Metabolic Studio Pilot Wetland Study

Bending the River Back into the City reconnects the City with its original source of water, the Los Angeles River. Bending the River involves capturing dry-weather flow in the LA River to reduce potable water use. In order to use such a resource, the captured water will be treated to meet state and local water quality requirements. The Metabolic Studio has considered various options, from high tech to low tech. But if we are bringing water back to the land, it’s natural that we want to incorporate an organic approach rather than relying solely on conventional treatment methods. 

Wetlands, one of the most sophisticated water treatment systems that nature has ever created, have been around since water started running on land. They feature some of the highest biodiversity of any habitat types on earth. Today wetlands are protected by federal laws, however historically they have been undervalued and many natural wetlands were lost to urban development. Bending the River is an opportunity to bring them back! But we need to find out if wetlands can be used a treatment option to help meet the required water quality standards. 

As such, the Metabolic Studio is conducting a water quality analysis and literature review on the feasibility of using wetlands to meet water quality requirements. It has been well documented in scientific literature that wetlands are capable of removing many contaminants of concern, including metals, nutrients, and bacteria. After conducting our literature review and analyzing the water quality data, it is pretty clear to us that wetlands could be a suitable treatment method for treating LA River water. Thus, we have decided to conduct a pilot study to test out our hypothesis and back it up with solid data. 

The wetland design team has designed three modular horizontal subsurface flow wetland systems that are made of nine cells each. Each wetland system contains different soil media and will be planted with a palette of locally sourced native California wetland plant species. The wetland cells are arranged in such a way to allow water to stream down from one cell and into the next. The modular design creates flexibility to accommodate sites with different conditions. 

This pilot wetland study will involve evaluation of treatment performance of these wetland systems to determine which type of soil media, the required residence time, and what operating conditions will make the biggest difference in helping us to meet the treatment goals. We know that there is growing interest in dry-weather runoff capture and use from the LA River and across California, and we hope that the findings of this pilot study will benefit other similar projects in the future. The Metabolic Studio will publish the findings of this pilot study in a peer-reviewed scientific journal as a way to make our contribution to science and to further our understanding in this type of wetland systems.
We are very excited about this new project! We will keep you posted on how things go. Stay tuned! 




  • On Saturday April 22, 2017 the Los Angeles State Historic Park reopened after being closed for three years—The Optics Divison Team of the Metabolic Studio documented this occassion and made contermporary images with historic transparencies from the body of work Not A Cornfield. Please check back here in the coming weeks to learn when the prints will be on display at the Metabolic Studio.


  • Two Optics Division prints [Hoosick: The Beyone Place 1 and Hoosick: The Beyond Place 2] have been commissioned by MASS MoCA and will be unveiled at their newly renovated building opening May 28, 2017. These images will be on view until 2019. For more information, click here

  • Register Now for the 2017 Art + Environment Conference Thursday, October 19 through Saturday, October 21, 2017. Join Lauren and other artists at the symposium as they discuss the Greater West. 

  • The Woman's Building has posted their list of fellows and events for the Animating the Archive fellowship which is the second phase of the Special Projects in Archiving the Woman's Building. Check the link out here.

  • Lauren will be participating in Contemporary Art and Sustainable Development Workshop on May 19 in Washington DC as a part of the Mary Miss and CALL/City a Living Laboratory. For more information to register please click here.

  • Reimagine Everything Print workshop Thursday nights from 5-9 pm (until further notice) for anyone who would like to come silkscreen a shirt or paint a poster or protest image. Please RSVP to and let us know which Thursday you would like to come to. Our kitchen will be open for potluck sharing and live music will be played by the Metabolic Studio Sonic Division. Suggested donations appreciated in the form of used clothing for people to print on—and or some food and drink to share with whomever shows up to print that night.

  • Sonic Division weekly public listening at Metabolic Studio Thursday evenings from 6-9 pm. 
    Our kitchen will be open for potluck sharing and suggested donations appreciated in the form of food and drink to share.

  • Friday Happy Hours at the Gertrude Stein Salon—now open for visitors on Main Street in Lone Pine on Fridays with tea from 6:00-8:00 pm. The Salon is open for groups, meetings, visits by appointment by calling 800-571-0745.

  • For a limited time, watch the One Hundred Mules Walking the Los Angeles Aqueduct (Artist Cut, 2015) at this link.
    Review our News Archive to see where this film has screened in the last year as well as the awards it has received.


  • View the Optics Division Collection Here.