on this. “We’re working with the city on the tillage project,” says the Great Basin’s control officer. “We know it’s possible, big clay clods that bake in the sun are non-emissive. We’re trying to see how long the clods stay whole.”

When three square miles of dust suppression construction is finished in 2015, LA will have treated 45 square miles, after which it insists, categorically, that it will be done. Hang the regulatory shoreline.

Adams loses Schade here. “That’s completely untenable,” says Schade.

The California State Lands Commission and Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District are checking where they are in lawsuits brought against them by the LADWP before commenting on the Master Project proposals. Los Angeles has told State Lands that it wants to be the lead agency, not the lakebed owner State Lands as originally planned, if the Master Project goes forward.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is also in wait-and-see mode. The Owens Valley Committee and Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Reservation withdrew over many issues. For the reservation, says air quality coordinator April Zrelak, the biggest issue was the insistence on pumping local groundwater. For the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone, any impact on local seeps and springs would be unacceptable.

Audubon is staying with the new project. “It’s incredibly important,” says Andrea Jones of California Audubon. “We know that a lot of water birds migrate through saline lakes—the Salton Sea, Owens Lake, Mono Lake, the Great Salt Lake. A lot of those habitats are in danger. The Salton Sea is drying up.” If Audubon does not like the project description as California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) documents are drawn up for review, it will comment then, she says. “In the mean time, we’re staying at the table trying to make the project better.”

The federal case brought by LADWP against Great Basin, the string of other air regulators, LADWP’s landlord State Lands, and the landlord’s neighbor the Bureau of Land Management, was dismissed last May, the same month Adams unveiled the Master Project to the Master Plan committee. “It was a long shot,” Adams said of the lawsuit. “We haven’t lost anything substantive.” LADWP lawyers are currently preparing another suit challenging another order from Schade, he says.

In October, a month before the centenary celebrations, Los Angeles will be facing Great Basin in court to have non-compliance fines decided.

LADWP has succeeded in getting the thickness requirement for gravel cover halved, a potentially huge savings for its most costly waterless dust control technique, and the use of salt water for shallow flooding approved, a development only meaningful if the department is successful in its bid to pump the lakebed’s brackish groundwater. Unflappable, the DWP is also proceeding with turning the Master Project schematics into a full-fledged project proposal for environmental review under CEQA as if the regulatory shoreline of Owens Lake has been lowered and LA’s liability has been capped to 45 square miles. It’s also taking it as accepted by Master Plan stakeholders and regulators that the unvalidated waterless dust control methods used in the schematic will be approved; that waivers to create dust without fines during changeover from shallow flooding will be given; that they will be allowed to pump Inyo County groundwater from beneath the lake to use for dust suppression; and that they no longer must abide by the original deal brokered under S. David Freeman in the 1990s with the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the California Air Resources Board, and the Great Basin Air Pollution Control District.

The Master Project should be through environmental review by 2015, says Adams. “We want to rush this thing,” he says. “We want to get this done.”

Emily Green is a journalist who has written frequently for major publications including the Independent (UK), New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Las Vegas Sun, and High Country News. In 2009 her work was recognized by the Associated Press Managing Editors Award and Best of the West Environment and Natural Resources Reporting Award for “Quenching Las Vegas’s Thirst: A five-part series on plans by Las Vegas to tap the Great Basin Aquifer.”

Contested Water, Unholy Alliances, and Globalized Colonies: Exploring the Perception of Water by Residents of the Los Angeles Aqueduct Watershed

Posted on by admin1963 Posted in Fall 2013, Policies | Comments Off on Contested Water, Unholy Alliances, and Globalized Colonies: Exploring the Perception of Water by Residents of the Los Angeles Aqueduct Watershed

Fig. 1. Grant Lake. © Eric Haley 2012

Lee-Anne Milburn, Ph.D. and Barry Lehrman, with Tiernan Doyle, Eric Haley, James Powell and Devon Santy


Located in the Central Eastern area of California along the border with Nevada, the Eastern Sierra is facing the  effects of climate change: altered precipitation patterns, increasing extreme weather events, and changing ecological processes. Within the Eastern Sierra, the Mono and Owens River Basins make up the watershed supplying the Los Angeles Aqueduct.  They are the westernmost valleys of the geographical province, and are located in a diverse and ecologically complex setting.

Climate change in this area is of special concern because of the resource commitments to both local and regional entities. The inevitability of increased fluctuations in the water supply threatens the health of inhabitants and ecosystems of the Eastern Sierra as well as the Aqueduct’s end-users in Los Angeles.

Against the background of the Aqueduct’s centennial, the Metabolic Studio sponsored the Aqueduct Futures project at the California State Polytechnic University of Pomona.  As part of this exploration of alternative futures for the Aqueduct and its watershed, a team of graduate students from the Masters of Landscape Architecture program  developed regional strategies for sustainable land use and watershed planning along the northern half of the Aqueduct.

While the larger project focused on scenarios for the future of the Aqueduct as a structure, as well as the source of water for Los Angeles, students and faculty in the Master’s program collected data focussing on how water is perceived by the public and residents of the Aqueduct basin. This paper explores those perceptions, and their implications for planning and design, suggesting design methods and land use guidelines that seek a balance between the social, political, and ecological needs of the area.


Nestled between the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the west and the White and Inyo Mountains to the east, the scenery is diversely spectacular (Fig.1). The Eastern Sierra’s watershed offers a striking combination of preserved lands and intensive resource extraction. Closely connected to both Yosemite and Death Valley National Parks, the Eastern Sierra attracts a wide variety of visitors using the parks for recreation. Apart from their beauty, the region’s natural systems are the result of highly specialized interactions between topography, climate, hydrology, and ecology. Water is an especially prized commodity throughout the region because the valleys to the east rest in the rain shadow created by the Sierra Nevada Mountains. While the western slope of the Sierra averages 45 inches of precipitation per year, the Owens Valley floor receives five inches in addition to abundant flows from snowmelt supplying the creeks, rivers, and aquifers of the valley (NRCS 1998).

As it looks today, the Eastern Sierra is a sparsely inhabited area flanked by two massive mountain ranges. Only a handful of towns provide homes for the bulk of the local residents, with miles of open land in between. In the past few decades, hydrologic extractions and diversions have caused a flurry of litigation revolving around the environmental effects of water export. Environmental degradation such as habitat destruction, dried up springs, and significant river channelization (Fig. 2) are slowly being addressed by mandated mitigation projects (LADWP and ICWD 1991).

Fig. 2. Walker Creek. © Eric Haley 2012

History of the Los Angeles Aqueduct

Completed in 1913, the Los Angeles Aqueduct holds the honor of being the first major municipal water project in the state of California (HAER 2010). The initial transference brought water 233 miles (375 km) from the Owens River to Los Angeles. In order to increase supply, a second conduit was added in 1970 that stretches south from Haiwee Reservoir to Santa Clarita (HAER 2010). The Los Angeles Aqueduct and the Eastern Sierra have contributed to infrastructure development, allowed massive population growth, and provided for irrigation within one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country (LADWP 2002).

Though early farming and mining took their toll on the original landscape of the Eastern Sierra, the most drastic changes to the Owens Valley took place after 1913, when the Los Angeles Aqueduct was completed. Although agricultural activity throughout the valley had already begun lowering lake levels, Aqueduct diversions accelerated the process and Owens Lake was dry by 1924 (Gagnon 2001). Subsequent groundwater pumping, in addition to diversions from nearby creeks and the Owens River, significantly lowered the valley’s aquifers and produced changes in much of its remaining native vegetation (LADWP and ICWD 1991).

