Monday, October 22, 2012

Water Data as Art? Perhaps.



Winter 2011 rainfall versus consumption.
"Drawing Water"
David Wicks turns environmental data into art through computer software that he creates.  One of his latest projects has to do with rainfall data and is shown as this post's visual.  (Click to enlarge)  What looks like a cool rendering of the United States, is actually 2011 winter rainfall data by location, tweaked, and placed in reference to regional water consumption by cities. In other words, this is a visual rendering of the relationship of where water falls in the US to where it is used.  The numbers that make up the rendering are rainfall data from the NOAA/NWS and water consumption data from the USGS.  

In his own words.. "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 becomes desaturated, turning from blue to black in print and to white in the projected installation."   For more detail on the data and/or the process click here.

My personal take on the artwork is one of trending more toward the abstract.  I don't see the water use relationships that I think were intended to be seen.  I can only surmise that Colby, Kansas doesn't show up because either we don't use much rainfall in the winter, or, we use exclusively groundwater.  It does appear that most of our rainfall heads somewhere East of St. Louis, though.  (I'm only kidding - I never expected to see Colby's influence!)

But actually, that's not all.  His program also includes an interactive component that allows a user to select a smaller portion of the US and to look at the last few days of precipitation, or one of several other preselected time periods.  This could be cool, but I still don't think I'm going to see Colby patterns that will result in an "aha" moment.  However, all said, I applaud Mr. Wicks' interest in the political nature of water and in attempting to portray this critical resource in a new and innovative way.  And I guess I'll mention it before anyone else does - it doesn't seem to me like California or Texas are getting their fair share.  Or am I looking at the picture backwards?

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