The Year in Water: Too Much and Too Little

This year, as 2013 draws to a close, the print, television and internet media are filled, as they are at every year’s end, with reviews of the year by category: “The Year in Style,” “The Year in Sports,” “The Year in Arts,” “The Year in Politics,” etc.  With this post, I hereby add my ‘take’ on year-end summaries with “The Year, 2013, in Water.” By all accounts, 2013 was a year of water extremes around the globe: too much water or too little of it.

Too Much Water

Words like ‘historic,’ ‘massive’ and ‘disastrous’ were used to describe the extensive rain events that befell regions and countries around the world during 2013.

June was an especially intense month of flooding in Central Europe, southern Alberta, Canada and India.  Beginning on June 2, record rainfall affected major rivers in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland and Slovakia. The Danube River in Passau, Germany reached its highest level since 1501 and many European cities documented flood waters that represented the highest numbers in over a century, causing widespread evacuations, significant damage to homes, businesses and communities as well as loss of life.

 Kresice, Czech Republic, lies submerged on June 4, 2013 (Petr Jesek/Reuters)

Kresice, Czech Republic, Lies Submerged on June 4, 2013 (Petr Jesek/Reuters)

Similarly, heavy rainfall prior to June 20, 2013 triggered flooding in southern Alberta, Canada that has been described by the provincial government as the worst in Alberta’s history and by the Canadian government as the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history.

 Evacuations in Alberta, Canada, 2013

Evacuations in Alberta, Canada, 2013

Although monsoons in India are an annual event that help to sustain India’s agriculture, the June, 2013 monsoon that hit northern India produced rainfall in one area that was five times the average for the time period, causing mudslides and flooding numerous mountain villages known for their Hindu shrines.

 A Submerged Idol of Hindu Lord Shiva in the Flooded River Ganges in Rishikesh, in the Northern Indian State of Uharakhand. AP Photo

A Submerged Idol of Hindu Lord Shiva in the Flooded River Ganges in Rishikesh, in the Northern Indian State of Uttarakhand. (AP Photo)

During the week after September 11, 2013, Colorado rainfall over a period of five days in some areas of the state exceeded the amount it normally experiences in a year.  Subsequent flooding that impacted seventeen Colorado counties caused the destruction of over 200 miles of state highways, 50 bridges and thousands of homes and forced massive evacuations.

 Flash Flood in Colorado, 2013

Flash Flood in Colorado Destroyed a Portion of a Road, 2013

And, just this past week, days of torrential rain precipitated major flooding in the Brazilian states of Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo, where over 60,000 residents were forced to flee their homes and where at least 30 people have died. The disaster has been called the worst in 90 years.

 Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff Surveying the Damage Caused by Massive Flooding.

Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, Surveying the Damage Caused by Massive Flooding. (Reuters)

Too Little Water

At the same time that many areas of the world experienced excess amounts of water during 2013, others faced the repercussions of drought.

According to the Global Drought Information System, which produces a monthly report on drought conditions, prolonged drought has intensified in the Southwest, U.S., spawning the term,”megadrought,” and triggering numerous ‘megafires’ that have decimated thousands of acres of farms and forests.  In Latin America, drought has caused as much damage as other more highly reported natural disasters: extended drought in Bolivia, the worst in 40 years, has triggered 47,000 fires; Argentinian and Brazilian corn plantations, which supply half of the world’s corn produce, have been decimated; and a food emergency has been declared in Paraguay.

 A Food Emergency Has Been Declared in Paraguay Due to Prolonged Drought

A Food Emergency Has Been Declared in Paraguay Due to Prolonged Drought

Other areas of the world impacted by sustained drought include the South of Africa, areas of Europe along the Mediterranean, Southern India and much of southeast and central parts of Australia.

 2013 Drought in Ireland

2013 Drought in Ireland (

This is not an uplifting end of year report, by any means.  Here’s hoping our scientists and politicians around the world begin to seriously tackle the hard work of addressing climate change so that future ‘Years in Water’ show reductions in the severity of water events and their human, economic and ecological costs.

The Wave as ‘Placemaker’

More Awesome News

Elena and I are very pleased to announce that we are recipients of a $10,000 2014 Arts Catalyze Placemaking Grant (ACP) from the Connecticut Office of the Arts, Department of Economic and Community Development!  The ACP grant program was created to  “invest in the state’s arts-based cultural activities and infrastructure in ways that will advance the attractiveness and competitiveness of Connecticut cities, towns, and villages as meaningful communities in which to live, work, learn and play.”

In partnership with The Connecticut Library Consortium, we will be conducting four installations of The Wave between January and June of 2014 in the Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT, the Public Library of New London (CT), the Willimantic (CT) Public Library and the New Haven (CT) Free Public Library. The installations will serve as a catalyst for the establishment of ‘Community Engagement Hubs’ or centers for on-going community dialogue, and will remain in the libraries as visual documentation of the project and a visual reminder of shared community responsibility.

By using The Wave in four urban libraries as an appealing, interactive art installation that will attract a wide variety of participants and become a catalyst for community conversations on the topic of water, the libraries will: (1) Create a trusted and safe venue for on-going public dialogue on community issues, with water being only the first topic of discussion; (2) Improve civic engagement among segments of the population who have been less involved; and (3) Improve social isolation among community members.

'Wave-Makers' at CT Office of the Arts Higher Order Thinking (HOT) Schools Teacher Institute, 2012

‘Wave-Makers’ at The CT Office of the Arts, Higher Order Thinking (HOT) Schools Teacher Institute, 2012

 Placemaking as Process and Philosophy

The term, “placemaking” began being used by writers such as William H. Whyte in the 1960s and by architects and planners in the 1970s to depict the process of creating public spaces that would take into consideration the needs of people and not just the physical design of buildings, shopping centers and roads.  The Project for Public Spaces (PPS), a nonprofit, international, planning, design and educational organization, founded in 1975 and dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities, defines placemaking as follows:

Placemaking is the process through which we collectively shape our public realm to maximize shared value. Rooted in community-based participation, Placemaking involves the planning, design, management and programming of public spaces. More than just creating better urban design of public spaces, Placemaking facilitates creative patterns of activities and connections (cultural, economic, social, ecological) that define a place and support its ongoing evolution. Placemaking is how people are more collectively and intentionally shaping our world, and our future on this planet.  

These are lofty words for how we can become more connected to the places in which we live, work and play through creative activities and shared experiences.  We are very proud to be part of this process in Connecticut.

Some Awesome News


Elena and I are pleased to announce that The Wave has received a $1000 micro-grant from The Awesome Foundation Connecticut.

What’s the Awesome Foundation and why us?

The Awesome Foundation was established in Boston in 2009, “to conserve, sustain and support a worldwide system of awesomeness.” They are a network of independent chapters devoted to funding projects that affect positive change in local communities. Ten or so ‘trustees’ in each chapter pool together enough of their own money to distribute $1000 each month with no strings attached and with no ownership of the projects they support.  According to a trustee of the national chapter, an Awesome award is “a micro-genius grant for flashes of micro-brilliance.”

We applied for an Awesome Foundation Connecticut grant to provide funding for a Wave installation at a site in Connecticut that cannot afford the cost of materials but had expressed great interest in hosting the project.  Stay tuned for an announcement of the site that we select.

 Wave Participants at the National Aquarium, Baltimore, MD, 2013

Wave Participants at the National Aquarium, Baltimore, MD, 2013