Regulatory Context

Due to the myriad of  demands of land planning for human and ecological needs, it has been difficult to establish a management protocol that retains enough water within the Eastern Sierra while still providing an adequate supply for the City of Los Angeles (even with diversification of the city’s imported water supplies). Lawsuits involving decision-makers and stakeholders have been a way of life since the 1920s, when disputes over land ownership between farmers and the City of Los Angeles intensified (Libecap 2005).

Opposing viewpoints and competing claims have stymied productive land and water management between the Inyo County Water Department (ICWD) and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). Despite the Long Term Water Agreement (LTWA) of 1991, the necessity for court intervention in management decisions has solidified a lasting tension between Inyo and Mono County and the City of Los Angeles. Unease continues with LADWP’s current lawsuits against the Town of Mammoth Lakes, where arguments over surface water use have become more contentious (Gervais 2012).  And while the LADWP does have contracts for water with several of the ranchers that lease land from the agency,  the supplies to Lone Pine, Big Pine, Independence, and the reservations are exempt from the LTWA (LADWP 2006). Most of the inhabited areas throughout the valley and Mono Basin derive their water supply from small mutual water companies and community well or spring supplies.

Under what conditions might land and water management in the Owens Valley move past stalemate?  In this complex and piecemeal regulatory landscape, is it possible to generate consensus around innovative policies, programs, and tools for water conservation, filtration, and infiltration?  If the values and perceptions of the watershed’s inhabitants were as well understood as the demands of the end-users,  could the Aqueduct’s future be shaped as much by the community that inhabits the watershed as by the community that extracts its resources?


Providing insights into how water is perceived in a politically complex environment such as the Owens Valley cannot be done through a descriptive, statistically based analysis of simple survey responses. As noted in Mulley (2007), landscape and quality of life factors are difficult to address using superficial questioning techniques. People tend to give economic responses to quality-of-life questions when given simple choices or written surveys. Deeper issues related to landscape 1) have an exploratory or discursive component (such as focus groups or interviews), 2)  incrementally increase the complexity of the questions (often open-ended questions that build on one another, such as in a semi-structured interview), or 3) questions that encourage people to tell stories rather than provide short “off the cuff” answers. Because of this, the issue was addressed through the analysis of focus group workshops, questionnaires and interviews in the aggregate, observing themes, patterns of responses, and sequencing, rather than a more traditional content-oriented approach.

To understand the concerns of the study-area residents, the team chose to employ a method that included the analysis of focus group workshops, questionnaires and interviews in the aggregate, observing themes, patterns of responses, and sequencing, rather than a more traditional content-oriented approach.

Focus Groups

The team facilitated two community focus groups: one in Lone Pine, California on February 16, 2013, the other one in June Lake, California on February 17, 2013. Lone Pine and June Lake were chosen as locations in order to allow a broader portion of the study-area population to make their voices heard. These two locations are near the south and north ends of the study-area respectively, and the team was hopeful that residents of nearby communities would be willing to make the short commute to these workshops, rather than the long drive to Bishop. To encourage broad participation, the workshops were advertised via email for several weeks prior to the events. The Mono Lake Committee, Owens Valley Committee, and the Inyo-Mono Regional Water Management Group distributed the invitations to their contact lists. Seventeen people participated in the focus group at Lone Pine, and eight participated at June Lake.

The workshop format was simple: three activities allowed participants to engage in group discussion about their concerns for their local communities and the Eastern Sierra. The focus group format included small group discussions, large group discussions, and individual responses.


The team posted a survey on watershedwranglers.com to obtain local opinions about various topics, from political decision-making to ecological health in the Eastern Sierra. A link to the survey was emailed along with the community workshop flyer to all of the research team’s contacts with various Eastern Sierra agencies and organizations. Several of those organizations then forwarded the survey link to their emailing lists. The survey was posted on January 28, 2013 and the team kept it open to responses until March 31, 2013. The survey was written to include both numerical ranking questions and open-ended write-in questions.


Community workshops and the online survey provided valuable information about the community and stakeholder needs within the general study-area. In order to develop additional depth and detail to the data from the community workshops and survey, the team met with 14 individuals who represented decision making agencies, organizations with significant influence on the planning and land management of the area, and underrepresented organizations that have specific interest in local planning and land management, including:

  • • Mono and Inyo County Planning and Water Departments
  • • LADWP
  • • Inyo-Mono Regional Water Management Group
  • • Owens Valley Committee Board of Directors
  • • Sierra Nevada Conservancy and Eastern Sierra Audubon
  • • Big Pine Paiute Tribe
  • • City of Los Angeles City Councilmembers
  • • Mono Lake Committee

Participants were originally contacted by email and were either interviewed over the phone, on location in the Eastern Sierra area, or in Los Angeles, per their preference. Participants were given a brief summary of the project, and a series of questions was prepared based on the participants’ area of expertise. Interviews were informally structured and the conversation was allowed to flow naturally. The project team took turns posing the prepared discussion topics to the interviewees to make sure that all the necessary points were covered.

Focus Group Results

Seventeen local residents attended the Lone Pine workshop, including one participant who made the trip from Ridgecrest, California. The following day, a total of eight residents from the northern reaches of the study-area participated in the June Lake workshop.

Among the top five priorities from the Lone Pine meeting were:

  • • Mitigate groundwater pumping effects, follow EIRs (Environmental Impact Reports), and enforce existing agreements
  • • Demand LADWP facilitate sustainable small-scale farming near developed towns
  • • Protect natural, cultural, and historical resources on LADWP and other lands
  • • Ensure/preserve valley floor open space concerning recreation value and conservation easement
  • • Accommodate climate change variability

The top five priorities from the June Lake meeting were:

  • • Involve Eastern Sierra representatives in planning made in Los Angeles related to the Eastern Sierra, and vice-versa
  • • Increase LADWP’s cooperation with communities in economic development efforts
  • • Create a work plan for aqueduct infrastructure maintenance/upgrades/improvement
  • • Undertake a comprehensive hydrologic study of June Lake area
  • • Increase transparency by making all planning information on both sides available to all who are interested

The most common themes became the dominant categories. The water-related responses and synthesized themes were:

Cooperation & Communication

  • • Educate locals on headwater stewardship
  • • Communicate with Los Angeles to increase understanding of past “mistakes” and for better planning for improvement in the future
  • • Create a commitment that requires cooperation between Eastern Sierra and other agencies (LADWP)

Development & Economy

  • • Create/form tourism “planning committee”
  • • Encourage sustainable economic development
  • • Acquire local control of food sources
  • • Expand Mammoth Hospital and its ability to provide for its patients
  • • Maintain economically productive local fisheries
  • • Stop approving development where resources are lacking—eliminate over-riding considerations


  • • Restore Baker Creek Meadows
  • • Make decisions for ecological health rather than economic advancement
  • • Reclaim enough water locally to be sustainable
  • • Restore or expand pupfish habitat
  • • Use the watershed boundaries as priority for all planning processes


  • • Secure water rights for native communities

In addition to these main categories:

  • • Allow tribes to use the resources available to them (water and land)
  • • Decrease water pumping amounts – allow groundwater to recover

Survey Results

Overall, there were 23 respondents to the questionnaire. Only one of those surveyed was not a resident of the study-area, and while the local respondents were distributed across the study-area, the majority of them were from the Bishop area. The survey results are integrated into the “theme” discussion below.

