environment | August 20, 2013

Water Issues Have No Borders: Speakers Charles Fishman, Shalini Kantayya

Imagine if one day you woke up, turned the faucet, and realized your city had run out of clean drinking water. As water speaker Shalini Kantayya explains, this isn't just a concern for people living in sub-Saharan Africa. Various regions in Texas have been dealing with the very real problem of water scarcity for years. The southern state has been making headlines recently over concerns of diminishing, and in some case diminished, potable water supplies. Some sources are blaming oil fracking for the problem, others say mismanagement and arid conditions are the cause. Atlanta and Detroit have also come dangerously close to running out of potable water over the years. Whatever the cause, one thing is certain: "There are no borders on this crisis anymore," Kantayya says.

"Two-thirds of the world's citizens, an estimated 4 billion people, will not have adequate access to water by the year 2027," she said in a poignant keynote speech. That's a global problem that Charles Fishman, author of The Big Thirst and a prominent speaker on water issues, says we need to stop being so blasé about. We have to learn the lessons that these water shortages are teaching us, he explains. In Australia, for example, they began having a conversation about water distribution that started during a drought—but didn't stop once it rained. In the United States, however, some major cities have come within days of running out of water, but went back to business as usual when they were saved by a rain storm. With that attitude, he tells us during an interview at Lavin, we could be in some real trouble.

So what do we do? It's important to realize that water problems are not specific to developing countries—they're happening right in our own backyards. It's also crucial that we start taking water issues seriously within our communities. Finally, as Fishman argues, "water problems can only be solved where they're happening."  We need to start looking at water problems locally, starting with ventures that include "big cities looking for a variety of ways of supplying their own water, instead of relying on one project," he adds. That way, they have multiple resources to draw from in case one project is shut down due to an unforeseeable event. Water is our most precious resource—it's time we change our attitude about how we manage it.

To book Shalini Kantayya or Charles Fishman as speakers for your next conference on water issues, both in the private and public sector, contact The Lavin Agency.