Water, Wealth, and Race

Water, Wealth, and Race

Student Artist: Derick Northington
Course: Data Visualization with Lucy HG Solomon
Sustainability Focus: Insert which area of sustainability
Data Source: datausa.io and carslbadca.gov
Media: wood, wire, spray paint, plastic cups, paper, and glue.

The idea behind this project is to show how the cleanliness of water correlates to the household median income and racial demographics of a city. Water, Wealth, and Race focuses on the North County San Diego areas of Carlsbad, Oceanside, Vista, and Escondido. In the installation, four small bottles contain water from the four cities; also included is a TDS (totally dissolved solids) tester which indicates the different levels of pollutants in the water. Measurements show that the higher-income, primarily “white areas” have cleaner water, and the lower-income non-white areas have dirtier water.

I wanted to make something that would be interactive with the audience, so I decided to bring bottles filled with water from the four cities in my project.  The idea is that anyone can pour water into the cup and test the TDS levels with the tester and compare it to the clean water graph.  You can then know where you fit in when it comes to your race, wealth, and the city you live in, in gauging how clean or dirty your water is.  The graph also shows water cleanliness levels all across the United States, so no matter where I take this sculpture it is applicable to local audiences.

My data shows that here in North County San Diego, the wealth and race of a city affects the water in that the whiter and higher household median incomes the cleaner the water.  The less white areas with lower household median incomes have dirtier water.  I believe we will see this similar trend in data all across the United States and the world.  I am interested in testing the idea to find out. 

U.S. TDS levels by state