Me want cookie, me drink cookie?

Om nom nom nom! Don’t we wish we lived in Washington State, where researchers have found traces of spices and food flavorings in the waters of Puget Sound.

Via, National Geographic News has reported this delicious water gossip in a November 12th segment of a new series exploring the global water crisis.

University of Washington associate professor Richard Keil said the spices and flavorings vary depending on the time of the year. For example, around Thanksgiving, researchers have detected a spike in thyme and sage; around the Fourth of July, waffle-cone and caramel-corn byproducts surge.

Keil and his research team have been tracking the “pulses” of food ingredients that enter the Puget Sound. They found that of all the food ingredients detected, artificial vanilla is most prevalent in the sound. The team found an average of about 6 milligrams of artificial vanilla per liter (mg/L) of water sampled; the region’s wastewater effluent contains more than 14 mg/L. According to the story, “This would be like spiking an Olympic-size swimming pool with approximately ten 4-ounce (113.4-gram) bottles of artificial vanilla.”

Puts a whole new perspective on the branding of “Dunkin’ Donuts!”

The Visual Water Dictionary: Plume

The Visual Water Dictionary attempts to cut confusion on ambiguous water terminology with easy visual references.

Today’s Term: Plume

Plume is an underground pattern of contaminant concentrations created by the movement of groundwater beneath a contaminant source, with the contaminants spreading in the direction of groundwater movement.  The source site has the highest concentration, and the concentration decreases and dissipates away from the source.

Diagram of a polluted groundwater plume (via

Diagram of a polluted groundwater plume (via

Thirsty in Suburbia desirability grade: F
(Major points deducted for threat to water quality, sneakiness and long-winded disputes over “who’s going to clean up this mess?” )

Often confused with…

A chapeau with Plume by Givenchy (via

A Plume is a feathery accessory attached to a hat or other headgear. This plume floats merrily along with the direction of the wearer, and tends to disrupt the concentration and sight lines of other persons near the Plume’s source.

Thirsty in Suburbia desirability grade: B
(Minor points deducted for the laughing and finger-pointing that modern Plume wearers must endure.)

Previous entries in the Visual Water Dictionary:

Mixed Liquor

You Can’t Do your Laundry on Twitter

And I don’t believe you can get “free water” on Facebook, either. In colonial Guatemala, people gathered at public water tanks and washbasins do the laundry. But the activity encompassed more than laundry; the public water basin was the gathering place to share news and gossip and build community connections.

That’s why today, many still use the public washbasins even though most of them have running water at home. In the post Water Tanks and Colonial Style Social Networks on, Rudy Girón writes:

As I took these pictures, I took the time to talk to several of the women doing the laundry and I asked what were some of the reasons for utilizing the public washbasins even though most of them have running water at home. These are some of the answers:

  • Los lavaderos públicos, public washbasins are more comfortable because they are larger and the water is closer.
  • At the lavaderos públicos, public washbasins I get to see and talk to my friends and neighbors.
  • Los lavaderos públicos, public washbasins have plentiful of free water.
  • At the lavaderos públicos, public washbasins I get to see things and people, sort of free entertainment.
  • Los lavaderos públicos, public washbasins provide less distractions than being at home doing the laundry.
  • At the lavaderos públicos, public washbasins the temperatures are cooler and thus more comfortable.
  • Los lavaderos públicos, public washbasins are my only choice since I do not have running water at home.

This is part of the water series on antiguadailyphoto, which is worth a look–the photos and posts give a wonderful glimpse into the social, cultural and historical background on local water issues in Central America.

Brittani and Kourtni Confront the Water Crisis

(Click the letter image for a larger, more readable view!)

Dear Ethiopian Girlfriends,

Hey what’s up! We’re thinkin about ya cos the gals over at posted up some snaps of you on Facebook. (Why don’t you have your own Facebook page?)

Annnywaaaay…Me and the girls were just chatting and were wondering…what’s the deal with all that freight you’ve got strapped across your backs?

I couldn’t figure it out, Tiffani thought you guys were on your way to class and those totes were your backpacks–styles being different over in Ethiopia and all. Since the weather there looks warm and  you’ve got towels around your waist, I told her you guys were probably on your way to the pool and those must be your float-y things.

So I texted Erin over at, and we just about DIED when she told us that you guys were carrying WATER! When we asked her why you didn’t just didn’t get some out of the fridge, we were FLOORED when she told us that you spend practically all day every day getting water from faraway polluted sources, then have to carry those heavy things all the way home on your backs! (You must be WAY LATE for class!)

So right off we asked Erin for your address so we could UPS some Dasani right over, but Erin told us that wasn’t too practical, given where you live. She had the great idea for us to get in with the “Women Can’t” campaign they have going on to let more people know about the problem. So right then we all  friended it on Facebook and told all our peeps on Twitter. We even decided to skip the mall this weekend and send the bucks along to help out.