Interview Results

The interviewees expressed several important themes, some of which were addressed by multiple individuals. The most common theme was the lack of constructive cooperation between LADWP and local governments, agencies, interest groups and residents. It was clear that further openness could be mutually beneficial for the residents and agencies operating within the study-area. Recreation was brought up in several different forms, and it became clear that planning tools needed to address how to maintain and improve upon the current recreation system that brings so many people to the area. Environmental quality related to the water extraction practices also came up in several of the meetings, and became a constant component in the development of planning guidelines and implementation activities.

Integrated Water-Related Result Themes

While the focus group, questionnaire and interviews culminated in a large quantity of descriptive and nominal data, the details of those results are outside the scope of this paper. The results are available in the full Watershed Whispers report (Cal Poly Pomona, 606 team 2013). The following are the results based on a meta-analysis of the themes and trends evident in the focus groups, questionnaires, and interviews.

1. Water is a symbol of control and power.

Rather than being a seen as a resource, water is identified relative to power (LADWP) and the lack thereof (especially related to the Native American population). According to one participant, “…local Paiute tribes have been given a hideously raw deal in terms of water and land rights—they’ve been moved off their traditional lands and onto lands where LADWP holds the water rights, and their water has been switched from high-quality sources to the dregs of LADWP’s supplies in the eastern Sierra. They now have to report exactly how much water they use to LADWP, to beg for yearly water allotments from LADWP, and to wait when LADWP deems it inappropriate to grant them water.”

2. Water is more significant in its absence.

Unsurprisingly, water is discussed in terms of the impact its absence has rather than its presence. This has been seen in other research, related to less tangible, non-financial goods; the value of them is identified when they are lost or at risk of loss. (Milburn, Brown and Mulley 2010) According to participants, lack of water blocks development, reduces agriculture, creates dust, eliminates wildlife and habitat, and creates negative aesthetics.

3. Water is perceived as important because of its impact on recreation and aesthetics.

Even in the Eastern Sierra, the first consideration relative to water availability is not one related to survival (minimum quantity availability), conservation (water use reduction), or water quality. In people’s minds, the impact of reduced water availability is felt most strongly on the quality of the recreational experience, especially as related to aesthetics.

Beyond the appearance of water and its related habitats (riparian buffers, floodplain vegetation, etc.), participants focused on dust as an aesthetic concern, identifying the landscape as “Drier and dustier.” “Groundwater pumping and steadily lowered water tables have slowly converted the landscapes that I saw when I first came here from alkali meadows to moonscapes, ” and “…underground pumping has resulted in more dust in the air during wind events because now there is no vegetation to hold it down. Also, the street trees in the communities have decreased… many on fixed incomes can’t afford to water their vegetation. That makes the town brown.” (Fig. 3)

Fig. 3. Owens Lake dust bowl. © Eric Haley 2012

4. Reduced access to water is not seen as mitigated by conservation, rather, it is mitigated by ownership.

Instead of focusing on reduced water consumption (even redirected water consumption goals for Los Angeles residents), study participants focused on water access as a product of ownership, rather than availability. “The land ownership issue is one that makes my blood boil because it all focus’s [sic] on the water and any other resource that was under the indigenous peoples feet. LADWP… and other federal agencies… have land… and it pisses me off since it leaves very little for progress and no chance to add any type of development to create any type of jobs for the youth and willing.”

5. Development is good; additional water consumption is bad. The two are not related.

There was a clear inconsistency between positions on development and increased water use. Participants clearly differentiated between the two goals in their minds, and were able to embrace both positions simultaneously, in spite of their obvious link. According to one participant: “If you define LADWP as a ‘private’ landowner, then we need less ‘private’ land ownership; if you define LADWP as a ‘public’ landowner, then we likely need more ‘private’ land. LADWP’s ownership of the vast majority of the Owens Valley floor precludes or impairs conservation projects and small business development alike.”

6. Private land ownership leads to water conservation and small business development.

This position is strongly related to the dominance of LADWP’s land ownership in the area, but is notably in conflict with societal trends to see the government and public ownership result in improved conservation management. The government and their representative agencies are not perceived by the public as being less responsible figures in conservation efforts than private land owners. According to one participant, “Too many governmental or agencies like LADWP own the land. There’s not much left for private ownership,” and “The future of LADWP lands is a large concern. The management of public land is a concern. Protection of special resources by overburdened public land managers is a concern. Control of noxious weeds and restoration of impacted habitats is a concern. Conservation of farms, ranches, wildlife habitat on private lands is important to our identity, quality of life, and economy.”

7. Land and water are inextricably tied together.

In most areas of the country, land and water issues are separated in the public’s mind. In the case of the study participants in the Eastern Sierra, the visual evidence of water scarcity has linked water to the land that holds, filters, and infiltrates it. Respondents indicate impacts on water adjacent landscapes when discussing habitat: “Alkali meadow habitat, riparian habitat, and particularly spring habitat (incredibly degraded or gone), and the species that live there.” (Fig. 4)

Fig. 4. Owens River at Hwy 136. © Eric Haley 2012

Discussion: Involvement in Decision-Making

As the demographics in the Eastern Sierra change, there will be an increasing demand for public involvement in decision-making. The landowners move to rural areas not just because they want to be “close to nature,” but also because they want to “manage” or “care for” nature. This desire to be actively involved partly reflects a desire to participate in improving the quality of their environment.

Without consultation by local experts and community members, land planning and design efforts will be unable to meet the existing needs of the communities, or to articulate satisfying and enriching futures. Engaging in this process is especially important in the Eastern Sierra, where interviews and examination of newspaper and web sources indicate a high level of frustration with the opacity of land management plans that are developed by the LADWP and Federal agencies in the area (Gervais 2012).

Meetings with key stakeholders within the study-area revealed a unified desire to hold more meetings with the LADWP and create an open dialogue on land use policy and environmental strategies. Illustrating the lack of communication between Los Angeles and the Eastern Sierra was the conservation easement plan proposed by Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn in 2004. This would have placed a majority of LADWP’s lands in trust for environmental preservation and alleviated local concerns over unapproved development and unexpected outside intervention from Los Angeles. Because, however, this plan was not discussed with local communities or organizations, its intentions were not made clear, and the effort failed (Broder 2004).


Landowners and residents are not interested in learning about, or participating in, initiatives that have no visually tangible result. This issue explains the lack of interest in learning about water quality, wastewater management, and other concerns. Changing conservation behaviors requires that residents be able to directly relate physical results to their activities (Petry & Simcic 2002).  To get support, water policy changes need to be linked to tangible and visually evident results, and these changes need to be clearly articulated and demonstrated.

The other two issues that should be addressed to increase community capacity for change related to water, are influence and applicability. Influence is the ability of a single individual to create change, thereby overcoming a sense of helplessness. Applicability is the perception that given information, or action, are relevant to an individual’s identified goals or problems. Strategies in the Eastern Sierra need to address not only the behavior of the LADWP, but also clearly articulate and support changes the individual can make. This effort is less directed at the impacts of these individual actions, than at the change in attitude that it precedes. Agencies in the Eastern Sierra also need to invest effort in tying their priorities to those of local residents, and communicating those relationships.

Changing Demographic

The migration of the youth out of the Eastern Sierra, and the movement of non-farming, rural recreation-oriented landowners into the area is gradually changing not only the demographic profile of the area, but also the dominant political attitudes and community priorities. With the changing population, the Eastern Sierra will see increasing environmental concern with the associated indignation, interest in nature, knowledge of issues and action strategies, verbal commitment, and sense of responsibility (Kals, Schumacher and Montada 1999, Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002). On the other hand, as the population shifts, the standards for access to water use, aesthetics, and recreation will also change. New residents will not have the same history related to these issues, and so their “baseline” of comparison will be closer to current, rather than historical, conditions. This will change the focus of concern to be future-oriented, rather than related to the past.

