148 Transcript

148 The One About The Big Thirst

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welcome to scaling up h2o the podcast
where we’re scaling up on knowledge so
we don’t scale up our systems
hi everybody my name is trace blackmore
and of course
i am the host of your favorite podcast
scaling up h2o and folks it’s my
favorite podcast too
i absolutely love this podcast
for so many reasons i get to meet
so many people that are in the same
industry that i am more so they love the
industry the same way
that i do i get to learn more about
this industry because of this podcast
and i really believe that this podcast
helps the
industry raise the bar across the board
so we are all
getting better another thing that i love
about this podcast is
i get to meet some of the people that
wrote some of my
favorite books now nation i want to
thank you for listening
because i get to enjoy all of these
for one simple reason you listen
to the podcast so thank you for doing
and if you’ve listened to the podcast
before you know that i
love to read i’m always looking for the
next book to read
or listen to that’s why i’m always
asking my guest
what are their favorite books what are
they reading now it’s very selfish of me
i am looking to increase my reading a
book list
and that’s my secret to you that’s how i
do that each and every time
but i have shared on the show numerous
that i have a very busy workload and i
don’t have time to sit down and read
a book what i do have time for is when
i’m driving to and from accounts when
i’m not listening to the scaling up h2o
i use one of my favorite tools called
audible allows you to change your
windshield time
into learning time and you can get a
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scaling up h2o.com forward slash audible
now that’s an affiliate link and what
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costing you anything more audible will
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if you decide to sign up for the service
is one of my favorite learning tools
now my guest today wrote a book that i
actually own
and i read the hard copy i have it also
audible and i freshened up on the book
before i interviewed him by listening to
but it is a really neat book for anybody
who is involved in the water
industry you want to read this book
the book is called the big thirst by
charles fishman charles fishman is an
best-selling author in addition to the
big thirst he’s written books such as
the walmart effect
the curious mind the secret to a bigger
and his most recent book one giant leap
the impossible mission that flew
us to the moon nation i love our space
and one giant leap is a great read it
talks about the men
and women that allowed us to
actually make it to the moon people that
did things that you would not have even
thought about he writes about them it is
a great read
but we’re not talking about that book
today we’re talking about
the big thirst and today
we’re going to be able to interview him
about that he is on the show so please
help me welcome charles fishman
my lab partner today is accomplished
author charles
fishman charles thank you so much for
joining us on scaling up h2o
thanks for having me i’m glad to have
the chance to talk to your audience
charles i have to tell you i am a big
fan of your books i really enjoy the way
that you write as myself i’m starting to
write my first book and i’m just curious
give me a little taste of what your
process is well look
i’m an old-fashioned nepa reporter
i got my start as a newspaper reporter
as it happens at the washington post um
most people who get to the washington
post don’t go straight out of
college so that was a real privilege and
a joy i learned a lot
as a 21 year old and a 22 year old and a
23 year old
from the people running the washington
post but
my philosophy is really simple good
reporting more little stories
more little facts will save you
when good writing won’t you can’t make
right beautifully or compellingly
sometimes you have a good day sometimes
you have a good afternoon
sometimes you don’t but what you can
always do
is have an incredible
tale to tell an incredible answers to
interesting and incredible questions you
can always
ask a few more questions when i was a
i made little red marks in my notebook
i’m still a
rep i make little red marks in my
notebook next to what i think of as the
quote-unquote good stuff
um because i started out covering
courthouses and so you would
i would spend the whole day in court and
then i’d have to literally
race back to the office at 505
and i had a story due at 6 or 6 15 and
so i didn’t have time to ponder
what i was going to write i had to have
thought about it as
i was going along but i didn’t want to
miss the wonderful details you sit in
court for eight hours
and there might be three moments worth
reproducing in the next day’s newspaper
and as a as an author and a historian
i still do that i certainly collect
10 or 20 times the amount of material
that i can
possibly use but over the course of
doing that i’m very careful
to mark the stuff it seems like it’s
going to be
good and is definitely going to make it
into the book but i actually usually
keep a separate file which
which i with great imagination
and zaniness called good stuff file
chapter one good stuff file
chapter three good stuff file and when i
get ready to write a chapter when i’m
halfway through
we’re done or when i think i’m done i i
always go back to the list of stuff that
i thought was really important to get in
and it’s amazing how often you forget
some wonderful little moment or some
wonderful little detail
in in the course of months and months
and months of reporting which is which
is what a book requires
so i am very careful to keep track of
what seems
to to light me up when i learn it at the
and not wait till later to mark it as
something that’s going to make it in the
book now in the end even the good stuff
probably only half of it makes it in the
book and
people will just decide on their own
whether what i write is worth reading or
but that’s how you make sure that you’re
getting the very better
stuff in and not losing track of it so
that’s that’s a tiny little
window on on my technique i i don’t i’m
not inviting anybody to look over my
via skype facetime while i work however
only my family
uh is party to that particular uh
mess well i appreciate you sharing that
it uh it definitely does help
and uh i’ve read a couple of your books
i don’t think i’ve read all of them i’ve
read the walmart effect
i’ve read the big thirst which is what
we’re going to talk about today i
understand you have a new book out
one giant leap what am i leaving out
one giant leap is the latest book about
the race to the moon
um in the 1960s and and especially
given the audience you’ve got of kind of
water professionals water engineers
water scientists water practitioners
there’s a surprising connection you know
the story of
apollo the story of going to the moon
the story of the united states
has been told probably a thousand times
12 men who walked on the moon have
them written 20 books the part of the
story that hasn’t well told
believe it or not is how we did it how
did we get to the moon
the part of the story that’s very well
told is the perspective of the
astronauts they seem
you know if you’re a a historian or a
journalist or somebody
who writes about space why wouldn’t you
tell it
from the perspective of inside the
spacecraft facing the control panel
that seems to be the exciting spot
that’s been done a lot
but you know what’s just as exciting
actually i i found it
even more exciting is the men and women
back on earth
who had to do the work to get the
astronauts to the moon
and my book is a book about what it took
to get americans to the moon i love math
as well as writing and i literally sit
at a computer with a
a piece of scratch paper and a
um at hand at all times and one thing i
did was i
added up the total amount of work it
took to get america to the moon
yeah this many people working for this
many years this many hours
a year what what did that look like in
apollo astronauts spent 2 500 hours in
space they
spent 2500 hours taking off flying
buying to them landing on the moon
walking around driving around in that
really cool
lunar dune buggy flying home splashing
down that
2500 hours that’s about 100 days believe
it or not
a lot of time in space for every
one hour of apollo space flight
one million hours of work
was done back on earth what
what’s a million hours of work a typical
overworked american will work
a hundred thousand hours in an entire
for every one hour of space flight
literally the entire work lives of ten
people were required
think about that for a minute imagine
being allowed to do something for one
that 10 people had worked their entire
careers they’re all 75
they’re getting ready to retire just
going to give traces one hour after
they’ve worked their entire lives
to get ready for that one hour and then
the second hour comes and 10 more people
have worked their entire lives to get
you ready for the second hour
that is the level of intensity work
back on earth that going to the moon
required and so
that to me is why that was interesting
it’s a story in which
the astronauts are heroes there’s no
question but the astronauts are the
first to tell you
that the real heroes were back on earth
the engineers and scientists and factory
who who invented what we needed to go to
the moon
and then built it and inventing it was
one thing but it also had to be perfect
because if anything went wrong between
here and the moon you were in trouble so
so that’s that’s the kind of story that
the people who
who listen to your podcast even though
it doesn’t seem like it’s directly
related it may actually relate
very well to sort of being the unsung
heroes of whatever
water system you’re a part of well i
gotta tell you after that
cell i cannot wait to read the book i
mean just uh just to think about
and i’ve seen movies i’ve read books but
but just to think about
all the people that had to do so many
things and i’ve never thought about
adding up the hours of that but a
million hours to produce
one hour of of space travel i mean
that’s just that’s just incredible i
appreciate you sharing that with us
well and and some water folks may know
and some may not
the moon is considered a very dry place
at least in the conventional
imagination but in fact
on both in both the north pole and the
south pole
i’m not sure we have actually gotten
uh absolute evidence from the north pole
but in the south pole as i understand it
there’s not only water on the moon there
are iceberg
size quantities of water in the moon and
they are collected
in craters at the poles that
that are so that are deep enough that
the sun never shines
on whole sections of those craters and
there is water on the moon in the scale
of icebergs so
so the moon’s not as dry as we once
imagined it to be and that’s
if ever set up bases on the moon
we’re going to be setting up bases a
short trot
from the from the iceberg size
quantities of water because we’re going
to need that water for all kinds of
things so
so the what the moon will soon need
water engineers
get ready if that intrigues you there
you go and i think that is a great
segue uh to your book the big thirst
so i’m curious uh there are probably a
lot of members of the scale
up nation that have read it there’s some
that might not have read it
what is the book basically about and
then uh
why did you write it the point of the
public thirst when i wrote it was to
a sense of what it looks like to face
water bombs
and what it looks like to tackle them or
fail to tackle them and the book
first came out in 2011
the paperback came out in 2012 and
it’s framed around a series of settings
las vegas nevada galveston texas
india australia a series of places where
were big water problems and people
faced them and figured out how to solve
them or
refused to face them and failed to solve
them and i think
both both cases are are interesting
because we’re all going to face a lot of
water problems um and then there’s a a
kind of a
a fishman-esque special uh chapter
um which is devoted to the economics of
it’s the last chapter before
the um the conclusion and there is a
arc to the book but the the economics
chapter is really simple
um anybody who deals with water
routinely in
any setting storm under waste water
drinking water water for farm farmers
water for agriculture
drought flooding the one thing that is
is that water is underpriced we do not
charge enough for it and if we fixed the
price of water we would fix most other
and and i felt like that was kind of an
element of the of the whole conversation
water and how to manage it if for your
audience it’s a book about
water management but no ordinary person
wants to read a book about water
management a dozen
colleges and universities have picked
the big thirst as what they call their
common read they have assigned it
over the summer to all incoming freshmen
a dozen colleges universities
because it’s written not aimed
specifically at water managers but aimed
ordinary people here’s here’s what it
looks like to
face water problems here’s what those
problems look like here’s what it looks
like when you tackle them
with a certain energy and imagination
here’s what happens
when you tackle them so it’s written in
the style of a book i mean
you’ve read it so you you can you can
you can give your own review but it’s
aimed at ordinary people but
in fact it’s found a big audience among
water professionals because to be honest
people who make water take pride
in in their invisibility they take pride
in the invisibility of the water system
and the people who manage those water
systems whatever
spot in the system they sit in they also
take pride in kind of being below the
radar screen
and the problem is that now we need
water managers to talk to us
to explain what’s going on what are the
what are the technical challenges what
are the engineering challenges what are
the financial challenges
and that we need them to explain it in
words we understand
and the truth is they don’t know how to
do it because they spend all their time
running the water system we’ve got
three generations four generations of
water people
who haven’t really had to talk to the
public and now
we’re we have crises water-related
almost everywhere in the world at some
point in the next 20 years
and so the water professionals like the
book because they could sort of
steal ideas about how to talk about
what’s going on in their own community
um and and and try and make and make
your stand able so
the goal of the book was to the goal of
the book isn’t for you to turn to page
187 and say right i remember that
let me solve that problem that way it’s
not an engineering book it’s not a
textbook in any way
it’s designed specifically for people to
so that when communities have problems
they can say to themselves you know what
i remember
that we need to take this seriously i
read this book back when i was
a sophomore at occidental college or the
university of florida and i
remember not the details but i remember
that we need to take it seriously and so
it’s it’s aimed at a general audience it
every chapter is sort of filled with
the stories of ordinary people and you
how they interact how they work with
water or failed work with water
and and then there’s the wonderful
chapter called it’s water of course it’s
we don’t ever talk about how many copies
of a book it sold no one
no one except uh what’s her name who who
wrote the harry potter novels talks
about how many copies of the book is old
the the book is the best-selling water
since cadillac desert by mark reeser so
it is it is
it has done very very well um and it
to sell more copies every year than 95
percent of books ever sell so it is it
continues to be
um a book that’s assigned in a lot of
water and sustainability
um and engineering programs just as a
way of getting people
acclimated well with all of the books
that you’ve sold whatever that number is
and it’s hard to find people in my
industry that have not read your book
what is the impact that you’ve seen well
it’s not it’s not harry potter so
it’s really hard with even a
best-selling book
to sort of say these three things
in nashville or these four initiatives
in san diego or the result of
of of a team of people reading the book
like you
i meet lots of people in the world of
water i speak at water conferences
all the time there’s a water conference
every summer in milwaukee that i
host and help organize the water leaders
when the book first came out one of the
first places i was invited to
speak was the association of large
municipal water utilities the
the 30 or 40 largest seas in america
have their own utility association
there’s the big one the awa which is
the association of all 52 000 water used
body parties in america
but the the 40 or 50 biggest water
utilities in the country supply water to
60 or 70 percent of the people and then
there’s the 50
000 other water utilities many of which
only have a thousand or two thousand or
three thousand
customers and i i was invited by
somebody who
who i had spent time with um in the
course of reporting the book i said you
know what
what in the world can i tell you guys
about this that you don’t
like i went to you to to learn what i
needed to learn to write the book what
can i tell you
and what she said was we need to hear
the message
um delivered in a way that you would
deliver it
and also it’s always good to have an
outsider talk to you about how the world
you know from your perspective so those
are the things we want you
to talk about so i think i think the
book has had a huge impact
in two completely opposite corners i
think it has had a big impact with water
because they really are in a unique
position and a different challenge which
how do we talk about water problems to
the public
most most of the last 60 years
no one in the water utility world has
ever had to deal with
having a conversation with their
quote-unquote constituents
it works water is pretty inexpensive you
know most americans
i i was struck recently we had to get a
new microwave oven and
and the new microwave oven is programmed
so that if there’s a
power failure the the letters pf
come up where the time was so somewhere
in china
people who designed microwave ovens have
figured out that the power goes off in
often enough whatever briefly every four
more weeks
10 times a year there’s a power failure
here in washington as you can see
for 40 seconds or 2 minutes or 15
that you want the microwave oven to
report that there was a power failure
and that’s why the time is wrong
most americans will reach the end of
their lives without
ever turning on the water in the
bathroom or the shower
or the kitchen sink and having there be
no water
because of a failure of the system right
occasionally the plumber comes
he says i need to replace this valve or
that valve i’m going to turn the water
then you turn the water on in the
kitchen and forget the plumber’s here or
turn it off
but but in the normal course of your
day-to-day life
literally most americans in their entire
will never have their water this off for
an hour that’s extraordinary but that’s
not the world
we’re moving into not that your water
service is going to fail but that
water systems are going to need a lot of
help and we’re going to need to think
about water very differently
and we’re going to need the water
managers the people who run the systems
to talk to us the people who use them
they really really she ate the way the
stories in the book are told
in a way it’s accessible to ordinary
people so that’s one group
i think it’s had a huge impact and i
think it really has had a big impact
in colleges and and universities in
just because it’s accessible and there’s
not a lot of stories visa science and
where you don’t quickly get into the
of of the math or the science or the
there are some equations in this book
but they’re all in the footnotes
and and so this is a book you can read
and think to yourself
wow i might actually like to do the job
that that woman’s doing
that sounds cool no one in the 10th
grade thinks
i really want to be a water engineer and
manage a water system
and yet we need people to to want to do
we need people to do it and it turns out
that in the world that’s going to be a
challenging job in the next 10 years not
not a routine go and just watch your
computer screen and watch everything
stay the same
all day and it’s also going to be a job
that’s going to require
cutting edge public policy cutting edge
ability to work with the public
cutting edge technology which you
understand and know how to manage
and so what has been a pretty stayed
calm quiet world where a good shift in
the water plant was
that it looked like the gauges were all
were all painted into their
locations and never moved that world’s
about to change dramatically
and i think the big thirst has opened
though to that world for a whole you
wave of people going through colleges
and universities who would never have
you know water as a place to find a
now if a thousand kids read the book how
turn around and say to their academic
advisor or mom and dad i’m going to be a
water person
host but but if only five or 10 out of a
sort of thought let me go take some
courses in this this could be cool
then you know for for someone like me
that is great because you’ve
you’ve opened the world to people in an
charming compelling way that that they
didn’t have any experience with so
i think those are the two places it’s
had an impact
in the more dramatic way but you know
you just never know i mean i think it
notes from people all the time saying
i think about water differently because
i’ve read the book and that’s one of the
missions of the book
well i want to share with you as an
employer i have experienced
the latter that you just expressed uh
people that were in college they never
thought about it but they
read your book and they started looking
at ways that they could get involved in
the water industry
and i’m a member of a group called the
association of water technologies and
i’ve heard
that story over and over again so
absolutely people are learning about the
craft from your book so i want to thank
you for that
well i appreciate that and that’s and
that’s right that’s look that’s part of
the point of the winter book and it’s
also part of the
point of the apollo book i i didn’t go
to these books thinking that but
aerospace and water are similar
a little bit you might as a kid have
enjoyed playing rockets or enjoyed
playing with airplanes
these days you can be on a robotics team
in high school
lots of high schools have products teams
there’s big nationwide robotics
competition which is great
and absolutely vital to sort of
introducing people to ideas of
not many people in the 10th or 11th
grade have any experience with
aeronautics astronautics astronomy at
all most high schools don’t have a
single astronomy class
so how in sophomore year how can you say
you know i’m going to major in in hydro
engineering that’s what i want to major
i don’t know anything about it but i
like the way the word is spelled
and by the same token you can’t really
say to yourself
i want to be an aeronautical engineer
without having dipped your toe in
somehow and so in fact as
as i think in the in the big thirst the
heroes of the big thirst
in fact are men and women on the front
lines of water saying
this isn’t going to work we got to do
this differently here’s how
and the heroes of the race to the moon
are the same thing the the engineers and
scientists and factory workers who said
this is the way to waited and i think i
think in the modern world we need a lot
more engineering talent
than we’ve got available right now i’m
sure you know
some of these numbers yourself but the
conventional wisdom
in the world of water is that in the
next five years
something like 50 of the people who
manage water systems
will reach retirement age that’s a lot
that’s a lot of people
about to start collecting their pension
