18 minutes | Mar 22, 2023
World Water Day 2023 with Autumn Peltier
When Autumn Peltier was eight, she learned the tap water on a neighbouring reserve wasn’t safe to drink, or even to use for hand-washing. That injustice triggered her decade-long advocacy campaign for safe drinking water. She made headlines as a 12 year-old, admonishing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at an Assembly of First Nations event for the choices his government had made for her people. In this bonus episode for World Water Day 2023, Peltier and Jay discuss the way her life shifted, as she started campaigning for clean water. Peltier also shares what it was like to shoot her documentary The Water Walker, and lets us in on her plans for the future now that she’s finished high school. On a day devoted to improving the way we manage, consume, and use water, the message is ‘Be The Change’ – something Peltier takes to heart. Two billion people still live without clean water, and the United Nations says member countries have fallen behind on their goal to bring everyone safe water and sanitation by the year 2030. “The message is so much more powerful and so much more stronger when it's coming from a young person,” said Peltier, the chief water commissioner for the Anishinabek Nation. “That's when you know something is wrong, and something has to be done.”
30 minutes | Mar 1, 2023
Will Sarni: Can We Tech Our Way Out of Wicked Water Problems?
Can we really “tech” our way out of freshwater shortages, scarcity, and pollution? In our Season 4 finale, we’re asking the big question of the season – will new water technology be enough to solve wicked water problems? Will Sarni joins Jay for a look back at the bright ideas and inventions we’ve heard about this year, sharing his view on technology’s ability to solve problems around water quality and scarcity. Jay and Will discuss what a “disruptor” like Uber could do for the water sector and what it will take to get the public sector to respond to innovation. And if you’ve ever wondered why piping water from a wet part of the country to areas hit by drought is a hot-button issue, you’ll want to stick around for our last ‘Ask Jay’ segment of the season. Will Sarni is the CEO of Water Foundry and the founder and general partner of Water Foundry Ventures, a technology venture fund focused on addressing water scarcity, quality and equitable access to water. Will is a podcaster, an internationally recognized thought leader on water strategy and innovation, and the author of numerous books. You can check out his children’s book, Water, I Wonder here.
27 minutes | Feb 15, 2023
What Lurks Beneath: How Robots Can Save City Plumbing with Vanessa Speight
In this episode, we’re going underground, undersea and into your water and sewer pipelines with science fiction’s favorite problem-solvers…robots! Jay sits down with Vanessa Speight, a professor of Integrated Water Systems at the University of Sheffield, to learn how new, spider-like robots have the potential to locate and fix leaks in aging water pipes. Jay and Vanessa discuss when we might actually see these pipe-traveling bots in action and what they can realistically do for developing nations, where drinking water loss can be as much as 70 per cent due to aging and unmaintained systems. In our Last Word, professor Lucian Busoniu tells us about SeaClear, a project funded by the European Union, building the first fleet of autonomous robots to collect litter from the ocean floor.
28 minutes | Feb 1, 2023
An AI Fix for Aging Water Systems with Seyi Fabode
On this episode of What About Water? an entrepreneur in Austin, Texas turns his dishwasher sensor into a tech startup that’s feeding water utilities snapshots of their water quality in real time. Jay sits down with Seyi Fabode, the CEO and co-founder of Varuna, to discuss how his company’s cloud-based software is helping cities keep track of their drinking water quality by the minute, allowing them to respond to spills, contamination, and fluctuations before it’s too late. Jay and Seyi dream up a new tech idea together and trace Seyi’s entrepreneurial roots from his childhood in Nigeria to his post-grad in the UK. They discuss the $100,000 investment from the Google for Startups Black Founder Fund that opened new doors for Varuna, and what needs to change to get more black-owned businesses like Seyi’s off the ground. At the end of the episode Jay answers a few questions about the Tri-State Water Wars and water privatization from our listener Mark, who’s based in Atlanta, Georgia. Got a question for Jay? Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org and you may hear your question in an upcoming episode. Voice memos like Mark’s are also welcome!