It should be noted that Kaplan and Kaplan (1989),among others, suggest that seniors may prefer landscapes with greater evidence of human impact, and as the Eastern Sierra population ages, structural interventions in the landscape to address water issues will be more accepted. Higher levels of education will lead to a reduced need for order and neatness in natural areas (Kaplan & Kaplan 1989, Lyons 1983).

Design and Planning Implications

  1. Design and planning in the Eastern Sierra cannot occur without substantive public participation (rather than public consultation—see Arnstein 1969).  There is a strong belief in the local communities that lack of participation in decision-making leads to preferential treatment and inequities. They are particularly sensitive to this issue because of the impact Los Angeles residents have on their quality of life without any perceived accountability.
  2. The absence of water creates community capacity and willingness to address water issues. The Eastern Sierra communities are sensitized to the issues of water quality and quantity because of the visual evidence of the lack of water. This capacity can be leveraged to create community support for innovative approaches to water management, infiltration, and filtration, as well as support for water-related educational and recreational programming. This additional capacity will result in support for new policy.
  3. Policy that relates to water should be crafted, maintained and justified with an eye to what is important for the public, rather than the people writing policy. To the public, impact on recreation and aesthetics are extremely important. While we change water policy to address problems with water quality, quantity and accessibility, these changes should be framed in terms of their recreational and aesthetic impacts.
  4. The LADWP has been largely unsuccessful in its efforts to change public behavior relative to water conservation. As such, people continue to disassociate water use and water availability. In the Eastern Sierra, this is complicated by the politics of water access. People assume that if more land was in private ownership, more water would be available. Additional transparency related to water consumption, decision-making, and the impacts of development decisions are necessary to address this issue. Education across California needs to more effectively tie behavior and water availability, though this will be a challenge so long as water remains available with the only evidence of increasing scarcity being increased cost. Scarcity needs to be established using physically and visually clear tools to make connections for users throughout the state.
  5. The water availability impacts of development need to be made clear using visual tools, numeric metrics, and articulate language.
  6. Similar to policies that require replanting of tree stock to replace areas cleared for lumber, more direct links between water removals by LADWP and conservation efforts are important. Policies must tie conservation directly to water quantities and financial costs to create public confidence that government funding cuts will not result in reduced conservation capacity of the agency.  Rather than having conservation efforts funded separately, funding should be allocated on a unit basis, with expenditures determined by a group composed of LADWP representatives, scientists, and local residents.
  7. Policy should leverage the recognition of the link between land and water in the Eastern Sierra.  While in most areas of the country the public sees land and water as two separate issues, with different management and planning considerations, the extreme aesthetic and recreational impacts of water withdrawals in the Eastern Sierra have created a capacity in local residents to address water issues that would otherwise struggle for support.


Three key issues will determine the effectiveness of water-related policys the relationship between Los Angeles and the Eastern Sierra evolves. Local involvement in decision-making will be the key factor for creating support for the implementation of existing and new policies. Approaches to addressing water quality and quantity challenges need to be developed, which tie water to factors that are important to residents and tangibly impact the individual and community’s quality of life, such as recreation and aesthetics. Finally, while our changing demographics will result in an increasing demand for public involvement and its associated challenges, it will also create community and cultural capital to support changes in individual behaviors, involvement in community conservation groups and organizations, and a willingness to change individual behaviors to address current conditions, rather than a focus on (and idealization of) past conditions.

For Los Angeles, the Aqueduct is an invisible lifeline that is understood as an abstract idea. Water scarcity is reflected in policy, cost and a slowly evolving water-conservation-oriented landscape aesthetic, but largely disassociated from its quality of life considerations. Until water scarcity reaches a crisis point, wherein access to water is limited or water quality is compromised, public agencies will struggle to change water-related attitudes and behaviors. In the Eastern Sierra, the opportunity to leverage the evidence of unsustainable water consumption is evident on the landscape. The area is fertile ground for innovative policies, programs, and tools for water conservation, filtration, and infiltration.  The Aqueduct’s future will be defined more by the community that inhabits the watershed, than by the community that uses its resources—if it is empowered to act.


Arnstein, Sherry.  1969.  A ladder of citizen participation.  Journal of the American Institute of Planners 35 (4): 216-224.

Broder, John. 2004. Los Angeles Mayor Seeks to Freeze Valley Growth. http://www. nytimes.com/2004/08/08/us/los-angeles-mayor-seeksto-freeze-valley-growth.html [March 1, 2013].

California State Polytechnic University Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona), 606 studio.  2013.  Watershed Whisperers:  exploring potentials for water use, infrastructure and environmental justice in the Owens Valley and Mono Basin.  Unpublished report.  Pomona, CA:  Cal Poly Pomona.

Gagnon, A. 2001. Chronological History of Owens Valley. http://www.owensvalleyhistory.com/stories3/chronological_history_ov.pdf [January 10, 2013].

Gervais, M. 2012a. Mammoth and Forest Service Plan Land Trade. http://www.inyoregister.com/node/2187 [February 26, 2013].

Historic American Engineering Record (HAER). 2010. Los Angeles Aqueduct, From Lee Vining Intake (Mammoth Lakes) to Van Norman Reservoir Complex (San Fernando Valley), Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, CA. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress.

Kals, E., Schumacher, D. and Montada, L. (1999).  Emotional affinity toward nature as a motivational basis to protect nature.  Environment and Behavior, 31 (2, March), 178-202.

Kaplan, R. and Kaplan, S. (1989).  The experience of nature.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kollmuss, A. and Agyeman, J. (2002).  Mind the gap: why do people act environmentally and what are the barriers to pro-environmental behavior?  Environmental Education Research, 8 (3), 239-260.

Libecap, G. D. 2005. The Myth of Owens Valley. Regulation 28(2): 10–17.

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and Inyo County Water Department (ICWD). 1991. Inyo/Los Angeles Long Term Water Agreement. Bishop: Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). 2002. History of the LA Aqueduct. http://wsoweb.ladwp.com/Aqueduct/ historyoflaa/ [January 7, 2013].

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). 2006. Eastern Sierra Commitments and Issues. Los Angeles: Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Lyons, E. (1983).  Demographic correlates of landscape preference.  Environment and Behavior, 15 (4), 487-511.

Milburn, Lee-Anne, Robert D. Brown and Susan J. Mulley. 2010. Living the rural dream: the changing countryside and non-farm rural landowners. In Proceedings of the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture. pp. 235-240.

Mulley, Susan J.  2007.  (De)Constructing the Countryside:  Vernacular Perceptions of Pastoral Landscapes and the Rural Idyll.  PhD Dissertation.  Guelph, ON:  University of Guelph.

Petry, N. M. and Simcic, F. (2002).  Recent advances in the dissemination of contingency management techniques: clinical and research perspectives.  Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 23, 81-86.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). 1998. California Annual Precipitation. Sacramento: U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Tiernan Doyle is a 2013 graduate of Cal Poly Pomona’s Landscape Architecture program.

Eric Haley received his Master’s of Landscape Architecture degree from Cal Poly Pomona in 2013, where he participated in the Aqueduct Futures capstone project. He is now a designer at EPT Design.

Barry Lehrman is Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at Cal Poly Pomona, where he leads the Aqueduct Futures program. He is the author of “Reconstructing the Void: Owens Lake” in The Infrastructural City, Kazys Varnelis, editor (ACTAR, 2008).

Lee-Anne Milburn, PhD serves as chair of the Landscape Architecture Department at Cal Poly Pomona. Her research focuses on water, energy, transportation, and land uses.