and stop running the water system and so
we are ready for a fresh wave of 10
um but also we won’t we won’t
we won’t keep the water on if we don’t
get that down
one of the cities that you did research
on was las vegas what were some of the
lessons learned there
you know um las vegas is this wonderful
carnival of a town and and what’s funny
is that it’s sort of you know in some
ways the
the the image of las vegas is that it’s
a place where
where you can indulge your illusions and
your fantasies
and then you go back to real life their
attitude about water is exactly the same
as their attitude about me or
glamour or sex it’s the same it’s the
same thing
they it looks like a place that treats
water in a kind of cavalier
almost extravagant way almost every
on the las vegas strip the big new
casinos the bellagio has
the second largest um fountain in the
and an eight-acre man-made lake in front
of the bellagio
um the mirage has a lagoon with uh
um with a volcano in it the casino york
new york which is a little older not
quite as glamorous
reproduces new york harbor with the
actual water and the fire boat and
statue of liberty
right out front uh there’s just water
being splashed around every fair
but it turns out that las vegas is one
the most water smart cities in the
and it’s water smart in the following
way all of las vegas water comes from a
from a single source lake mead which is
created by hoover dam and the amount of
water that las vegas gets to take
from lake mead was set back in 1935
when las vegas had about a thousand
people there’s three million people in
las vegas now
so how did they make do with the
with the allocation of water they
received literally
80 years ago when the population was
1 100th what what it now well las vegas
recycles cleans and recycles
every gallon of water that hits a drain
anywhere in the city
they collect every single gallon of
water into the wastewater system
and that water all goes into a high-tech
water treatment plant and the water is
right to lake mead you can actually go
visit the little stream
where the water comes dumping back into
lake mead
it’s called the las vegas a wash is
traditionally a stream or riverbed
that’s only um got water in it when it
rains but
the las vegas wash has water flowing in
it all the time
and um the water they put back in like
is cleaner
than the water they take out in the
first place to clean and deliver to the
and so they literally recycle 93
94 of the water that’s delivered to
in the in the city and that’s that’s
extraordinary and they’ve done
las vegas has really transformed the
water culture
of the city over 20 or 30 years
there’s lots of examples of that but for
instance it’s now
illegal to have a front lawn in las
vegas all new houses built
i think the year was 2 000 since 2000
don’t have grass in their front yards
they have landscaping beautiful desert
but you cannot put down sun on your
front lawn
if your house was built in the year 3000
or after
and that’s helped transform sort of the
water units culture
of las vegas so they’ve done 30 or 40
things in the city
to change the water use culture from one
that really was cavalier in the early
to here in 2020 you can go to las vegas
as a
as a new water manager and and see a
hundred techniques
of technology and
human engineering public policy changing
attitudes that you can then take home to
your community
whether your community is a dry
community like las vegas
or or somewhere in the you know in in
the great lakes region or the or the
mid-atlantic of the east coast
there’s there’s techniques there for
everyone to learn
how to be smarter about water management
and so so for
me i actually spent more than a month in
las vegas trying to understand what had
gone on there
and and it’s a it’s a great american
success story
it would not have an economy if it had
not changed
water use it would have run out of water
and um
it’s also a place that has done things
that the rest of us can learn
so that’s that’s why that’s why i
thought it was a great
um example in the book you know there’s
so many things that they do
that our municipalities can duplicate i
know some are
and definitely more and more are falling
sued but i’m sure we have listeners that
are wondering
what are some of the common things that
they can do at
their home so from all your research
what’s some of the easy things that we
can just do to make a difference
well look the folks listening to this
podcast are probably pretty smart
already when people ask that question
you know like in a public talk i always
start the same place i say
go find your water bill and the first
question you should ask
is how much water do we in this family
use how much water do we use in this
or the house what does that water cost
us most people
don’t know the answer to either of those
questions you know if you ask most
how much milk do they use or how much
coffee do they use
they wouldn’t know precisely how many
bags of
coffee beans they grind a week but
they’d have a general idea you know yeah
i buy a
i have to buy a gallon of milk you know
every three or four days not quite twice
a week
those people in america have absolutely
no idea how much water they use
and they also have no idea how much it
costs because
it’s so cheap that they don’t they don’t
need to pay attention
people will tell you oh yeah my my
smartphone my iphone bill is
is 80 80 bucks a month or i have
three kids my smartphone phone bits is
220 bucks a month they have no idea what
their water cost so i say start there
find out how much you use
most ordinary people will be absolutely
at how much water their lives take
because they they aren’t
really clued in uh dramatic and
and news when i wrote the book back in
the in
in 2011 11 12 2013
average water use in the country was 101
gallons per person
now it is down to about 84 gallons a
not a huge change but and that’s per day
101 gallons per person per day
a family of four would be using 400
a day for all purposes now it’s down to
a family of four
using about 320 gallons of water a day
330 gallons of water a day
