Project Description

WALKING WITH WATER | September 2015

The Owens Valley has for some 150 years been a place of contention in relation to water. It has included the dispersal of Paiute peoples from the land, the arrival of mining companies, and then the acquisitions of land and water by the City of Los Angeles and others. It is just one of many classic stories of water manipulation around the world.

In California’s fourth year of major drought, it is an auspicious time for Walking Water’s first phase to have begun, after building a relationship with many organizations, communities, and tribes in the local area and beyond for some years. We sent out our vision, our prayer, to join together in re-imagining our relationship with water and re-designing water management toward a system where we all have what we need.

Gradually, over the last three years, the core team has been asking permission to walk the land and join the conversation in a way that is appropriate to the local region. This led to designing the walk in three phases, to be completed over three years. Through the arc of Walking Water, we hope to contribute perspectives, questions, witnessing and specific actions that strengthen relationship between people and water, raise awareness and lead to significant improvements in both the local and global water situation.

Water Pilgrims

Walking Water is and will be such an essential part of my life. I think I still don’t grasp the impact it will have in my life. Right now there is deep gratitude and an inner growing power, an inner wisdom arising. Walking Water is empowering me to stand up and raise my voice. This is what our planet needs.

Janka Striffler • Walker & Collaborator 2017

Phase 1 took us from Mono Lake to Owens Lake, covering roughly 180 miles in 22 days with approximately 35 walkers each week. Our intention was to co-create a moving community of both local and global people who would bear witness to the water situation in Mono and Inyo Counties, raising awareness and examining our relation to water as a finite resource. We had the gift of receiving many peoples–their stories, experience and perspective along the way.

Pilgrimage was chosen as the method, a way to directly experience the land around us, to experience the heat and dryness of the Valley as well as its beauty and expanse. We walked from the ‘success’ story of Mono Lake, through the Jeffrey Pine forests, along the Owens Gorge and into a man-made desert to Owens Lake, sometimes jumping in the rivers and even more often not seeing water for days.

A leadership team of three women, a “carrier” support team of eight, and a small volunteer logistics/kitchen team helped us move along our route, generously supporting the daily needs of the group. All had the opportunity to share their experience and personal stories through daily councils and walks with each other, averaging 10 miles a day. The inter-gen group of walkers age 20 to 70 brought themselves fully to the experience: writers, water specialists, community leaders, local activists, tribal members, photographers, singers, philanthropists, business leaders, educators, and more. Through walking we were able to create a daily life based on simplicity and having minimal impact; we experienced what it is like to live in community together with all our needs more than met.

The daily councils offered us a space of exploration and expression for what we witnessed and heard throughout the journey. It was an integral part in creating community and solidarity among the group members so quickly. Together, we watched closely the tendency to jump quickly into blame and the taking of sides; together, we focused more on listening and learning from the place and the people there, asking what we might say yes to, asking the questions that still need to be asked of those in power, asking how we all might take responsibility and become more engaged and empowered through our communities. Each day we listened for events and actions that might serve and help us along the trail… from collecting trash to writing our concerns and questions to the DWP and others. Song, prayer, and action found a balance.

On many of our days, we arrived at our destination late in the afternoon, with just time enough to hear more personal stories from some of the walkers before dark. Some highlights included:

  • Mark Dubois, who spoke of how he was called to dedicate his life to saving rivers—most notably the Stanislaus–where he chained himself to the river bed to stop it from being flooded.

  • Sarah Nutting, of MaMuse, who spoke of loving and leaving her community at this time in her life. And how the question ‘what is mine to do?’ is forming and guiding her path.

  • Geoff Dalglish, journalist and ‘earth pilgrim’, who shared the depth of his “turn around” from a career built around cars and cross country expeditions to becoming an earth pilgrim, and subsequently walking thousands of miles for the human/nature connection.

  • Krystyna Jurzykowski, daughter of immigrants and co-founder of Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, a preserve for endangered species who spoke of the healing power of giving and new relationships possible with money.

  • Laura Whitney, President of The Ojai Foundation, who spoke of how the way of Pilgrimage has led to essential changes in her life and her family’s investments.

  • Benjamin von Mendelssohn, Director of the Grace Foundation, who spoke of a global theory of economics based on trust and mutual respect.

  • Rajendra Singh, ‘Waterman of India’, who spoke of his award-winning work in India in community empowerment and water management.

  • Sabine Lichtenfels, Co-founder of Tamera Peace Research Center who spoke of the relation between healing water and healing love.


Walking Water thrives from an abundant community of volunteers, donors, contributors and supporters. If you feel inspired to contribute what you can be it time, skills, equipment and/or money then please contact us or go direct to our donate page.