Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Measuring Our Water: From Dowsers to Satellites

By Jane Griffin, The Groundwater Foundation

Last week I had the opportunity to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West.  I participated in one of the guided tours and learned so much about the architect, his work, and the architectural school, which is still active. To think that Wright arrived in the desolate desert in the mid-1930s and was able to envision what this place has become. Access to water was one of the many challenges living in this area posed.  For years Wright and his students traveled miles to get fresh water - until Wright armed himself with a dowser, determined there was water to be found underground.  He identified the spot for the well.  At 100 feet no water, 200 feet no water, 300 feet no water, 400 feet no water (the well drillers had been advising Wright to try another spot since about 200 feet down), but Wright was determined, and instructed them not to give up even when no water was found at 500 feet.  Good thing they didn’t give up; at 507 feet they hit the aquifer; and it has been supplying Taliesin West since!  In fact, the water is said to be so good that people who drink it will live longer, healthier lives (Wright himself lived a very active and productive life; he died at 91)!

Hearing about using a dowser to determine water availability got me to thinking about the presentation at our national conference by Jay Famiglietti.  Jay provided an overview of NASA's GRACE project, where satellites are used to detect changes in Earth's gravity field to determine how fresh water availability is changing. To learn more about his fascinating technique you can see his presentation on our YouTube channel. 

Satellite technology was not an option in the 1930s - nonetheless Taliesin West is a remarkable place - if you are ever in the Scottsdale area make sure you visit and participate in a tour of the place.   Here is a little information about it (from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation's website) and a link to more information.

Taliesin West is a national historic landmark nestled in the desert foothills of the McDowell Mountains outside of Scottsdale, Arizona.  It is also the home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and Taliesin, The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture.

Wright's beloved winter home and the bustling headquarters of the Taliesin Fellowship, Taliesin West was established in 1937 and diligently handcrafted over many years into a utopian world unto itself.  Deeply connected to the desert from which it was forged, Taliesin West possesses an almost prehistoric grandeur.  It was built and maintained almost entirely by Wright and his apprentices, making it among the most personal of the architect's creations. Click here for more information.

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