environment | July 08, 2013

Charles Fishman: "Don't Wait For The Crisis" — Think About Water Today

How much do you know about your water? Charles Fishman, author of the bestselling book The Big Thirst, laments that most of us are “water illiterate.” We often take for granted that we have an abundance of cheap, safe water and don't think about where it comes from or how it's used. In an interview on TVO the author raises a glass of water and says that it's "the only thing you are going to encounter in your entire life that looks exactly like it looked 4 billion years ago." The same water we have today has been cycling around the planet since the beginning of time. "Water is a resource that can't be used up," Fishman argues, "and I think that's a really important thing to keep in mind."

That doesn't mean we shouldn't think about our water at all, though. It may not be running out, but we're now experiencing water issues that are going to force us to pay more attention. Four years ago, Atlanta came within 80 days of running out of water, the speaker says in the interview. Australia, he adds, recently experienced a ten-year drought. Part of the explanation can be linked to a changing climate conditions. It's not that climate change has diminished the amount of water we have overall, Fishman clarifies. It is, however, changing where rain is falling. And small changes to where the water falls can cause big changes to how much water is available.

The advent of water treatment had a exceedingly positive effect on health and the expansion and development of cities, Fishman notes. Over the last hundred years, we've nearly doubled our life expectancy and are now able to provide abundant water to citizens in the developed world.The problem is that those cities are located by water sources which are abundant today—but may not be tomorrow. Fishman suggests that we imagine a future where water is less readily available and start to make changes accordingly. In his speeches, Fishman explores the future of our water supply and how we can prevent serious water-related issues from crippling our cities. "You can't recover from a drought in the middle of a drought," Fishman stresses. "I hope we don't wait for the crisis [before we act]."