From Southern California, public radio for your eyes.

Bone Dry

100 years ago, Los Angeles began diverting the river and streams that feed Owens Lake to a thirsty city.

Over the next century, the water source in the Eastern Sierras has all but dried up. Massive dust storms now buffet a floodplain the size of San Francisco, making it the largest single source of dust pollution in the United States.

According to the LAWDP, Los Angeles still sucks  36 percent its water  from the creeks that would flow in to the Owens Valley.

Photographer David Maisel flew over Owens Lake in 2001 and 2002 to capture the bone-dry salt flats and blood-red lake expanses that occur when pink, salt-loving microorganisms and algae spread across the arid surface.

Maisel is an environmental photgrapher. His aerial portraits show stark impressionistic renderings of the damage done to Owens Lake. This photograph from an astronaut on the International Space State shows an overall view of the iron-stained valley.

Since the destruction of Owens Lake led to proliferation of LA's urban sprawl, Maisel decided to turn his camera on the cityscape for his next project "Oblivion."

For Oblivion, Maisel took aerial shots of the city and then inverted them to create images that look like X-rays of the urban structure. 

These two projects are featured in Maisel's newest monograph Black Maps: American Landscape and the Apocalyptic Sublime, which documents environmental changes across the states.

A recent editorial on our program Off-Ramp criticized Los Angeles mayoral candidates for dodging water conservation issues, and the lack of a sustainable water source for Southern California has come up more than once in our #DearMayor forums.

Check out KPCC's coverage of Owens Lake to learn more about the current state of the project.

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