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The Living Water Garden

by Betsy Damon

© 2001 Keepers of the Waters . All World Wide Rights Reserved

A 1/4 mile long water

quality education park

and green space in the center of Chengdu, China, created by Betsy Damon

and Keepers of the Waters.

The Living Water Garden
is a park about water, water quality and water and life. It is like a

great well that nourishes the city and teaches the citizens through its design and purpose. The park is designed to clean water. Not sewage water but chemical pollution, created by the life of a large industrial city. This pollution is more invisible and persistent than waste water. It is this pollution which slowly and subtly takes over our water quality. This pollution spreads from the city to the country. Nature has many ways of taking care of the water. Water is cleaned naturally all the time. It is one the wonderful aspects of nature that it is organized to create and sustain life. This organization is complex, sometimes invisible, constantly changing and constantly working. To understand how this works we need to watch nature for many years, an opportunity people do not have who live in the city. The Living Water Garden is organized to sustain life. It is organized to show nature and water working together for water quality. It reveals the truth about our relationship to water.

What is in the Living Water Garden?

First, water is taken from the river into a settling pond. Around the settling pound is a large place to walk and learn. There is a 6' (in diameter) living-water-drop in the center of the pond. Carved into stones is information about water and life. Then, in the settling pond the larger materials settle to the bottom, Microbiology will be injected into the pond to bring back the life that can eat pollution. Good water contains minerals and micro organisms. These organisms eat the pollution. In polluted water nothing can live and in waste water microscopic life grow which are harmful to humans and other life forms. The water in the settling pond is then past over a stony area to aerate. The bacteria need oxygen to survive. Air helps the water to clean. Next the water goes through many different plants that absorb different chemicals. The ponds are quite large and the water needs to stay in the ponds for many hours.


Then it passes through several long sculpture that are called flow forms. These forms also help to clean the water by imitating nature very precisely. Water always moves, forming and reforming vortices. These vortices are the bases for most life forms. This motion is the motion that also cleans water. Water does not move in straight lines. When water is sent through a long pipe, or through straight lines it looses some of its life giving properties.


After it has passed through the flow form it goes into ponds. At this point the water can sustain life and these ponds will contain fish and many plants. These plants and animals will further clean the water. At the end of these ponds is another Flowform. After the water leaves these final flow forms it will be much cleaner. At this place in the park there are areas for children and others to play in the water.

In The Living Water Garden you can see this system with water monitoring stations along the way. It will contain a complete environmental education center, the first in China and possibly the first comprehensive center in a public park. This center will serve the 9 million citizens of Chengdu with programs and exhibitions for all ages A large public green house is located in the center of the park. In addition to the many plants it will grow and programs it can host the green house will contain a model water cleaning system for a clearer understanding of the larger system in the

The flood walls of the garden have been design to encourage inter-action with the river and assist new life to begin in the river. The cleaned water, about 400 cubic meters a day will return to the river. This is not enough water to clean the river. This cleaning is a symbol and a learning. The park will teach the citizens. It will be a constant reminder in this important city of the importance of pursuing a goal of reclaiming the river.

The companion parks to the Living Water Garden are three smaller parks at the confluence. These parks address the exceptional history of water in Sichuan province and Chengdu. They add a grace and charm to a city with a long history of grace and charm. The largest of these three contain a water system that describes the history of water through an experience of water. The five great moments of history beginning in 240 BC include Dejuian, and the Tang Dynasty Water system are celebrated with five water elements. The final one is the present renovation project. This is represented by a delicate glass tea house floating on a pond surrounded by modern Chengdu, a city circled by water. A city whose citizens gather along the river, with a passion for their river and their history.


While looking down stream toward the confluence you will see a large ball of water surrounded by the names of those who designed the present renovation of the Fu-Nan river. On either side of this sculpture there are two small parks honoring the cities relationship to the river. These parks gently lead you into the river. Graced with sculptures of washing silk and river life they are places to rest, relax with a cooling drink .

Keepers of the Waters Mission

To assist in making spaces in the urban environment that will permanently inform and communicate about water. We do that by bringing artists, scientists, government agencies, environmental groups and citizens together to initiate living water park projects that restore, preserve and remediate water sources in visible, educational, recreational and culturally connected ways. These projects ideally transform local infrastructures to be entirely sustainable.


Water, the bonding of two hydrogen molecules with one oxygen molecule, facilitates 99% of the chemical transformations on earth. When life arose from water, it was the biological equivalent of the big bang theory of the origin of the universe. And it was no less an event. Simply put, life cannot exist without water. In the U.S. pure, clean and healthy water is almost impossible to find. In 1992, Scripps Institute of Oceanography discovered that minuscule amounts of chlorine in drinking water would greatly increase the risk of cancer, particularly prostate cancer. Sperm counts in large mammals, humans included, have been steadily decreasing and birth defects have increased due to pesticide residues circling the globe. City drinking water is virtually dead, containing none of the life giving organisms that help us absorb nutrients. Despite the Clean Water Act, water quality in rivers continues to go down. People have given up expecting that rivers, streams and lakes will be clean enough to swim or fish in. Where rivers flow through cities, citizens have turned their backs on the rivers and have no real relationships with them. And where there is no relationship there is no caring.


Keepers of the Waters was founded on the premise that a public which has a deep understanding of the connection between water and life will not tolerate the continued degradation of water quality. Such an understanding can only be fostered through direct interaction with how water works. It is the difference between seeing a movie of a beating heart and holding one in your hand. To do this we have originated the concept of public living water parks or gardens where people can experience how water functions and is cleaned first hand. These parks are a unique combination of visible and accessible water treatment plants using natural systems, community based public art projects, environmental education centers, laboratories, and recreational opportunities.

Keepers of the Waters uses a process that is truly inclusive to facilitate the design and implementation of these parks. We make sure to include a broad based participation that crosses cultural, economic and racial lines. We bring two key but often marginal constituencies­artists and scientists­together with environmental groups, government agencies, native tribes and corporations. In a workshop setting, this combination has been successful in generating hope, excitement, innovative ideas and action. When people move out of their usual circles, the possibilities grow much faster. This participatory and hopeful process has broad repercussions by accelerating the individual work of local environmental groups, public artists, scientists, and government agencies. It is a model for sustainable development and water treatment worldwide.


Betsy Damon
Executive Director

Keepers of the Waters



Main Office & Membership
Keepers of the Waters
PO Box 80637
Portland, OR 97219

International Office Manager
Kelly Rodgers
PO Box 90637
Portland, OR 97280



Wellness Goods continues to be deeply involved in researching,

developing and publishing information and articles regarding this very important subject matter of Water. We are working closely with many notable water researchers and will continue publishing several exciting and vital articles in the weeks and months ahead, detailing these important findings.


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