Water sector ‘artists-in-residence’ take unique approaches to public outreach

(Originally published in the May 2021 issue of Water Environment & Technology magazine. All rghts reserved.)

By Justin Jacques

The work of an artist — like the work of a wastewater treatment professional — represents more than the materials that go in and the product that comes out. Just as a painting created without cultural relevance may fail to connect with viewers, a piece of water infrastructure built without considering the needs, desires, and sentiments of its surrounding community may face opposition.

U.S. wastewater organizations are taking an outside-the-box approach to build connections between people and their infrastructure — making wastewater treatment more visible (and even more beautiful) to the public they serve. The three examples below show how artists have helped forge connections with the public about the vital work that takes place at water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs).

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Dawson-swirl.jpgSan Francisco-based photographer Robert Dawson became the San José–Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility’s inaugural "photographer-in-residence" in 2010. As part of his 6-month residency, Dawson captured several unique views of the infrastructure systems that support the development of the Silicon Valley region. Here, a pool of algae collects within a wastewater treatment process. Image courtesy of Dawson

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