water | May 13, 2013

There's No Global Water Crisis—There Are Local Water Crises: Charles Fishman

"First, and I think most important, there is no global water crisis," water speaker Charles Fishman told the crowd in a keynote at the Rotman institute, "there are a thousand, or maybe ten thousand, local water crises." In his speech, Fishman explained that there are common misconceptions about the water problems we are facing, and when we focus on the misinformation surrounding the problem, there is little hope for reaching a solution. While there has been a lot of buzz generated around the idea that we have a global water problem, Fishman says the more accurate issue at hand is that we are facing problems locally. This distinction makes a huge difference in how we understand the complications involving our most precious natural resource.

Fishman explains that water crises are happening right where the water is, or, where it has disappeared from. "That's why water problems are always local or regional," he adds. If you correct the problem at a local level, nothing done in other cities or countries can overturn that solution. Conversely, a top-down federal government initiative on water won't fix the problems happening on your block. That's because, he stresses, "water problems can only be solved where they're happening." This realization comes with a positive implication: "Wherever you're having a problem—you're the people who can solve it," he says in his talk. And, as an added bonus, whatever you've done to rectify your local water problem cannot be undone by people elsewhere in the world.

Fishman, author of the The Big Thirst, believes that thinking about water scarcity on a local level is empowering. When you think of water on a global level, it seems that only those with global power can solve the problems affecting your water supply. While he does caution against letting corporations control your water, he notes that some big name companies are making creative strides to protect the resource in their areas. In this talk (and others like it) he mentions the positive strategies that businesses are developing to not only protect their profits—but the drinking water that we all desperately need. And, as May has been designated as Drinking Water Month, his talks are perfectly timed for addressing the threat that our local water supplies face today. Once we understand where the problem lies, Fishman says, we can find meaningful and sustainable solutions.

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health | May 12, 2013