but that’s a huge change to 15 reduction
in just 10 or 15 years so i would say
look at your water bill
and then agree that you’re going to try
and that you’re going to pay attention
and you’re going to try and cut your own
water use
by 10 and it’s not that hard to cut your
water use by 10
if you start thinking about it the
easiest way to cut your water use of
is not to flush the toilet when you pee
you know what you can you can pee in the
toilet three or four times
where you need to flush it and that sort
of for some reason makes people
you know smile and roll their eyes but
we’ve now got
in a lot of places we’ve got waterless
urinals in
in men’s restrooms and that of course
makes sense particularly doesn’t really
need water to transport itself to the
wastewater treatment
plant and a an epa study
that came out just before the book came
sort of discovered that the main use of
inside homes in inside use of water
the main use is in fact flushing the
toilet and
so we’ve changed that a little bit with
um uh toilets that use a little less
with each flush i know um president
has sort of mocked that but in fact low
flow toilets now
are really brilliantly designed they
work great
you don’t have to flush 16 or 18 times
you flush once they work
um but that’s a great way of saving
water and then
the traditional things that people hear
be a little aware you know we’ve got a
timer in our shower one of those
you know sand timers that you turn over
um and it’s just
fun you know a couple times a week to
see if you can beat the sand timer i
think the one
when our showers is three and a half or
four minutes
you have to be very like your shower and
not and not fall into a reverie there in
the nice water
but once or twice a week that’s fine the
amazing thing
is that americans don’t pay that much
attention to their water use
and yet water use in the country
the whole country’s water use today in
is less than it was in 1970 not per
total water use every day the economy is
triple the size it was
in 1970 and we’re using less water as a
and there’s a bunch of reasons for that
which which we’ve
talked about but what that means is that
every gallon of water
does three times the work economically
that that same gallon of water did in
and that’s huge and nobody in america
walks through their life and says yeah
we save a lot of water
i feel just dried out all the time we
haven’t actually had to
to inflict much on our lives that’s
brilliant water saving appliances
dishwashers and washing machines that
do their jobs better than they did in
but also use a third less or or 50
percent less water
that’s toilets and then some degree it’s
people paying attention it’s people
only watering their lawns when they need
to that’s another really important
arena which is pay attention to how you
use water outside
one of the big topics that we’re facing
here in the united states
is legionella and awareness about other
waterborne pathogens
i’m curious what your research led you
to conclude on that and more
why are other nations so much more
advanced on topics
as legionella than we are here in the
united states
okay let me let you can you can do what
you want with this
i don’t know that much about legionella
so if other nations are more advanced
than we are
i’m not clued into that waterborne
diseases in the united states
have a certain amount of impact
but it’s particularly true in places
with water systems that aren’t as
advanced as they should be that are
poorly run
um and of course then there’s then
there’s places
like flint where what’s in the water
isn’t a pathogen but does
incredible damage anyway but
in the united states in fact those are
the exceptions
and most water systems most municipal
water systems most
water you know legionella is one of
those problems that occurs
most often i think in big buildings
where the
um where the air handling and water
systems aren’t properly maintained
but if you think about the number of
people who go work in sealed buildings
with with big hvac systems and big
water systems it turns out not to be a
big problem in the united states
and i think that’s why we aren’t that
educated about it
we pay attention to what turns out to be
a problem
and in fact in the u.s the water systems
by and large and and by that i mean 95
97 well-run safe
they produce perfectly clean usable
drinking water
and the same is true of our of our hvac
systems and our huge consumers of water
three percent of 300 million people
is still 9 10 12 million people
at risk that’s a lot of people
who probably don’t have the water and
the water safety they should
and i’m not trying to trivialize that
but that’s a manageable problem it just
needs attention
by and large the the real that americans
are that our water systems aren’t ready
for climate change we do not have
that are built to handle delivering
and to managing either drought or
in in ways that are going to overtake us
in the next five 10 and 15 years
and so i think i think the fact that we
quite as educated as other places is in
because in general the engineering of
our water systems has been
has been brilliant and successful well
let me follow up with this
we’ve got the presidential elections
coming up
what should we or what should they be
debating on stage when it comes to water
i mean look it to me it’s it’s very very
you just have to look at what’s going on
every day in the country
climate change is is really the most
problem the country in the world faces
um it’s the only problem that’s a threat
to to to rich people and poor people to
democracies and authoritarian regimes
it’s a threat in in this on this
but also in asia and and in africa and
and if we in the united states provide
the world will follow us that’s a great
and we’re also the big economy in the
world and
and i don’t know how this happened but
tackling climate change
won’t damage the economy it won’t be a
damper on the economy
it will do just the opposite i think we
build something like
two million new housing units in the
country every year