James Powell is a design associate at Alta Planning and Design in Los Angeles. He completed his capstone project in the Cal Poly Pomona Landscape Architecture program in 2013.

Devon Santy earned his Master’s of Landscape Architecture at Cal Poly Pomona in 2013. A University Olmstead Scholar, his work has focused on watershed management and river restoration.

Water Resources: A Documentation of Water Technologies in the Atacama Desert | Catherine Ann Somerville Venart

Posted on by admin1963 Posted in Policies, Spring 2013 | Comments Off on Water Resources: A Documentation of Water Technologies in the Atacama Desert | Catherine Ann Somerville Venart

The Atacama is a Desert region stretching from Peru’s southern border into northern Chile. In Chile this region is known as San Pedro de Atacama and is designated the driest desert on earth. These areas are known as “absolute desert,” so arid that little or no life can exist within them. The altitude and topography together with the presence of water determine to a large extent what areas humans and various species of plants and wildlife can survive within. In most cases it is the ability of a species to adapt to the severity of the environment that determines its success or failure. The balance between an ecosystem and a species, how many it can support and where they inhabit is a negotiated, cause and effect relationship between a species and its environment. Some adaptations are cultural learnings or based in experience, some are biological and some occur within the environment itself, due to the inhabitation of it. For example, the burrowing of animals in the earth, is similar to early dwellings, which are dug in and made of thick earth walls, both use the earth for its insular properties. The lizard skins scales, are a biological adaption, where small pockets created by the scales enables water to collect, within the surface of the skin. This surface modification is similar to the agricultural plots or Chacras or Hoyas [1], which are shallow excavations that create subtle shifts in topography where moisture for their crops collect due to temperature differential between night and day. All these adaptions to “place” enable plant, animal, and human beings to dwell within a given landscape. This direct knowledge has come about from centuries of understanding of the earth and its resources as well as observing the plants and animals that also inhabit it. In the small oasis villages and towns in this region, some of this knowledge is still being utilized. So, in the face of rapid change, the question is how to keep this knowledge of the earth and its resources alive; and yet be able to adapt, grow and develop without threatening ecosystems and causing desertification.

The region’s main geographical zones are: (1) the coastal zone, which is the most densely populated area in the region; from this narrow coastal ribbon, the land rises steeply through the (2) Andean foothills (precordillera) to (3) the Pampas. These dry lifeless plains cut by river gorges, rich in mineral sediments from the Andes and (4) alluvial saltpan basins, of which the Salar de Atacama is the largest in Chile. A series of (5) high altitude plains, or sub-desert grasslands, continue east to (6) the Andes (cordillera) with their snow-covered volcanoes reaching upwards of 6,000 meters above sea level. This extreme climate and the vast and impressive scalar dimensions of its landscape have a direct and profound effect on understanding of the temporality and fragility of our existence, and indeed any existence within it. The tenuousness of human beings’ ability to survive within this landscape is observed first in the scarcity of vegetation; the extreme temperature differences between sunrise and sun set; and in the elaborate systems of gathering, directing and holding water.


Figure 2: Map of the Salar de Atacama Basin

The present study will concentrate on the area directly east of the Salar de Atacama (Fig.2), where several oasis towns are located. It documents two methods for gathering and distributing water, tracing water from its origins to use in (1) the town of Socaire, whose agricultural fields are fed by seepage water and (2) the small oasis town of Toconao that uses water from a deep river gorge. Both towns utilize ancient water systems today.

In this area, all water from the altiplano or high altitude plains and the Andean mountains, including river gorges, seepage water and mountain run off or snowmelt, makes its way to the Salar de Atacama basin. There is no outflow of water into any other water basin or to the sea, making the Salar de Atacama basin a closed system, with water leaving the system only by evaporation or through use by plants, wildlife or humans. Therefore, any water extraction will have direct consequences on the ecosystems involved, both currently and in its future.

Figure 3: Irrigation System that transfers water from source to field via human made canals, ditches and diversion walls.

In the town of Socaire (Fig. 3 & 4) small scale agricultural practices, consisting of a pre-Hispanic patterning of small irregular-shaped chacras or holdings that use a communal irrigation system to grow alfalfa, vegetables, and cereals. Field techniques of terracing or excavation, and shallow sloped fields or patches, called hoyas, create pockets of moisture and warmth that protect and nourish the crops, and enable them to be less dependent on irrigation water. Complementary irrigation helps to accelerate the time the crop takes to mature. This system is created using ditches or canals, the edges of which are reinforced by building up using either earth walls or stones, and sometimes mortar or concrete. Each field receives water through a gravitational system that uses subtle slopes along a central canal fed from an up-hill source controlled by a water gate opened to irrigate the top edge of each sloped field. The size of the settlement makes the use of irrigation techniques vital to the quantity and quality of crops. Thus, settlements are dependent on channeling water from snowmelt streams or seepage run-off, and therefore must address issues of climate change as well as water management if they are to survive. The challenge then is to find methods of collecting and using water to maximize its usage, satisfying development needs without strong or possibly irreversible impact on the natural systems.[2]

Figure 4: Photos’ Documenting Irrigation Fields and Field techniques in Socaire, Chile.

The town of Toconao (Fig. 5) is an oasis ecosystem. Its primary water source is the deep river gorge of the Rio del Valle de Jere that cuts through the desert plain on route to the Salar basin. The town’s water infrastructure is an elaborate system of canals and earthen walled reservoirs, with water gates that control the water levels and the distribution of water to the town as well as the fountain in the main square.  Changes in water availability and land use can make the town and its ecosystem vulnerable. Changes to the demand being put on the system are very real as increases in population due to mining, tourism, and the large international teams of astronomers that come to observe the clear skies found in the arid atmosphere of the Atacama Desert make these issues imperative to address. These changes have already begun in many communities in this region, shifting their economies from agriculture and livestock to construction, mining and tourism. As seen in the town of San Pedro, this has occurred very quickly, where agricultural lands have been developed for tourism projects (hotels, resorts and expedition companies, etc.) instead of remaining agricultural lands. This comes about when agriculture and the “land” have no more cultural value. There are many ramifications, especially here,within a closed system, as it creates a system where a scarce and limited resource is traded for a “monetary” income that depends on sources outside the system for survival.  This disconnects the inhabitants from the earth and the knowledge held within working and living with the land. This break in the continuity of knowledge creates a loss of cultural understanding and the direct understanding of “place.”

Figure 5: Photos’ Documenting Water Infrastructure in Toconao, Chile.

In the late 1990’s the government of Chile passed the “Indigenous Law,” one that recognizes the indigenous peoples of this region, and titled this region the Atacama La Grande Indigenous Development Area. This has given “the Atacameños greater control over their ancestral lands and the use of public funds,” it combines a “concentration of government development initiatives,” with “large scale mining, an emerging tourism industry and globally relevant astronomy projects,” and creates a unique and difficult challenge for this region and its peoples. “There is a need to connect traditional activities of production (agriculture, livestock, craftwork) with tourism and the [larger] economy through diversification and technology development.”[3]

With an increasing demand being put on the water supplies of this region and the current practices of land use and water management, the gap of understanding the interconnectivity between ecosystem, development, and us will only widen. We need to acknowledge the cultural importance of this connection to the earth and an understanding of our place in it, recognizing indigenous knowledge, a knowledge that has enabled settlements to lived in harmony with other natural habitats and ecosystems for centuries. We also need to recognize that these same sets of knowledge need to adapt, such that the cause and effect of the larger scale of the natural systems (hydrological and ecological) as well as the localized sites of human settlements, are tested to see the effects of the local on the larger whole. The problem that is put to these communities, then, is two-fold: what are the limits to growth, i.e. “how much development can be sustained,” and how can we keep both ecosystems and hydrological systems in balance with development, so that “we” remain within the realities of “place?”

