The New California Water Atlas

Making water understandable in California

Native Waterscape


Why use the word virgin? It is such a sexually loaded word and does not describe the pre-industrial condition of the waterscape. Virgin connotes unpenetrated (that's how butterfly biologists define the condition) which is not an accurate description of the waterscape prior to streambank alterations, hydro-technology, and earth moving activities (there was lots of human activity in CA creeks,streams,rivers, and ponds ever since there were humans in CA). Please try to focus on terms that educate rather than titillate. How about "the pre-dam waterscape"?

Appreciate the thoughtful comment. You are right, "Virgin Waterscape" is limiting on many levels. We simply borrowed this name from the original atlas without much consideration. However, it is not 1979, and there is much good work to be done to improve the way we understand and talk about water. "Pre-dam waterscape" is a good start.

I don't have a problem with virgin. The term "virgin forest" is commonly used. If someone thinks that virgin titillates in the context of a water map then they need to grow up.

In my book, Introduction to Water in California, we used "The Pristine Waterscape." Note that the definition of "pristine" is "In its original condition; unspoiled."

Who will be making this determination? I have read several natural history accounts of "virgin" nature by groups of "nature nerds, academics and conservationists". Typically, these groups bring so much personal and philosophical bias to the projects that the reports are rendered virtually useless. That doesn't stop the policy makers from using them, however.

Like a virgin, touched for the very first time

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