31 minutes | Jan 18, 2023
Chemical Cocktails: What’s in our Groundwater? with John Cherry
If it’s not stuck in glaciers or polar ice, 99 per cent of the world’s freshwater is groundwater. Water underground supplies nearly half of the world’s drinking water. But what happens when dangerous chemicals and waste – polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), oil, gasoline and road salts – percolate down into that supply? On this episode of What About Water? Jay sits down with the father of contaminant hydrogeology, Dr. John Cherry, to talk about the water under our feet, and how we can better monitor it. In the 1970s, Cherry wrote the foundational textbook on groundwater with his colleague, Al Freeze. And we hear how one of his students paved the path for his successful career in the field. To find out what’s actually being done to stop industry polluters from dispersing PFAS chemicals into our waterways, producer Erin Stephens speaks with Marc Yaggi, CEO of the global nonprofit Waterkeeper Alliance. Yaggi shares what Waterkeeper is advocating for in Congress, brands eliminating PFAS from their production lines, and how everyone can get involved in the effort to get these “forever chemicals” out of our rivers. Check out their surface water quality survey here to learn more. Got a question for Jay? Write to us at email@example.com and you may hear your question in an upcoming episode. Voice memos are also welcome!
35 minutes | Dec 21, 2022
Dirty Laundry: Water and the World of Fast Fashion
Call the fashion police! In this special holiday edition of What About Water? we dive into the apparel industry’s dirty secret: its water use. Behind oil and gas, fashion is the single most polluting industry on the planet. It accounts for 8 per cent of all carbon emissions and 20 per cent of global wastewater. We start by catching up with shoppers at the Picker’s Hullabaloo Flea Market in Charleston, South Carolina. They tell us about the clothes on their wish lists this year and why they choose to shop second-hand. Jay talks water overuse and about changes for garment designers and manufacturers with Andrea Kennedy, Vice-President of Sustainability for Material Exchange. From Shein to Patagonia, Jay and Andrea dive into the pollution “fast fashion” creates, as well as the certifications and brands you can look out for when you’re trying to shop more sustainably. Charleston vendor Madeline of Gaia’s Hearth shares the secrets to her natural dyeing process: backyard plants, recycled water and a giant lobster pot. We also turn to two technologies that are paving the way for sustainable textile production at-scale. Ernst Siewers, Chief Technology Officer of DyeCoo, tells us about his groundbreaking invention - the world’s first waterless textile dyeing machine. We also hear from Shahriare Mahmood, Chief Sustainability Officer for Spinnova. This Finnish company is harnessing the secrets of spiders to spin natural textile fibres out of wood pulp without using any harmful chemicals. This process uses minimal water and creates zero waste. That’s it from us at What About Water? for 2022! We’re taking a holiday break, but we’ll be back January 18 with some exciting news and a brand new episode for you. Got ideas for the show? Something you’d like to ask Jay? Write to us or send a voice memo to firstname.lastname@example.org.
26 minutes | Dec 7, 2022
Into Thin Air: A Smarter Way to Water Crops, with A.J. Purdy
How can we measure water when it disappears into thin air? On this episode of What About Water? we’re looking at evapotranspiration, or “ET” for short. It’s the combination of water evaporating from the soil, combined with the measure of water transpiring through crops’ leaves. Accounting for this water loss helps farmers know exactly how much water they should apply across their fields, and new agricultural technologies and satellites are making it much easier. Jay sits down with California State University at Monterrey Bay Senior Research Scientist – and former student – A.J. Purdy, whose doctoral thesis looked at the advancement and applications of satellite-derived ET algorithms. We also hear what this looks like in real life, with Brett Baker, a sixth-generation California pear farmer and lawyer. With the ever-present risk of flood on his family’s land in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, Baker explains how OpenET is helping farmers like him and his father take better measurements of consumptive use. Robyn Grimm, Interim Director of OpenET, tells us how this open-source platform is making big waves.
41 minutes | Nov 23, 2022
In the quest to find clean, renewable sources of energy, we turn to a familiar method: hydroelectricity. Today, the ancient method of harnessing the power of flowing water is hitting enormous new heights. Hydroelectric dams are some of the biggest human-made structures in the world. As humans dam more and more rivers, the scale and sheer size of these structures continues to grow. But in trying to meet our future electrical demand, are we pursuing a technology that is harming communities, rivers and the environment? In our first-ever documentary “Submerged”, we hear the different ways Indigenous communities bear the brunt of mega hydroelectric projects. What happens when land is flooded, waterways diverted, and dangerous neurotoxins like methylmercury are released? Featuring Inuk Labrador Land Protector Amy Norman and Aimée Craft, co-editor of In Our Backyard: Keeyask and the Legacy of Hydroelectric Development, the documentary by Farha Akhtar gives us a first-hand and insightful account of the long-lasting legacies created by hydroelectric projects.Daniel Macfarlane then shares his perspective on the outsized environmental effects of super-sized hydroelectric projects. The asssociate professor of Environmental and Sustainability Studies at Western Michigan University sits down with Jay to discuss what actually happens when a free-flowing river is turned into a lake – from changes in species, to changes in local climates. They also discuss “hydraulic imperialism” and the colonial subjugation of Indigenous people and land. The Canadian registered charity Raven Trust weighs in on its work supporting Indigenous communities pursuing the often-expensive and painful process of challenging large-scale dams and developments in court. We round out the episode with the moving song “A Thousand Years” by Silver Wolf Band, a four piece Indigenous folk-rock band from Labrador, Canada. This documentary and episode of What About Water? is supported by the Uproot Project, which is operationally and financially supported by Grist, its founding partner. Uproot supports journalists of colour who are underrepresented in the journalism industry, to help them tell stories like this one.