All images © 2013 Catherine Ann Somerville Venart.

[1] Denevan, William. Cultivated Landscapes of Native Amazonia & the Andes, Oxford UK, Oxford Geographical & Environmental Studies, 2001.
[2] Beatriz Bustos, G. & Hernán Blanco, P. “Patta hoiri and Likanantay people: rescuing the knowledge of the land”, RIDES (2005). Santiago, Chile pp. 8, 11-14.
[3] RIDES (2005). Bienestar humano y manejo sustentable en San Pedro de Atacama, Chile–Resumen Ejecutivo (Human well-being and sustainable management in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile–Executive Summary), Santiago, Chile: RIDES. Santiago, March 2005 RIDES (2005). p. 36.

Western Waters | Sant Khalsa

Posted on by admin1963 Posted in Policies, Spring 2013 | Comments Off on Western Waters | Sant Khalsa

Water is a scarce, natural resource that plays a critical role in the destiny of humanity as well as all living flora and fauna. Today, water quality and accessibility is one of the most important issues facing our planet. Dependence on natural water sources such as rivers, aquifers, and wells is being tested daily and we search for new innovative solutions to provide water to meet our most basic human requirement. As we look to the future, the privatization of our water resources seems inevitable but troubling. Historically, it was the import of water that grew the Southwest and it will be water that will decide our destiny.

My photographs and installation works develop from my continued explorations into the meanings, mythologies and metaphors associated with water—the ‘universal solve(nt)’. Many say that I am obsessed with water. I say, how can I not be?  I live in the desert. I need water to survive.

The idea for my photographic project Western Waters developed while I was researching the bottled water industry in 1998 for my NEA funded installation, “Watershed.” While web browsing the word “watershed,” I found a business named “Water Shed” located in Palmdale, California. Of course I was curious, so I got in my car and drove an hour and a half northwest to see what this business was. There I found a retail water store in a strip mall, selling reverse osmosis purified water from tap to bottle. Further inquiry and research lead to my awareness of the growing business of retail water stores throughout the southwestern United States. I was drawn to this subject because of the apparent necessity yet absurdity of these stores and the way these venues seek to represent the source of a natural experience. Of course, these stores are merely an entrepreneurial enterprise—a constructed site to provide the consumer with the most essential requirement for life and survival. Today, plastic bottles replace earthen vessels and polluting automobiles carry us to and from this fabricated representation of a river, well, or spring to fetch our water. Western Waters addresses the commodification of nature, water as consumer product, and human desire—a never-ending thirst.

I used the Internet yellow pages to locate stores throughout the Southwest. I was especially intrigued by the store names and how they referred to natural water sites, water quality, and spiritual aspects related to water. It appeared that the concepts in my previous installation artworks, Sacred Spring and Watershed had manifested themselves in the real word.

I decided to use a photographic strategy atypical to my photographic style to present the subject content in a more objective way. My approach was influenced by the work of several artists and photographers that I have long admired and have had a significant impact on contemporary photography. I considered the social documentary photographs of Walker Evans. His approach to storefronts and signage seemed perfect for my project. Also, the photo book projects of Ed Ruscha, which used a straightforward, even deadpan, anti-aesthetic depiction of his subjects.  I was specifically thinking about 60 water stores in a similar way to Twentysix Gasoline Stations.

And of course, the typology photo works of Bernd and Hilla Becher. I considered their gas tanks as they related to Ed Ruscha’s gasoline stations and more specifically their water tanks as they would relate to my photographs of water stores.

To create Western Waters, I went on pilgrimages to these water sites—numerous road trips across four Southwestern states over a period of several years.  Never knowing what I would find when I arrived at the location, each store provided some commonalities but each also provided an individual experience. Ironically, this was similar to the experiences I had wandering in India in the early 80’s seeking holy and healing water sites, but often just finding a spigot and a sign marking the site.

Western Waters establishes a framework for understanding how we view the natural world (especially water) as a commodity. There are hundreds of independently owned water stores in the Southwest and this contemporary phenomenon continues to grow throughout the arid states. The stores attempt to give the consumer health and happiness, as seen in ironic store names, such as “Pure Water” and “Happy Water.” My straightforward typology approach to the subject emphasizes the sites—the store names and other signage, architectural elements, and the mostly generic strip mall settings.

The success of these stores is based on consumer fear that their tap water is not safe to drink and providing a less expensive alternative to bottled water. Water stores are generally located in low-income neighborhoods, areas with large immigrant populations, retirement communities and/or in regions where tap water has a very high mineral content. The businesses utilize different combinations of water purification systems that produce water of varying quality and taste.

I have photographed nearly two hundred of these stores throughout Arizona, New Mexico, Southern California, and Southern Nevada. The photographs are typically shown in an installation pattern of 60 images that refer to geography and mapping—where the stores are situated in the four states in relation to each other and my road trip experience. These photographs will serve in the future as a historical document of either a fleeting fad or the foundation of what will become commonplace in our society.

All images © 2013 Sant Khalsa. All rights reserved.

For full portfolio of images please visit the artist’s website at: http://santkhalsa.com/Portfolio.cfm?nK=2543&nL=0&nS=0.

Finding Francisco Martinez Espinosa | Paul Turounet

Posted on by admin1963 Posted in Fall 2012, Policies | 2 Comments

Francisco Martinez Espinosa from Tabasco, Mexico

Near mile marker 42 on Arizona Highway 286 between Sasabe, Sonora, Mexico and Three Points, Arizona, United States.

Found walking alone and dehydrated after being separated and abandoned from a group of ten other migrants, whom he believed were all dead. After hiding under a mesquite tree and hearing the story of how he had gotten lost in the desert, he eventually said, “I just want to go home.” It was the first time he tried to cross the border and had paid $1500 to a smuggler to take him to Phoenix. No sooner did we emerge from under the tree and back to the highway, when a young Border Patrol agent intercepted us.

Email from Unnamed Border Patrol Agent about Finding Francisco Martinez Espinosa:

August 10, 2004

Dear Paul,

Just a quick note to thank you again for helping out with the alien that you found on the side of Highway 286. I just wanted to let you know the resolution of what happened that day (to the best of our knowledge).

After you left, we had a flyover of the area west of 286 and north of the ranch at milepost 31 by the Arizona Army National Guard OH-58 that was supporting our operations. Usually they have at least a Borstar agent on board along with the 2 man crew. Approximately 8 agents from our shift and another 4 – 6 from the following shift worked the area that he had told us that the group was at. Basically, after interviewing the guy, we were able to match his footprints to a series of footprints that were running east – west and back again on one of the ranch roads about 3 – 5 miles from 286 approximately across from milepost 36 – 38. The alien was asked to step directly next to one of these tracks and they matched exactly in terms of size and pattern; so it was pretty conclusive that they were his sign. He had apparently gotten disoriented at some point that night and had backtracked at least twice trying to find his group. From that point, it is approximately 7 miles due north to highway 86 and even closer to a very popular load out spot at the southernmost end of Coleman road. From what we could figure from what he showed us; his group had been pretty close to one of the water tanks for the cattle near the eastern edge of the Baboquivari Kitt Peak area. (They couldn’t have gotten much water from the ones that I saw that day; and if they did drink it, they would have possibly gotten sick from the fecal contamination).