i don’t understand what the argument
would be for those two million new
housing units
every single year having solar on them
i in fact think most single-family homes
most apartment buildings
most big buildings like walmart’s should
have solar retrofitted on them
will we be sorry if you know five years
now 30 percent of the buildings in in
the united states
have solar on top of them there’s no way
we’d be so that’s only good news
look at what has happened to gas mileage
a gallon of gas when i learned to 25
you know would take your car 12 miles a
gallon of gas will take your car
35 or 40 miles now are we sorry
that that that we’re not using more
trillium products
of course not and there’s a million ways
that we can tackle
climate change but that to me is what we
should be talking about we should be
talking about
how to train people who’ve been put out
of work
biological advances in jobs and roles
and occupations
that we’re going to need going forward
and and the truth is we
we need to transform our economy and our
day-to-day habits
with literally the sense of urgency that
going to the moon had
and we can and we won’t be sorry you
know when
when he said on may 25th 1961
let’s go to the moon it was literally
impossible even the people at nasa who
had told
the president we could probably do it
they knew better than anyone that it was
there’s no rocket that could fly to the
moon there was no spaceship that could
land on the moon there were no space
suits for
for astronauts to wear when they go out
to the moon in fact in 1961
a small computer was the size of five
refrigerators lined up next to each
other that was
one small computer you couldn’t even fly
one refrigerator to the moon
but you couldn’t get to the moon without
a computer and in the end they built
a computer that was not much bigger than
a briefcase
that was at the time the smallest
fastest most powerful computer that had
ever been built
so in eight years they took something
that was impossible
and they made it happen we actually know
what we need to do
to tackle climate change and most of the
of climate change are water related you
charleston south carolina floods once a
week now it’s
used to five times a year it floods 50
times a year now that’s
changed in the last 10 years not not
with big rains just
high sunny tides you know king what they
call king tides high tides
on sunny days miami beach the same way
the same way new york city the same way
we’ve built our communities
assuming a certain kind of weather a
certain kind of climate
a certain availability of water and
all of that is changing and we need to
jump on
water problems are all solvable we know
how to manage footing
we know how to build communities back
from the water
so they don’t get flooded we know how to
collect and store water
so it’s available in municipalities we
know how to clean it we know how to get
rid of
flood water and rain water but we’ve
built our communities with certain
assumptions and those assumptions
aren’t going to true anymore and one of
the things that’s true about water
problems is they’re all
solvable but not many of them are
solvable in a hurry
if you’re using too much water as a city
you can fix that problem
relatively easily over five years you
cannot fix it at all over five weeks
um and and and so we need to sort of
very clear-eyed water does not respond
as i like to say water does not respond
to wishful thinking you have to look
clearly at what your problems are
and then you need a plan for fixing them
and then you can fix them over
five or ten years and people will join
you americans
love to rally to the sort of impossible
cause so
i i think to the degree that the um
that we’re worried about the economy
that we’re worried about
um uh access to work and people having
good jobs and people having
productive lives that they feel good
about i think climate change
actually can be an accelerator of
all the things that are good if we
charles you’re talking to an audience of
thousands of
industrial water treaters so they indeed
can do a big
impact what’s the one message you want
to leave with them
just to get back to to the book there’s
a story in the book
about a town called tuwamba australia
and in the middle not of the current
has all a lot of lessons in what’s going
on there now but the last drought
which lasted 10 years and i was in
australia for a month
in the middle of that drought in about
tawambas reservoir was at
nine percent it was 91 percent empty in
the middle of the drought
and the federal government of australia
offered the city of tawamba which is the
inland city in the country a high-tech
water treatment plant
to solve their problem to reuse their
clean their wastewater return it to the
reservoir and give them a little bit of
a cushion
against what was going on in the country
and the mayor at the time who was
a bit of a big personality was so
excited at this possibility
that announced at a women’s club meeting
in tuomba
that we were that they were all going to
start drinking out of the toilet
and from that moment forward the
campaign to
get this water treatment plant and start
fixing the water problem
was completely off the rails and the
very clear
lesson of what happened in to walmart if
you if you read that chapter i think
it’s so clear you can get the problem
and you can get the analysis right and
you can even get the solution right when
it comes to water you can understand the
understand how to think it through
figure out what the right solution is
but if you get the conversation strong
if you don’t manage how the public
understands the problem and the analysis
and the solution
it won’t matter that you got the other
things right scientists and engineers
and utility people
tend to look at sort of talking to the
as a as something they’re not that
interested in and
historically been that important to
making sure everything goes
well here’s the headline the flashing
the flashing neon headline on the all
news cable channel the breaking news the
breaking news is
you have to know how to talk about the
