Understanding California’s water culture

The Confluence –

Rina Faletti received her Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Texas at Austin. As a fellow with the UC Merced Center for the Humanities and in line with their focus on water, she curated an art exhibit on industrial photography and the Central Valley Project.

You use the term “water culture” to describe California. What does it mean to be a water culture?

California’s water culture is grounded in the weather and our wet and dry cycles, along with the fact that you couldn’t have built our major cities without water. It’s a culture that is dependent on water.

I grew up in California and the water culture just becomes part of who you are. And for me personally, water is a fantastic topic because it’s about our past, present, and future all at the same time. As I look at history, I’m simultaneously wondering where the water discussion will be in 20, 50, 100 years. I think the issues will morph, but water use, perceptions of quantity, and the fear of not having enough are likely to remain in some form.

You developed an exhibit on industrial photography and California’s waterworks, which shows some incredibly compelling historical photographs of the Central Valley Project as it was being built. Can you talk a little about what this perspective says about California water?

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