environment | August 13, 2014

Water Water Everywhere? Speaker Charles Fishman Taps into the Water Supply Crisis

It’s been a harrowing week in water news—just one in an overwhelmingly wild year, says water speaker Charles Fishman. Three recent events are just a trickle of what’s to come as a result of America’s outdated water system, which triggered (among other things) the worst drought in California history. Fishman, bestselling author of The Big Thirst, told NPR’s Melissa Block that by presuming our current water system’s sustainability, we’re setting ourselves up for more crises. We can anticipate what’s to come by looking at the massive break that took out a 93-year-old water main in Los Angeles two weeks ago. The break, which flooded UCLA and closed Sunset Boulevard for four days, brought to light the news that LA is replacing its water mains on a leisurely 300-year cycle. That century-old main might actually have been 200 years from replacement.

In The Rotarian, Fishman dives into our present state of ignorance regarding water supply, and the dangerous way we’re taking it for granted. He points out that for the second time this year, an entire US city was without water for days. Toledo had its water supply poisoned by an algae bloom in Lake Erie, meaning that half a million people were without usable water (usable for anything other than wastewater) for almost three days.

Even more unsettling, Lake Mead—once the largest reservoir in the US—just hit an all-time low. In 2000, it was full. Now, 61% of that water is gone, which even optimists will agree is more than half-empty.

Fishman argues that our privilege is making us blind to the systemic flaws at play. “People who live without tap water, and people who live with tap water that can make them sick after a single glass pay attention to their water, their water system, and what they spend on water, all the time,” he says. “The invisibility of our system, which for more than 100 years has been a testament to the genius and forethought of the engineers who first designed it, is undermining that system now. The water supply system is crumbling. We just don’t see it.”

Author of The Big Thirst (the top-selling book on water in the past 25 years) and The Wal-Mart Effect, Fishman speaks about the value of water, and the innovation required for economic survival. To book Charles Fishman for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency.