Drawing Water

Written by Thomas Baekdal | 2011-05-18 16:29:00

Here is an unusual visualization. David Wicks decided to map rainfall with US water consumption. Drawing a line from the place where it drops, to where it is consumed. The result is this interesting map. It uses water consumption data provided by the USGS and rainfall data provided by NOAA/NWS.

Drawing Water is a constructed landscape shaped by the relationship between where water falls and where it’s consumed within the United States. It builds images to expose the reality that water is channeled, pumped, and siphoned to locations far from where it falls. Although the paths are imagined, Drawing Water is based on real data and it reveals a clear truth about water resources and use.
Drawing Water plays a bit upon the 19th-century theory that “rain follows the plow.” At the time of its inception, that theory promoted Westward expansion, under the belief that plowing fields encouraged cloud formation and rainfall. As long as people plowed fields, they believed, water would come to them. Although we recognize climatological reality isn’t influenced by our farming (in the manner hoped), Americans still live with an illusion of resource availability following need.
The project is realized as a series of high-resolution print images as well as an interactive, animated map. Each print displays the cumulative rainfall across the United States for a season, starting with Spring 2010 and continuing through Winter 2011. Each line in a print corresponds to a daily rainfall measurement. The length of the line and its initial placement are determined by the amount of rainfall measured and where it fell. The final placement and color of each line are determined by the influence of urban water consumers. The more water a city uses, the stronger its pull on the rainfall. As rainfall is pulled farther from where it fell, it changes color from blue to black.

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