You go to an event about a book where one chapter is called “The Revenge of Water” and you gotta figure you’re in for some apocalyptic messages. But Charles Fishman is anything but a pessimist about our profligate relationship to water. He traveled the world to research his book, released earlier this year, and came away with tales of horror, heroism and innovation, and shared them with the JCC audience, part of the Ann Katz Festival of Books and Arts. There were even a handful of folks from Louisville who traveled here to see Fishman.
Fishman started off with the story of his own epiphany about water. While traveling with his wife, he entered a Miami hotel and discovered a bottle of Fiji bottled water awaiting them. His wife immediately drank half of it, before he realized they would be charged seven dollars for it.
He did a little research and discovered that 53 percent of people who live in Fiji do not have access to clean water.
And so his quest to understand more about bottled water, and its social injustice and disparities was born, eventually leading to his book about how our mis-use of water — especially in the developing world — is growing into a crisis.
These water crises exist all over the planet, and innovations emerge out of necessity and economic need. Fishman told the story of Celebrity Cruise lines and how a smart chef decided to use chilled river rock instead of ice to keep the all-day buffet fresh. It ended up saving each ship the equivalent of four tons of ice, per day, along with saving the energy normally needed to collect the water and turn into ice.
Fishman’s presentation abounded with such examples, emphasizing that there is no “global water crisis,” that essential all water problems are LOCAL problems, and can be solved by local leaders and everyday people working together. He predicts that once we are properly educated about water use, we’ll make the necessary adjustments. A different cost structure will exist for water.
Potable water will cost the most, but all other water — for irrigation, car wash, etc. — will be re-used water, and thus cheaper.
Throughout the event, Fishman charmed the crowd with his humor, his directness, his wisdom. Here's hoping he'll be invited back to Indianapolis sometime in the near future.