The water issue

Posted on | March 24, 2010 | No Comments

Print editions of National Geographic’s special issue “Water: Our Thirsty World” (now online) will be on newsstands on March 30th. An accompanying exhibit opens at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles on March 27th. Among the features is “California’s Pipe Dream,” written by Joel K. Bourne, Jr with photographs by Edward Burtynsky.

Bourne opens, “On a blistering day in the megalopolis that is southern California, Shivaji Deshmukh of the Orange County Water District offers me a cup of cool, clear water that just yesterday was swirling around in an Anaheim toilet bowl … After spending the past century building one of the most elaborate water-delivery systems on the planet replete with giant pumps and thousands of miles of pipes and canals, California has come to this — akin to the last desperate act of lifeboat-bound sailors drinking their own bodily fluids.”

Once a body of water so well fed by Eastern Sierra glaciers that it sustained steam boats, Owens Lake became a salt-crusted valley after being tapped by Los Angeles at the turn of the last century. Photo: Edward Burtynsky / National Geographic

There are few more succinct summaries of California’s water crunch from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to the Salton Sea than that offered by Bourne’s short, incisive feature. The graphics and photographs explain why no other organization has bested National Geographic for environmental story-telling. Other features cover pending global fresh water shortages, desalination, rainwater harvesting, Asia’s glaciers, holy water, groundwater depletion in the High Plains Aquifer, a photo essay on water towers, vanishing wildlife of freshwater streams, water in recreation, pharmaceuticals in our water supply, how three Middle Eastern rivals are sharing the Jordan River and conservation in the American Southwest.

The Annenberg water exhibit will be accompanied by “Iris Nights” lectures from National Geographic photographers beginning April 1st. Click here for the program.

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