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Photography - Issue#5

Waiting Water

Words and photography by Jessica Lindgren-Wu

I have always been drawn to island life: surrounded, under siege, framed and pockmarked by water. After living on Vancouver Island, Canada, and the British Isles, I have returned to where I was born: Gotland, Sweden’s largest island in the Baltic Sea, which has 800km of coastline to explore and numerous lakes and former limestone quarries filled with clear water that are now popular bathing spots. I take my camera on day trips during the summers to document my diving-crazy children and capture specific visions of my own imagination. It is a place that is rich with aqueous inspiration.

But the idyllic pictures of summery escapism and fantasy belie a problem: there are water shortages on Gotland. Year after year, ground water levels continue to drop to new record lows. The drain on water supplies from limestone and cement industries, agriculture, tourism and growing residential populations combine with climate change in the form of declining rainfall and snowfall, and these lead to increasingly urgent alerts about water scarcity and calls for water conservation. Hosepipe bans are now a feature of every parched summer here. Bacterial contamination of drinking water sources, algae blooms, radioactivity in the Baltic, and parasites in the lakes are the less idyllic realities of life on this island.

Environmentalists argue that industry is draining the limited watersupplies on the island. The companies counter that they are providing jobs for local people. Despite battles over who owns the water and who should be responsible for its cleanliness and conservation, Gotland has innovative water conservation programmes and state of the art desalination plants, while fish stocks are said to be rising in the Baltic.

Our family is lucky enough to have our own well, but we are always aware that it could run dry. As we always have, we make trips to our favourite waterholes and I use my camera to capture the textures of water as we interact with it and it runs, splashes, flows, ripples, and waits: a backdrop, a playground, a destination, an environment, a lifeline.

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