So send some NEW pics soon…this time, without that tank on your back!

Love and Hugs, Brittani and Kourtni

Women Can’t: Resources and Information at, including avatars, backgrounds and wallpapers, posters and more. on Twitter, on Facebook and on YouTube

Retro Water Advertising Film Fest Part 2

Part Two: And now, a word from our water sponsors from decades past! We’ve been interrupted by advertising for drinking water for at least a half a century. Following, more of of “the way we were.”

Brita Filter Ad from 1989 using the then-relevant “Funny British Guy” marketing tactic.

1986 Soviet dance party featuring Michael Jackson’s “Killer” and Varska Mineral Water.

Combine the 1986 coolness of Flashdance and Pumping Iron, then add Evian water.

“Nothing else will do” but Perrier in this jazzy, stylish-in-’87 animated spot.

Hey, Culligan Man, It’s 1984 and “the future is calling for you!” Little did we know!

Retro Water Advertising Film Fest, Part 1

And now, a word from our water sponsors from decades past! We’ve been interrupted by advertising for drinking water for at least a half a century. Following, a taste of “the way we were.”

1958 Perrier Party, the only thing missing is the Rat Pack and Vegas imagery.

Technically for Hamms Beer, but includes a “rain dance” for the beer that’s “refreshing as the land of sky blue water.” (1950s-vintage)

1978 Arrowhead Water tastes like “mountain snow, not chlorine!”

Those naughty French marketers! Perrier’s hysterical, risque 80’s spot promoting their larger bottle.

Bo Derrick look-alike and hipsters on the tennis court for Perrier in ’82

The Visual Water Dictionary: Slurry

The Visual Water Dictionary attempts to cut confusion on ambiguous water terminology with easy visual references.

Today’s term: Slurry

Slurry is a liquid mixture of insoluble matter resulting from some pollution control techniques, such as the water used to remove impurities from coal. Slurry has been known to pollute local drinking water supplies by seeping into groundwater, lakes or streams.

Thirsty in Suburbia desirability grade: F
(Massive points deducted for creepy moniker and filthy constitution.)

Coal slurry water in a West Virginia lagoon. Photo © The New York Times

Often confused with Surrey

A Surrey is a light, four-wheeled horse-drawn carriage with 2 or 4 seats. The most popular models are shiny and little with fringe on the top. Surreys have been known to pollute transportation corridors with large malodorous deposits of equine waste.

Thirsty in Suburbia desirability grade: B
(Points deducted for low speed, rough handling and manure byproducts.)

A shiny little fringe-topped Surrey. Photo:

Often confused with…Slurpee

Slurpee is a semi-frozen, carbonated drink sold by 7-Eleven stores (originally sold as Icees). Slurpee drinks are served fountain-style at a frosty 28 degrees. Slurpees have been known to pollute automobiles by seeping between seats into upholstery and floor mats.

Thirsty in Suburbia desirability grade: A-
(Minor points deducted for obesity-inducing sugar content and the lack of drive-through purchase option.)

A typical 7-11 Slurpee dispenser

Previous entries in the Visual Water Dictionary:
Mixed Liquor

The Absurdity of Umbrellas

A 2008 finalist in Vimeo’s Intelligent Use of Water Contest, Rainwater Harvesting is a beautiful clip from India’s Centre for Science and Environment that suddenly makes umbrellas seem ridiculous (at least in the manner we currently use them.)

Browse some of the other videos in the collection–a fine activity for your next slow, introspective rainy day.

Rainwater Harvesting from Intelligent Use of Water Contest on Vimeo.

Eric’s Excellent, Enigmatic Water Collection

This is Eric Lease Morgan, and for the last three decades he’s been amassing an unusual collection. A water collection. No, I don’t mean collecting samples for testing or other scientific pursuits. Since 1978, he has collected about 200 samples of water from all over the world, for reasons that are unclear even to him.

From the Atlantic to the Pacific, the River Ganges, Loch Ness, the Canadian Rockies to Three Mile Island to the Peruvian Amazon and many more, his unusual collection has grown steadily. You might imagine that it is displayed carefully in his home or office for all to marvel at the sight. But it isn’t, because that’s not the reason for the collection.

Many of these waters I haven’t seen in years. Moves from one home to another have relegated them to cardboard boxes that have never been unpacked. Most assuredly some of the bottles have broken and some of the water has evaporated. Such is the life of a water collection.