30 minutes | Nov 9, 2022
Field Smarts: Protecting Farmers’ Wallets and Our Water, with Bruno Basso
It’s estimated that by 2050, we’ll have over 9 billion people on earth. To feed everyone, we will need to produce 60 per cent more food - and we'll need to grow it using less water. On this episode of What About Water? we’re looking at new technology that can make that shift possible. Jay sits down with colleague and friend Bruno Basso, an agro-ecosystem scientist at Michigan State University and the co-founder and chief scientist of CIBO Technologies. Basso walks through the remote sensing technology, artificial intelligence, and process-based models farmers can use to optimize their yield - and environmental outcomes - using more precise water and fertilizer inputs. In the Last Word we look at one of the most impactful inventions for precision agriculture: drip irrigation. John Farner, Chief Sustainability Officer for Netafim, explains how this low-tech innovation is helping farmers around the globe grow higher quality crops with less water.We also dive into three ‘Ask Jay’ questions. You can check out the LA Times article Jay mentions here. And if you have a question about water for Jay, let us know who you are, what’s on your mind, and where you’re based – by writing to email@example.com. We also like voice memos!
29 minutes | Oct 26, 2022
Under the Sea: Hidden Freshwater Reserves with Brandon Dugan
By 2025, experts predict over half the world’s population will live in water-stressed areas. With a number of our freshwater resources on land receding, is it time to look to the ocean - or, rather, underneath it for fresh water? Jay sits down with Brandon Dugan, the Associate Department Head and Baker Hughes Chair in the Department of Geophysics at the Colorado School of Mines, to find out. Brandon Dugan tells us about an aquifer off the coast of New Jersey that could provide access to freshwater – if we dig deep enough. Jay taps into the advanced drilling technology Dugan and other researchers use to access these hidden freshwater reserves and assess them as a viable resource. The find raises questions about water ownership and governance in uncharted territory, along with the need to value offshore water as much as we value offshore oil and gas. At the tail end of this episode, our producer Erin Stephens returns with our first ‘Ask Jay’ segment. Do you have a question about water for Jay? Let us know who you are, what’s on your mind, and where you’re based – by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. Voice memos are also welcome.
30 minutes | Oct 12, 2022
Running Dry: Nik Kowsar on Iranian Censorship and Water Scarcity
For Nik Kowsar, civil unrest in Iran is not new. As a geologist and journalist, he's been sounding the alarm about water shortages and censorship in his home country for decades. After being arrested and jailed for one of his cartoons and receiving death threats from pro-regime Islamists, Kowsar fled Iran in 2003. Today, he is an award-winning Iranian-Canadian journalist and water issues analyst. He currently resides in Washington, D.C. where he produces and broadcasts 'Abangan; a weekly Persian-language show covering water issues for Iranian citizens. In this episode, Kowsar shares the story about how and why he harnesses the power of media and technology to spread the word about water.In our Last Word, we turn to Daniel Harrich, a German documentary filmmaker who recently released the three-part documentary series “Unser Vasser” (Our Water) for the German Public Television Network, ARD. Jay traveled around the southwest United States with Daniel last year to film for the documentary, which now has over 5 million views. And as promised, here is the “Water” episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver that Jay mentions in the show.
