Editorial Letter: Chicago Field Museum 'The State of Water'

Jan. 21, 2022

This article originally appeared in Water Quality Products February issue 2020 as "A New Perspective"

About the author:

Lauren Del Ciello | Managing Editor | [email protected]


What does water mean to you? This is a question that is echoed throughout this issue of WQP and was prominent on my mind during a recent trip to the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History.

If you read my column regularly, then you may have noticed that water has a way of infiltrating other aspects of my life outside of WQP. When I learned that my favorite Chicago museum was featuring a special exhibit called the State of Water: Our Most Valuable Resource, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit the temporary exhibit before it closed.

The exhibit featured 31 large-scale photographs by photographer Brad Temkin exploring water purification and reclamation systems from cities all over the U.S. Temkin worked to show the systems in ways the public often does not see, highlighting shots like the caverns of a reservoir, the interior of a storm water pipe, clarifiers at a wastewater treatment plant, water flowing over a weir, and more. The exhibit aimed to help viewers “contemplate the unexpected beauty in the architecture of water treatment facilities, and consider the importance of clean water,” according to the museum’s website. When my partner, who does not work in the water industry, was looking at a close-up photo in bright green tones of water undergoing the disinfection process, he said to me, “Now this I would hang in our living room.” That moment manifested the point of the exhibit to me, showing that water is art.

My perspective may be unique because I have been able to explore in reality some of the Chicago water infrastructure photographed for the exhibit. Yet to see the infrastructure presented as art and to see the people around me react was a different experience. It also made me wonder how our readers view their own work.

When I ask WQP readers why they love our industry, the answer often centers around a passion for helping people and a respect for the environment. But what I want to know now is do you see your work as art? Is there beauty in a resin or RO system? What about the moment clean water flows again for the first time? After all, “all religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree,” according to Albert Einstein. 

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