I’ve gotten somewhat familiar with the area myself and if you hug the side of the mountains, it adds a bit of walking but by going straight, you will end up just a half mile or so from Coleman Road. Coleman is about a 2 1/2 mile long north south road so it is possible to miss it by walking parallel to it;  but even if you did, you would eventually hit the 2 lane east west highway 86. Coleman is a big load out for aliens now; in the past MJ backpackers used it too but not too much lately. Either way, if the group got to Coleman or 86, they got picked up by someone…either smugglers, friendly folks or us. He didn’t recognize anyone at the station as belonging to his group; so my guess is that after he left to find water, the others left once they thought that he wasn’t coming back. Probably the entire time that he had been searching for water for them, they were moving to be picked up on the highway and might have already been in a drop house by that time.

In any event, fortunately, so far we haven’t made any discoveries of any group that size in the 1100 area west of 286 that had died from the heat. Since that day, neither BP nor aliens have reported any large numbers of dead out there in that area…if there had been reports, we would have heard of this, probably by now. Unfortunately, the agents in the Gila Bend area did find that group a few days ago with the five aliens that had died. In fact, it is averaging still about 1 a day throughout the sector. (You do remember how we talked that one of the reasons that there are so many aliens being found dead has as much to do with having more agents in helicopters, atvs, and horseback as it does with the heat and the number of aliens crossing…you don’t really know if some of them have been dead for 10 years but they are all counted in this year’s tally.

It is truly amazing everyday; today I caught a girl on her 16th birthday. Her group had left her just 1/2 mile or so in the US. She was at a minimum, barely past a 7th grade education, if not borderline retarded. I’m not sure that was one of the reasons that they let her fall behind. She had a 1 gallon jug of water, a small bottle of pedialyte when the water were to run out, a plastic garbage bag for the monsoons (if they occurred), a change of clothes, a hat, some food, and the clothes on her back. With her inexperience and the distance she would have had to cover completely alone, there is no doubt in my mind whether she might have made it. She was on the other side of 286 right down near Sasabe. Basically on that side, there is only the Buenos Aires Reserve road system, Arivaca Road at milepost 12 and a ranch road about milepost 16. If she weren’t able to make either of those roads to be picked up, or if she stubbornly kept on going when she ran out of water, there isn’t anything till milepost 30 or so. The saddest thing was that after an interview with the Mexican consulate, she got back on the voluntary return bus to Nogales, Sonora…we couldn’t put her on the airplane to send her back to Chiapas since she was an unaccompanied minor and the current rules don’t allow us to do that, even though in my mind it would make a lot more sense to get them as fast as possible to their home. (Of course, there is probably a very good reason that she left home in the first place!). One common theme that most of these southern Mexicans have is that nobody wants them here and nobody wants them at home either.

Anyway, I appreciate your thoughtfulness and concern and the help you gave us that day. A lot of people wouldn’t have stopped. I hope that your projects are going well and that you get a chance to come out this way again sometime. I wanted to be sure that I was putting out what the best info that I could get about this situation.


Finding Francisco Martinez Espinosa is part of Turounet’s larger, interdisciplinary project, Estamos Buscando AWe’re Looking For. Visit the project’s website at: http://paulturounet.com/estamos-buscando-a/riveting-photographs for additional works and Spanish translation.

“As the quest for a greater sense of personal identity, purpose and meaning is universal to our collective existence, viewers are invited to reflect on the anxiety and uncertainty of the migrants, and contemplate that emotional place we all must face when we leave behind the known for the unknown. Regardless of the demarcation lines of country and culture, we are all migrants in search of something profound and meaningful to our being. The bright border light forces a pause in this transitory experience for the migrant. At that very moment, their faces intimately reveal an unsettling and knowing sense that something is being lost and sacrificed in anticipation of something gained once nightfall finally arrives.”

Images: © 2012 Paul Turounet.

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Secession in the Desert: How Walking through a Mock Iraqi City Led to Aridtopia | Tyler Stallings

Posted on by admin1963 Posted in Fall 2012, Policies | Comments Off on Secession in the Desert: How Walking through a Mock Iraqi City Led to Aridtopia | Tyler Stallings

In October of 2009, I had the opportunity to take a tour of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, California in the Mojave Desert.[1] It was part of a UC-wide project called “Mapping the Desert/Deserting the Map: An Interdisciplinary Response.” I co-organized the project with Dick Hebdige from University of California, Santa Barbara, who had hoped to start an artist-based research studies program at UC Riverside’s Palm Desert campus[2]. However, the ensuing California budget crisis thwarted the plans. Nonetheless, the Marine mock city has continued to occupy my thoughts in the years that have followed the experience.

Built with shipping containers – the ones that we see on freighters docking in San Pedro or on trains taking those same containers and their goods out on the rail lines that feed the other states – the mock city that I saw was meant to mirror a typical Iraqi one at the time, since we were then at war with that country. Now, I assume that the mock city has since been rearranged, like Lego blocks, to suggest an Afghan one, or perhaps an Egyptian one, maybe even one in Syria. Whatever the city, I assume that it’s one in the Arabian or Syrian Deserts.

Our guide said, “Future wars will be fought in cities.” His example for other cities was not an Arabian one however. Instead, he said, “We could stack these containers to seem like a city block in Chicago.”[3]

I know that he meant to exemplify the heights that the Marine’s could reach with their stacking. But, whether he knew it or not, and if he did, perhaps he slipped in sharing his information, it was not to many years after my visit that the Marines did have an opportunity to occupy Chicago with their mock-ishness.

On April 12, 2012, The Chicago Tribune reported that during the preparations for a NATO summit in the city that “as attention on security intensifies, the city announced Monday that a ‘routine military training exercise’ would be under way in and around Chicago from April 16 to 19 to help personnel preparing for overseas deployment learn to ‘operate in urban environments.’ A city spokeswoman said the training is done around the country and is not related to the NATO meeting.”[4]

Under contract, Lockheed Martin has been building Urban Operations Training Systems all over the U.S. They are often city-size simulation facilities, like the one in Twentynine Palms, to help soldiers maintain their skills that they honed patrolling cities overseas and to prepare for the future.[5]

There are several districts that make up the one in Twentynine Palms, covering 274 acres in the desert. Fake markets, hotels and other businesses are populated with actors who create scenarios, ranging from humanitarian relief efforts to peacekeeping to police work and direct combat. The town can also be populated with up to 15,000 Marines for a training simulation.

The simulations involve not only what the Marines can see, but they are also to be trained to find escape tunnels, weapons caches, watch for where the last man in a line could be taken hostage, deal with hidden bombs in what would appear to be abandoned vehicles. There are thousands of linear feet of underground tunnels so that the actors can appear most anywhere throughout the city to simulate a surprise attack. Occasionally, there are shrapnel-free, special-effect explosions to mimic incoming missiles or suicide bombers, perhaps. Either way, you can’t trust a carpet seller, right?

Unfortunately, I cannot help but think that Marines’ training in both mock cities and real cities, both abroad and domestically, is unsaid preparation for an extended martial law. My gut response is to think that this would be implemented during a financial crisis brought on by diminishing oil supplies. However, living here on the edge of the Mojave, and thinking about the many arid lands around the world, several of which have been the settings for war, it seems that another resource will be the reason for military occupation: water.


While staying abreast of the mock city construction and mock military exercises in U.S. cities in these past few months, it was during this time that author Ernest Callenbach died on April 16, 2012.