28 minutes | Sep 28, 2022
Water Affects Your Pension: Cate Lamb at World Water Week
Can water risk disclosure move the needle on corporate water stewardship? And what does that risk mean for our own retirement funds? In this very special episode of What About Water? - recorded on location at World Water Week - Jay sits down with Cate Lamb in Stockholm, Sweden to discuss valuing water. We hear how companies with high water-related risks affect our own bottom line, and how pensions hang in the balance when the value of those companies erodes in the face of climate change. Cate Lamb is the Global Director of Water Security for CDP, a non-profit organization once dubbed “the most powerful Green NGO you’ve never heard of” by the Harvard Business Review. CDP urges large businesses to disclose their environmental risks and reduce their water footprint, using the influence of investors to catalyze change. In a report released just last year, the NGO found the cost of ignoring water risks to businesses could be over five times greater than paying now to address those risks. CDP currently has around 3,500 companies that voluntarily disclose water risks, and a group of 680 investors with $130 trillion dollars in assets pushing for that information.
30 minutes | Sep 14, 2022
Don't Mess With the Data: Virginia Burkett on Louisiana's Vanishing Coastline
In the first episode of our fourth season, Jay sits down with renowned scientist and IPCC author, Virginia Burkett, to talk about technology, its pitfalls and its promises for a water-secure future. Burkett is the Chief Scientist for Climate and Land Use Change at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), where she’s worked for over three decades. She is based in Louisiana and is an expert in global change and low-lying coastal zones. We also get an update from Jay after a busy summer and a sneak peak at the season ahead. Here is The Deutsche Welle German Documentary, which now has nearly 4 million views in English alone, and the "Water" episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver that Jay mentions. If you have any ideas, questions or comments for our new ‘Ask Jay’ segment, email us at email@example.com and you may well hear Jay answer your question in an upcoming episode.
1 minutes | Aug 24, 2022
Season 4 Trailer
Our planet is in crisis. When it comes to water, there are many promising solutions. But in a world full of new technologies, what innovations should we pay attention to? And will they be enough? On Season 4 of What About Water? we're diving into New Technologies, Water Realities. Host Jay Famiglietti will sit down with the experts, innovators and big-picture thinkers who are helping preserve and protect our freshwater. Each new episode, we'll look at how human-made solutions can both help and hurt us as we tackle our biggest water challenges. And we'll explore everything from ideas found in nature to digital media, data and shiny new tech.
17 minutes | Aug 17, 2022
Can Peace and Prosperity Flow from Water?
What happens when tensions over water reach their boiling point? In our final bonus episode of the summer season, we explore the causes of water conflicts and what we can do to stop them. We start with the Middle East, a water-scarce region where conflict brews over shared water resources. We then turn to Latin America, where migrants are spurred by climate change, and the lack of water rights in Chilé has created conflict between the government and its people. We revisit conversations with four renowned guests from our past episodes: EcoPeace Middle East Director Gidon Bromberg, economist Jeffrey Sachs, journalist Abrahm Lustgarten and activist Carolina Vilches. You can find their full episodes from our previous seasons here: S1E3 & S1E4: Water, peace and the Middle East: Part 1 & Part 2: Water, Peace and the Middle East featuring Gidon Bromberg S2E13 Towards a Better, Greener World with Jeffrey Sachs https://www.whataboutwater.org/s02e13/ S2E4 The Great Climate Migration with Abrahm Lustgarten https://www.whataboutwater.org/s02e04/ S3E11 Water Pipes to Water Rights: Protecting Water with Newsha Ajami and Carolina Vilches https://www.whataboutwater.org/s03e11/ We’d love to hear your thoughts about our show in our What About Water Listener Survey. As a thank you, we will plant a tree through One Tree Planted for each survey our podcast listeners complete.
16 minutes | Jul 13, 2022
Engineering a New Water World
In our third bonus episode of the summer season, we look back at the innovative ways people are sourcing their freshwater, from building home water systems on the Navajo Nation to engineering a state of the art wastewater treatment facility in Orange County. We hear what improvements need to be made to America's aging water infrastructure. And we look at the damage that over-engineering has done through dams and diversions, turning our attention to nature-based solutions to help restore the broken water cycle. This mini-episode features the voices of Emma Robbins, Peter Gleick, Mike Markus and Sandra Postel. You can find their full episodes from our previous seasons here: S2E1 (COVID-19 & our Water Supply) featuring Emma Robbins: https://www.whataboutwater.org/s02e01/ S2E6 (Bide(n) Time for America’s Water Resources) featuring Peter Gleick: https://www.whataboutwater.org/s02e06/ S3E4 (Replenishing a Broken Water Cycle) featuring Sandra Postel: https://www.whataboutwater.org/s03e04/ S3E7 (Debunking ‘Toilet to Tap’) featuring Mike Markus: https://www.whataboutwater.org/s03e07/ We’d love to hear your thoughts about our show in our What About Water Listener Survey. As a thank you, we will plant a tree through One Tree Planted for each survey our podcast listeners complete.
