Keepers of the Waters, USA

Keepers of the Waters is a nonprofit organization that encourages art, science and community projects for the understanding and remediation of living water systems. It serves as an international network for people engaged in projects that transform our relationship to water.

Our community expands with each project. It includes landscape designers, water system engineers, artists, filmmakers, municipal staff, organizers, activists, nonprofit organizations and citizens everywhere.

Keepers of the Waters is founded and directed by environmental artist Betsy Damon. In 1985, while making a cast of a dry riverbed in Castle Valley, Utah, she decided to devote the rest of her artistic life to water. She started Keepers of the Waters in 1991 with support from the Hubert Humphrey Institute.

Keepers of the Waters is at the vanguard of integrated approaches to a vast complexity of water issues. We encourage collaborative design, community organizing, mentorship and education. We provide workshops and function as a cross-cultural resource.

By integrating art, science and community, we aim to make the natural process of water treatment visible and integrated into daily life and culture.

Global water quality is dependent on each community having a sustainable water source that they know about and are responsible for. Cities all over the planet can be filled with vibrant water and art-filled community centers, parks, schoolyards, businesses and backyards that help people become intimately connected to their water sources. These projects will lead the way for fully sustainable water infrastructures that are visible and integrated into our everyday lives.

We solve problems better with a diversity of minds. Through water, we are interconnected and related to all other living things. Like water, we are one giant family, always seeking to join one another.



Temporary exhibitions

Keepers of the Waters: The Betsy Damon Archive

A conversation with Betsy Damon and Asia Art Archive in America’s Jane DeBevoise and Cici Wu focused on the documentation of ‘Keepers of the Waters’, Ms. Damon’s community-based water activism initiative, that took place in Chengdu, Sichuan Province (1995) and Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region (1996). Comprised of slides, audio-visual recordings, newspaper clippings, and interviews, this collection contains material pertinent to environmental activism, performance art, women artists, artist collectives, exhibition histories, and the development of contemporary art in regional cities of China.

Visit the collection


Keepers of the Waters (Chengdu & Lhasa)

The core of this research collection is documentation of the two iterations of ‘Keepers of the Waters’ that took place in Chengdu, Sichuan (1995), and Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region (1996). Comprised of slides, audio-visual recordings, newspaper clippings, and interviews, this collection is related to performance art, women artists, exhibition histories, and the development of regional contemporary art in China.

Visit the collection



reSources: Saving Living Systems (2007-14)

Tibetan water culture is undocumented and full of protective methods and lore. It is rapidly disappearing. Lacuo Zha, a Tibetan filmmaker and producer, was my partner on this project. We also worked with ecologist Brock Dolman. We began eco solutions for wastewater and energy in many villages. We collaborated with Sichuan University, and wastewater experts, however so far only local initiatives have succeeded. We are exploring further steps in this project, including publishing a book documenting significant Tibetan water sites.

Living Waters of Larimer (2012-2016)

Keepers of the Waters spent four years working with the Larimer Green Team. We collaborated with a team of community members. Mapping was essential; we conducted mapping workshops that empowered people to read street maps, pipe maps, and water flow maps. We empower people to make decisions and advocate for themselves; to dare to say what they would like to see happen in their community. Other collaborators included EvolveEA, eDesign Dynamics, and local artists.