He wrote the novel Ecotopia, which he self-published in 1975 [6]. It became a cult success, telling the story of a utopian world in which Northern California, Oregon and Washington had seceded from the United States in order to live in a “steady-state” with the environment, which we call “sustainability” today, or more radically, “permaculture”. When he wrote the novel, he was well into his career as the editor of Film Quarterly, which he edited for thirty-three years.

The book was inspired from his desire to write a magazine article about the problem of waste in the consumer society that surrounded him in the early 1970s. Instead, he opted to write a speculative novel about a country that embraced recycling, among other changes in social values. In a sense, the novel became an extended magazine article, eschewing characterization for observations about this new society, told from the point of view of a reporter from the United States entering into Ecotopia for the first time in twenty years after secession.

Soon after reading Ecotopia, I wanted to imitate his action of using writing to bear witness. However, I wanted the setting of my book to encompass a particular location and passion where I live, the arid land of Southern California.

In a true moment of inspiration, the name, “Aridtopia,” formed in my mind quickly.

I searched the web for any sign of its use. I found none, which was a surprise to me, as the name had become commonplace in my thoughts already in just a short amount of time. Immediately, I registered the web domain, www.aridtopia.com.


Here is the beginning of defining Aridtopia through fiction, but with the sensibility of a pamphleteer, ranter and activist:

Aridtopia is a speculative, utopian community in the Mojave Desert. It was founded when parts of southern California and Nevada, along with all of Arizona and New Mexico seceded from the United States to create a “dry-water” ecosystem: a balance between human beings, water and the desert. It is one of several new nations created after the U.S. federal government abdicated central control in light of economic, environmental and educational collapses. Today, the U.S. is composed of its original thirteen states from centuries ago, and has been renamed The Thirteen United States (TUS). Now, decades later, after The Grand Secession, Aridtopia is publishing a short history that is for the benefit of its citizens, its neighbor nations, and The Thirteen United States. It’s also for TUS adherents who live in the new nations, but hope to reunite the land from Pacific to Atlantic Oceans, as it was at one time in the near past.

History in Aridtopia is told from personal accounts only. Individuals are held accountable, not governments, corporations, families, tribes or partners.

I will start with a description of where I live. One’s environment and one’s spirit are inseparable, although they may change over time, but in tandem.

I live on a former Marine Corps base in the Mojave Desert, about 140 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. In the past, First Nations people would claim certain geographical sites as sacred, such as mountains, as the source of the birth of their people – upwelling from the depths of the planet. After The Grand Secession, Aridtopians decided to repurpose past structures as a way to repurpose them for a dry-water state but also to rehabilitate the land, to make it sacred again. Although, not in terms of being a site of mythical birth, but as a recognized partner in developing a new life.

I live in what was once a city, but not a city, a mock city for military combat training in urban settings. Constructed with stacked shipping containers that are bolted together, they resemble adobe pueblos of the past, as in the five storied, terraced ones in the San Juan country in northern New Mexico, like Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon.

When this was an Iraqi mock-village, one side of the central plaza had narrow streets and dense housing to represent the poorer inhabitants, while the other arm that extended from the opposite side of the plaza had wider streets and less dense housing to represent the upper class. These variations allowed for simulations on how to maneuver a tank through varying street widths. We have not such distinctions in the reformed plan. Like kivas in the past, there is no privileged seat. There is no throne.

Aridtopians need to work together a lot. Since life is very communal for now, our homes tend to be small and simple. Instead, the big structures are the Gathering Spots. A couple of hundred years ago in desert towns, such a spot might have been the town saloon – boxes with giant false fronts to suggest grandeur. Inside, you see fancy, carved bars that could be either a place to sip a drink or perhaps a baroque altar. You can see the values of pioneers embodied in the architecture. It was largely men who came out with the shirts on their back to make stakes in mining or ranching. Hard work, hard life, hard drinking. But most of these towns are gone because wood is not native to the deserts, at least not the way it was used for stud and clapboard. Instead, we have centuries-old, adobe cliff dwellings, among other structures, still standing throughout the Southwest.

Like the long history of desert architecture, whether ancient, United Statesean, or where I stand now, the main design features in Aridtopia are open plans in which the interior and exterior flow into one another, but including barriers against the constant and intense sunlight. You see canopies, loggias, and perforated screens everywhere. In fact, most people sleep under them at night rather than within the container of their walls, especially during the summer months.

We Aridtopians look at the teacher-plants around us for inspiration. There’s the Saguaro, with its vertical rods, like tendons that hold it upright for years. There’s the Cholla with its lattice structure and the Ocotillo with its emergent, tail-like slender stalk, usually over ten feet long, waving in the air under tensile strength.

The steel shipping containers are slowly replaced with less and less rigid walls; flexible ones that have been formed in order to withstand heat, wind, and a lack of precipitation. Cacti and succulents are full of secrets. Or, not really secrets, but simply there waiting for humans to recognize the integrity and strength of their designs.

In general, this approach to architecture is a part of what we call the Sun Agreement. For example, in one of our main squares, there is a giant canopy under which people gather. It is perforated to allow wind to pass through, so as not to tear the fabric, so as to provide shelter from the sun, but allow light to pass through as if through a tree’s foliage, and finally to allow birds and insects to dart in and out freely. It is Sympathetic Architecture that works with the sun, land and low precipitation.

The world is based on relationships. Nothing happens that is not an outgrowth of relationships. From an Aridtopian viewpoint, the most radical things to do now are to grow your own food, to choose your relationships, to decide how you want to breathe and to create clean water. It is the end of the Imperial Human.


Next chapter: How someone chose to join Aridtopia? Who was willing to believe in producerism rather than consumerism? Who was willing to get rid of third person narrator and enjoy “I” and “We”? Who was willing to stop watching and start feeling? Who was willing to change their habits? Who felt that they could leave others behind?


This is where my imagination lives now.

“May moisture find you.”


[1] Watson, Julie, “$170 million mock city rises at Marine base,” MSNBC News, January 26, 2011. Accessed on May 30, 2012, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41258569/ns/us_news-life/t/million-mock-city-rises-marine-base/#.T87JdO1uHzI
[2] “Mapping the Desert” was co-organized by Sweeney Art Gallery, University of California, Riverside, and University of California Institute for Research in the Arts (UCIRA), which was co-directed by Dick Hebdige at the time. The related website documents all phases of this project and prior ones for arts-based desert research initiated by Hebdige, http://www.sweeney.ucr.edu/exhibitions/mappingthedesert/.
[3] Podcast documentation posted on website for “Mapping the Desert/Deserting the Map: An Interdisciplinary Response,” Sweeney Art Gallery, University of California, Riverside. Accessed on May 31, 2012, http://www.sweeney.ucr.edu/exhibitions/mappingthedesert/.
[4] Coen, Jeff and Heinzmann, David, “Chicago preparing for NATO summit,” Chicago Tribune, April 16, 2012. Accessed on May 31, 2012,
[5] Ackerman, Spencer, “Lockheed Gets Big Bucks to Prep Soldiers for Urban War,” Wired Magazine, Danger Room column, January 18, 2011. Accessed on June 1, 2012, http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/01/lockheed-gets-big-bucks-to-prep-soldiers-in-urban-war/.
[6] Callenbach, Ernest. Ecotopia (Berkeley: Heyday Books, 1975, 30th anniversary edition). http://ernestcallenbach.com/Books.html

Images: Tour of Mock Iraqi City at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California, during “Mapping the Desert/Deserting the Map: An Interdisciplinary Response” project, co-organized by Sweeney Art Gallery, University of California, Riverside, and University of California Institute for Research in the Arts (UCIRA), October 23, 2009. Photographs © 2012 Tyler Stallings.

Website: http://tylerstallings.com

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