18 minutes | Jun 15, 2022
Going to Extremes: Heat, Water Scarcity and Food
From farmer’s fields to the high arctic, from your morning cup of coffee to a glass of wine – everything we eat and drink depends on water. In the second episode of our summer mini season, we draw from our past interviews about water scarcity and its effect on our food supply. We take a look at last year’s drought and withered crops on the Canadian prairies, and how melting permafrost in the arctic threatens traditional knowledge about food from the land for the Inuit of Iqaluit. We hear how coffee farmers in Sierra Leone are cultivating the climate-resilient "Stenophylla" species to bring it to market, and how crops like coffee beans and wine grapes are sensitive indicators of climate change -- and changes coming to these industries. This mini-episode features the voices of Merle Massie, Reg Lowe, Aaron Davis, Daniel Sarmu, Micah Hewer and Janet Pitsiulaaq Brewster. You can find their full episodes from our previous seasons here: S3E3 (Growing Food in Dry Times: Drought in the West) featuring Merle Massie and Reg Lowe: https://www.whataboutwater.org/s03e03/ S3E10 (Good to the Last Drop? Coffee and Climate with Aaron Davis) featuring Aaron Davis and Daniel Sarmu: https://www.whataboutwater.org/s03e10/ S2E8 (Slippery Slopes: Canadian Recreation Meets Climate Change) featuring Micah Hewer: https://www.whataboutwater.org/s02e08/ S3E2 (On Thin Ice: Iqaluit's Water Crisis) featuring Janet Pitsiulaaq Brewster: https://www.whataboutwater.org/s03e02/ We’d like to hear your thoughts about our show in our What About Water Listener Survey. As a thank you, we will plant a tree through One Tree Planted for each survey our podcast listeners complete.
14 minutes | May 18, 2022
At Its Essence: What Indigenous Teachings Tell us About Water
In our first mini-episode of the summer season, we turn to three guests from our past seasons to explore Indigenous ways of knowing, and to look more closely at the sacred nature of water -- how various people understand it, conserve it and co-exist with it. Janet Pitsiulaaq Brewster shares how climate change is affecting Indigenous reconciliation efforts in Canada and what melting permafrost means for the Inuit of Iqaluit. Deon Hassler gives hope to a new generation of Indigenous water operators in the face of long-term boil water advisories. And Josée Street shares her story of learning the lessons of western science, while the teachings of her family and culture bubble under the surface. You can find their full episodes from our previous seasons here: S3E2 (On Thin Ice: Iqaluit's Water Crisis) featuring Janet Pitsiulaaq Brewster: https://www.whataboutwater.org/s03e02/ S2E11 (Broken Promises, New Solutions: The Future of First Nations Water Quality) featuring Deon Hassler: https://www.whataboutwater.org/s02e11/ S3E9 (Tasha Beeds: Walking with Water) featuring Josée Street: https://www.whataboutwater.org/s03e09/ We'd also like to hear your thoughts, in our What About Water Listener Survey. As a thank you, we will plant a tree through One Tree Planted for each survey our podcast listeners complete.
1 minutes | May 16, 2022
Summer Season Trailer (Bonus Episodes)
This summer on What About Water? we bring you some of our most compelling interviews from the past three seasons. We're releasing four mini episodes spanning four different themes that continue to resonate in the world of water. This special summer edition of What About Water? launches May 18, with one episode dropping each month.
26 minutes | Mar 30, 2022
The Girl Who Wanted To Swim: Tackling Sewage At The Source
On our final episode of Season 3, we hear how a 6th grade science fair project led to receiving the Order of Nova Scotia for youth environmentalist and clean water advocate, Stella Bowles. At just 11 years old, Stella learned about the 600 straight pipes flushing unprocessed sewage from homes directly into the LaHave river behind her home. What started as a science fair project catapulted her community - and all three levels of government - into action to clean up the LaHave. Now 18 years old and $15.7 million in government funds allocated later, Stella sits down with Jay to share her story. On the Last Word we hear from more youth of all ages – five-year old Rishi, 8-year-old Aashrith, 10-year-old Aurelia, 12-year-old Tasman, and 13-year-old Shreya. They share why water is important to them and what they are doing to protect it, plus a call to action for adults everywhere. Read the full guest bio for Stella Bowles here.