Exhibition charts little-known waters


A NEW exhibition at the Science Gallery in Dublin promises to show you water as you have never see it before. It includes a waterfall that can spell out words and a purpose-built lab where you can test the quality and safety of your drinking water.

“Surface Tension: the Future of Water” opens to the public this morning at the Pearse Street gallery. “It tries to reflect the tension around water use, but also what it means socially and culturally to people,” joint curator Ralph Borland said at a press preview yesterday.

The exhibition seeks to make people think about the preciousness of a commodity we take for granted, yet it does so in a most engaging way.

For example, your typical hen’s egg doesn’t seem to have anything to do with water. The production of a single egg, however, means splashing through an astounding 200 litres of water, used to grow the bird’s feed and for other purposes.

That tempting oriental steak salad looks dry enough but demands the addition of a hidden 2,285 litres of water – 1,550 litres to feed the cattle and another 21 litres to grow the veggies it contains.

We have all seen waterfalls that cascade and splash but the exhibition sports one that can display words, selected by a computer that monitors word use on a selection of internet news sites.

People are also encouraged to bring in samples from their own water supplies.

These can be tested for chemical and bacteriological contamination in a purpose-built on-site lab or included in a fountain of samples collected from across Dublin and farther afield.

Mr Borland and his fellow curators – gallery director Michael John Gorman, Bruce Misstear and Jane Withers – believe the exhibition might put people off bottled water. One display shows how bottling one litre burns up 1,000 times more energy than taking water from the tap.

Visitors are likely to be dive-bombed by helium-filled sharks and other fish that float about the exhibition. Then there is the prototype robotic sailing ship, designed to mop up oil spills at sea.

Those with a bit of music about them might consider having a go at the “hydrocordian”. It plays notes as the “squeezician” pumps foot pedals while varying pitch with a rubber bulb.

Displays portray water as a valuable commodity but also as a socially important and symbolic substance, for example when taken from holy wells.

They also inform, helping people to realise that despite Earth being such a watery planet, only 1 per cent of all that water can be used. While daily average individual water consumption and use in the US reaches a startling 575 litres, those living in Mozambique make do with just four litres a day.

Mr Borland added that the UN’s water poverty threshold stood at 50 litres a day and our own daily demand was at about 150 litres each.

Surface Tension opens today with visiting times from noon until 8pm Tuesday to Friday and noon to 6pm at weekends. The exhibition remains open until January next and admission is free with a suggested donation of €5.

Watch a video of Surface Tension: the Future of Water exhibition at Trinity's Science Gallery onirishtimes.com