Source of Life

Our lives depend on water: We drink it, wash with it, swim and splash in it, conduct scientific studies of it, use it to produce energy and food, and hallow it in rituals

Ama women hold torches as they swim in the water and set off fireworks. “Ama” is the Japanese word for pearl divers, who are usually women. Here they are celebrating the Shirahama Ama festival in Minamibōsō, a city in Chiba Prefecture in the eastern part of Honshu, the main island of Japan

Photo: Keren Su/China Span/Alamy Stock Photo

The (partially) living desert. Without irrigation, the entire Imperial Valley would look like the area to the right of the river. There would be no settlements or agriculture, because this valley in southeastern California is basically about as dry as the Sahara Desert. Fortunately, the region’s inhabitants hold extensive water rights. During the recent drought period, selling these rights earned the owners more than they would have gained by cultivating the fields themselves

Photo: Edward Burtynsky

Filming the second part of the BBC documentary Blue Planet with the British animal filmmaker and natural scientist Sir David Attenborough. The cameraman can only dive to a depth of 40 meters. By contrast, the LULA 1000 submersible of the Rebikoff-Niggeler Foundation can film at depths of up to 1,000 meters—through a 14-centimeter-thick high vision beacon of PLEXIGLAS made by Evonik

Photo: Dave Mothershaw

An archive for water that has turned into ice: At the US National Ice Core Laboratory in Lakewood, Colorado, thousands of ice cores are stored at a temperature of -36°C. They were extracted from the deep layers of ice covering Antarctica and Greenland. At the laboratory they are cut open, photographed, and analyzed. This is how scientists gain information about the earth’s ancient history as well as climate change

Photo: AP

The Chinese call sea snails “white gold” because they are so coveted and expensive. But the Japanese women who dive here for this delicacy are not seeking riches or culinary delight. They are performing the mikazuki ritual, which is thousands of years old, and gathering sea snails so that they can bring them to a holy shrine as an offering

Photo: The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

If you’d like to dine almost five meters below sea level, you don’t have to dive — a staircase leads you down to the Ithaa Restaurant. However, you do have to reserve a table in advance, because the restaurant’s 14 places are regularly fully booked. The restaurant is part of an exclusive resort on the Maldives Islands. The spectacular 180-degree panoramic view of the surrounding coral gardens has been known to cause some diners to let their food grow cold

Photo: Alison Wright / Alamy Stock Photo

The swarms of fish that swim by don’t care, but human visitors are delighted by the hundreds of concrete sculptures that form Europe’s biggest underwater museum. It’s located in a bay off the island of Lanzarote and was designed by the British artist Jason deCaires Taylor. By means of his installations, Taylor comments on the major themes of our time, ranging from globalization to climate change

Photo: Jason deCaires Taylor / CACT Lanzarote

Hindus take a holy bath in the Ganges River before sunrise during the Magha Purnima festival, following an ancient tradition. The festival is celebrated on the day of the full moon in the month of Magha of the Hindu calendar. In 2018, that day will be January 31. The water of the Ganges is believed to have cleansing spiritual power. From christening in Christianity to ritual bathing in Islam, water has a special significance in all religions

Photo: Raghu Rai / Magnum Photos

The beauty and power of water: An aerial view of the Cerro Prieto (Black Hill) geothermic power plant in Baja California (Mexico). It has been operating at the volcano of the same name since 1973. In terms of its dimensions, it’s still the biggest in the world. The electricity is generated from steam originating under the earth. Installed capacity: 820 megawatts. The power plant is located 30 kilometers south of the border with the USA

Photo: Edvard Burtynsky