Introduction to Issue Nine

A 'Water Bar' in North Carolina. Patrons are at the bar having a discussion with the Bartenders, and four jugs of water are visible on the table.
Tending water and listening at Water Bar in Greensboro, North Carolina.

By Patrick Nunnally, Editor

Welcome to Issue 9 of Open Rivers, which begins our third year of publication!  Our tagline, “Rethinking Water, Place & Community,” speaks to our sense that there is a conversation taking place in diverse professional sectors and academic disciplines about the relationships between our human communities and our water communities, and that there is an audience for this conversation, both on campus and in the broader water-oriented professional community. Accordingly, this issue’s theme of “Innovation” highlights some of the projects that we think are forming a basis for a new way of thinking, seeing, and doing work.

The Water Bar project is becoming increasingly well known as an imaginative way to form community by talking about water. As Shanai Matteson’s article demonstrates, what started as a very simple concept—create a bar that serves tap water—has turned into something much bigger and is forging systemic change through new relationships. The work of the Lower Mississippi River Foundation and the Quapaw Canoe Company likewise points the ways to the community-building that will need to take place if we are to continue to enjoy a vibrant, life-giving relationship with our rivers. True community-building requires new ways of seeing; after reading Andrea Carlson’s vivid piece, “On The Uncompromising Hand,” and seeing the accompanying images/video, you may never be able to see St. Anthony Falls as simply an engineered landscape without also recognizing the erasures of community-valued places.

Our usual columns support the concept of “seeing things differently.” Quinn Feller writes about the project of devising a largely visual way to convey the notion of a mountain as a place where three watersheds meet. Nancy Buck Hoffman illuminates an overlooked question about the historic Fort Snelling complex by asking, “What water did the troops drink?” and telling a story associated with a bottle excavated during archaeological investigations. I write about the enduring value that the nonprofit River Action brings to its local riverfront, pointing out how the organization’s innovative work from 35 years ago has been carried forward in a way that responds to changing circumstances to tell a powerful story. Our “Teaching and Practice” column, co-authored by four undergraduate students from Macalester College, discusses the perils and fun of summer fieldwork and shifts the temporal scale; River Action has been an organization roughly twice as long as these students have been alive.  Finally, Margaret Flood reviews an exhibit on the many ways our encounters with all forms of water shape our health, our perceptions of space, and sense of time.  

Happy reading!

Recommended Citation

Nunnally, Patrick. 2018. “Introduction to Issue Nine.” Open Rivers: Rethinking Water, Place & Community, no. 9.


Download PDF of Introduction to Issue Nine by Patrick Nunnally.