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Living Waters of Larimer Initiative Aims to Repurpose Rainwater

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With help from artists, geologists, lawyers and others, the Living Waters of Larimer initiative encourages people and government agencies to think of rainwater not as something to be disposed of but as a community asset with aesthetic and economic benefits.

It began in 2013 when environmental artist Betsy Damon had an exhibit at The Mattress Factory Art Museum on Pittsburgh’s North Side. While here she became aware of the work of community activists in the city’s Larimer neighborhood.

The organization known as the Larimer Green Team had an established community garden that was in the process of becoming an urban farm. Damon visited the garden and learned that 80 million gallons of rain water fell on the neighborhood each year, which was an ongoing cause of flooding on nearby Washington Boulevard. She thought, “what if we could collect all that water.”

She enlisted the help of Bob Bingham, an art professor at CMU, attorney John Stephen and others who along with the Larimer neighborhood stakeholders launched the project.

Applying an artist’s vision to address real world problems while at the same time adding aesthetic appeal to the environment is their purpose. The full title of the project is “Living Waters of Larimer: A Fresh Infrastructure.” It addresses Pittsburgh’s water infrastructure deficiencies, including aging pipes and no real consideration for local ecosystems.

Treating the water as an asset to be utilized rather than something that needs to be disposed of is at the core of their activities which, in the years to come, should yield tangible financial benefits to the community as well as infusing art into the environment.