Dirty Water Initiative

Dirty Water Initiative

Dirty Water Initiative was commissioned for InSite 05 Art Practices in the Public Domain San Diego, Tijuana Pedestrian Border Crossing, San Ysidro, Mexico

“Water is the blood that nourishes even before the milk can flow.”
Ivan Illich, H2O and the Waters of Forgetfulness

For the InSite exhibit SIMPARCH chose to examine the striking disparity of water availability and purity in this urban region sharply divided by the border between Mexico and the U.S. At once art intervention, public architecture, and independently initiated infrastructure, the Dirty Water Initiative brings to light the growing dilemma of water, which is polluted, scarce, bottled, privatized, and wasted. The public exhibit consisted of an array of solar stills, a contaminated supply of water, containers for clean water, pipe and fittings. The stills were connected in series, which created a mini water purification plant [public fountain?] viewed along the pedestrian walkway upon entering Mexico. This gesture of purifying water directly challenged the cliche, “don’t drink the water”. Using the simple concept of solar water distillation, the Dirty Water Initiative utilized the Sun in heating contaminated water in glass-covered basins. This caused it to condense on the underside of the glass. The condensation flows down to a channel, which directs the distillate through a tube where it collects in a vessel outside of the still.

The stills were relocated after the exhibit as a small gesture to assist several families in water-challenged communities that survive on the “technophagic fringe” of development, where people fulfill basic needs without services and infrastructure that Americans expect.