Salton Sea, California

Salton Sea, California

So how did this all begin? Most of us remember that entrancing moment when we first saw the ocean. For Eric, that moment did not come until he was a young adult, in the summer after high school graduation. Since Eric had never seen the ocean before, he and his best friend set out on an adventure to Ocean City, Maryland, and upon arriving…

At 2 o’clock in the morning, my first impression of the ocean was its sound. It was loud. In the light of day I was impressed with its size. Resolving myself to being able to see the ocean whenever I wanted, I bought a deformed bottle for 59 cents and filled it with water. Thus, my water collection was born.

Eric’s college Philosophy major further reinforced the concept through the study of Western thinking.

…Heraclitus who believed the only constant was change, and water was the essencial element of the universe. These ideas were elaborated upon by other philosophers who thought there was not one essencial element, but four: earth, water, air, and fire. I felt like I was on to something.

Roman Forum in Rome, Italy

Roman Forum in Rome, Italy

While traveling student-style through Europe in the early 1980s, the collection grew by leaps and bounds. During this six weeks, Eric collected water from the Seine at Notre Dame (Paris), the Thames (London), the Eiger Mountain (near Interlaken, Switzerland), the Aegean Sea (Ios, Greece), and many other places.

Over the years, his collection continues to grow at a slower, but steady pace. Each sample contains not just the element of water, but memories of a time and place… Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on a day playing hooky from work. From a pond at Versailles during his honeymoon. From the Missouri River, following the footsteps of Lewis and Clarke.

And with so many samples and memories, what stands out? What are his personal favorites?

Nice, because it was the prettiest; Atlantic Ocean, because it was my first and it is fun to watch the sand sift through the skinny part of the melted bottle; Caribbean Sea at Lime Cay because that is where my family and I had a whole Jamaican island to ourselves; Roman Forum, just because it came from a cool place; Salton Sea because that water is so dead it is unbelievable.

Caribbean Sea at Lime Cay, Kingston, Jamaica

Caribbean Sea at Lime Cay, Kingston, Jamaica

One thing I wondered… with today’s air travel security restrictions, how does he manage to bring home new additions to his collection without getting the full suspected-terrorist treatment at airports?

Security restrictions? Definitely! Collecting water has gotten expensive. When I travel I almost invariably never check any luggage. Unfortunately, carry-on luggage is not allowed to contain bottles of water. Consequently I have recently begun to check my luggage on the trip home — incurring a handling fee — just so my water can come along for the ride. Each of these bottles of water is costing me about $15 each.

And one of the best things about all this? Eric Lease Morgan is a librarian, and a computer-savvy one who has provided access to his collection on the web! So, we can all enjoy browsing the waters of the world from the comfort of our chairs!

Homepage: Eric Lease Morgan’s Water Collection
Collecting Water and Putting it on the Web (3-part blog series)
Water Collection Image Gallery
Water Collection, Links listed alphabetically
Water Collection Map View

Of course Eric’s 30-year endeavor isn’t world-changing, but still, for reasons I can’t explain I’m heartened to know that his water collection exists. I marvel at the fact that all of us can learn of it and see it, even if it is for no practical purpose. Thanks, Eric, for sharing it!

Finally, again, why do I do this? Why do I collect the water? Why have a spent so much time creating a system for providing access to the collection? Ironically, I am unable to answer succinctly. It has something to do with creativity. It has something to do with “arsience“. It has something to do with my passion for the library profession and my ability to manifest it through computers. It has something to do with the medium of my art. It has something to do with my desire to share and expand the sphere of knowledge. “Idea. To be an idea. To be an idea and an example to others… Idea”. I really don’t understand it through and through.

The Visual Water Dictionary: Cake

The Visual Water Dictionary attempts to cut confusion on ambiguous water terminology with easy visual references. (Thanks to Nancy Swartz for suggesting today’s entry!)

Today’s term: Cake

1. In the final stages of wastewater treatment, Cake is the dried material produced when sludge is de-watered. It is usually used as a fertilizer or transported to a landfill.

Thirsty in Suburbia desirability grade: C-
(points deducted for vile odor and uneasiness about the health implications of land application.)

Dry cake produced from wastewater sludge (Photo:

Often confused with…
2. Cake is a moist and delicious material produced when certain ingredients (including water) are mixed and baked. It is often used in celebrations. Packaging and broken-down ingredients usually end up in landfill.

Thirsty in Suburbia desirability grade: B-
(Points deducted for caloric count; unlike wastewater cake, this type is less desirable when dry.)

A slice of cake, birthday celebratory type

A slice of cake, birthday celebratory type

 Often confused with…
3. Cake is band from Sacramento, California noted for their dry humor and droll lyrics. This Cake is usually used at parties or on individual iPod players.

Thirsty in Suburbia desirability grade: A
(1994, Cake recorded a song titled You Part the Waters; Cake’s recording studio is solar powered. )

The band Cake

The band Cake

Past entries in the Visual Water Dictionary:
Mixed Liquor