HIDDEN WATERS :: DRYLAND SPRINGS

 

Water is the first act of creation, swirling in a language before words, mysterious and beautiful emerging from underground springs into rivers, ponds and lakes. Springs are earth's time keepers from deep to recent time. Since the beginning of human existence, they have been key to our survival and revered as such by all cultures as a symbol of beginnings, hope and rebirth. Many civilizations began where there were abundant springs.

Some springs come from aquifers hidden under our feet, in vast pools of million-year-old water. Others are from younger, shallower waters which can be recharged by rain and snow. Their ecosystems reveal the health and abundance of their source.

While holding the secret for our ability to live in the desert, they are mostly unnoticed or disregarded. Most commonly they are overused resulting in their loss. Yet preservation efforts are negligible at best. Springs survival has become an emblem of why we need to think more long term, past our immediate needs and comparatively short lives. Since the potential for running out of fresh water is real.

This project began on a springs inventory biology field trip. Where I discovered a world teeming with life within a trickle of water—a single spring that held an entire ecosystem. What looked like an insignificant, balding patch of green on an arid hillside contained invertebrate and plant species engaging in a complex web of interactions.  I was drawn to the fragility of life in the desert. For the last two years, armed with a sense of adventure, a rented GPS, a cell phone with unreliable service, and a little luck, I’ve searched for the reality behind those little blue dots on my paper maps.

Each spring tells story about time, water and survival.  Be it lush, bone dry, pristine or unaltered the narrative often contains both a cultural importance and a historical past. As long term drought combines with expanding population, industrial agriculture, mining pollution and destruction of wetlands, the overuse of existing water supplies is inevitable. In some places, it's happening already. The UN and World Resources Institute among others, predict that as much as two-thirds of the world may suffer from water scarcity by 2025. Natural ecosystems will be hit even harder.

This fact is hard to comprehend when still most of us can get water easily, by turning on our taps. With human development and climate change, the natural world is being reshaped at a very fast rate. I want to use the photograph to freeze a moment that also captures that sense of change through time. Can it reveal a shift we can’t see is happening? These images are windows, looking through panels that that resemble a sepia colored past and a potential dried out future bracketing a present in living color. All happening at once, all at the same turning point.

Preservation of water is vital in dry lands, for only where there is water can there be life.