"What About Water" connects water science with the stories that bring about solutions, adaptations & actions for the world's water realities. Hosted by Jay Famiglietti and presented by the Global Institute for Water Security and The Walrus Lab. Formerly known as "Let's Talk About Water".
Submerged: Indigenous Communities and Mega-Hydro Projects
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
talk about edutainment
okay, firstly i MUST shout out that opening music track. i never thought i would be getting so PUMPED to be talking about water, but that track really pulls me in.
seriously though — this podcast is a great example of edu-tainment; i’m learning so much about the current situation with our world’s water supply, but also just genuinely enjoy listening because of the host! he’s got such a welcoming, down to the earth energy and it makes me it feel like i’m just listening to a friend talk.
definitely gonna tell my friends about this, it really is such an important topic that i don’t think a lot of people think about..but i’m glad someone is leading the conversation. cheers!
Making water fun again
The ‘delightfully glum’ Jay Famiglietti and his team do a great job interviewing a diverse set of water experts - bringing optimism to otherwise dreary topics. Also has decent theme music!