problem effectively in public
or you won’t get to present the problem
the analysis and the solution
if you don’t get the conversation right
you’re not going to get to solve the
problem and so
i think the ability to think through how
to talk to the public
about what’s going on how to have a
conversation with them
how to bring us into that conversation
not just once but over and over and over
again is really important
we see that in the simplest examples i
live in a neighborhood in in washington
where they’ve installed 16 rain gardens
to try and manage storm water rainfall
without putting it
into the sewer system which is of course
really brilliant
that’s what you want to do you want to
put the water back in the ecosystem
not in the sewer demand and and
washington is one of those communities
that’s got the
you know federal oversight we we pollute
the river
because our our sewer system overflows
costs billions of dollars to
to manage that rain gardens are an
very effective way of reducing what goes
into storm drain
but they didn’t present the rain garden
project to the neighborhood i live in
i’ve lived here almost seven years the
rain gardens are smart
i know what they are people are baffled
by them
they’re taking up you know 16 maybe
24 parking spaces they each take up one
or two
curb parking space bays they’re they’re
they’re puzzling
it’s not clear what their purpose is
well they mismanaged the conversation
they didn’t even have a conversation
about them um
and that’s a tiny little example of
the the water community in washington
the people running the water youtube to
exactly what they were doing they came
to the right conclusion they came up
one of the right solutions it’s actually
an inexpensive
tax saving water saving solution reduces
pollution does everything you want it to
but they didn’t tell us what they were
doing they just built these things
right right out in front of our homes
and people were really really upset so
that’s a tiny little example
my advice to the to the to the people
who run water systems of some kinds is
you can’t put wanna do on a piece of
paper the size of a three by five card
and put it in the water bill once or
even twice and expect people
to know what you’re up to you have to go
out to the community
use neighborhood listservs talk to
people have meetings
present what you want to do ask them
reaction and then
listen listen because as water people
know better than anybody people’s access
to water
and the way other people manage their
causes a lot of emotion there’s a lot of
emotional response
the emotional response isn’t the
specific point
it’s the hurdle to getting the problem
solved so you need to
understand the emotional response ask
questions about it listen to it
and then think about how to uh get
people to appreciate that you’re
actually solving their problem not
irritating them or making it worse
well i love that answer and i think the
conversation that we’ve had today
is going to inspire a lot of people that
can make a lot of change
that and give them some traction on what
they can do but
i want to thank you not only for writing
the big thirst but coming on scaling up
h2o and sharing a little bit more of
that story
oh i you asked such great questions and
i i appreciate the chance to talk
to this audience and and i’m easy to
find if people have
questions if they tackle the book if
they see something and they’re
curious or want to challenge something
or ask a follow-up
my email address is out there all over
the place just shoot me a note and i’ll
i’ll be happy to respond and you can
even put my my contact information
in the show notes if you want we’ll be
happy to do that
charles again great honor to have you on
the show
i just love to be able to interview
people that
i have read their books i’ve had them on
my bookshelf for a while
i’ve used them to refer to items when
i’m talking with people
i take quotes out of them so really cool
to be able to talk with charles
as i mentioned at the top of the show i
get to have
that privilege because you out there in
the scaling up nation
are listening to the podcast and i
want to thank you for doing that because
you do that
i get to do this and i truly love
this of course the more people we have
listening will help our reach to find
other guests so as always my ask for
you is to help me find some new
subscribers to the show
so if you’re talking to another water
trader or somebody you
feel will have interest in scaling up
please show them how to subscribe to our
show and if you have
already done these things i would love
it if you
left a comment on whatever podcast
player you are using
because that ranks us higher in the
search engines of those podcast players
and it makes it easier for people to
find us
the bigger the scaling up nation gets
the more
scaling up h2o is able to offer
now nation in just a few short weeks the
association of water technologies was
supposed to hold
their annual conference in louisville
well if you have not heard already there
are limitations on how many people can
get together in social gatherings
and awt is now holding their conference
virtually i know i’m disappointed i was
hoping to see
many of you there like i do each and
every year
but awt is offering some new things with
the virtual convention
trying to make sure that it is as
captivating and informative
as it can be so as they let me know what
these items are
i will be sure to pass those items along
to you
so you know what you can get from the
virtual convention
as always keep listening to scaling up
h2o to stay
up to date on news about our industry
folks there’s no doubt about it these
are different times
but different doesn’t have to mean bad
our collective job is to raise the bar
of the water treatment industry
we just might have to find new ways
that we do that during this time scale
up nation is my hope that you stay
safe out there and have a great week
on episode 136 we gave you an inside
look at what happens in the rising
tide mastermind friend of show mark
lewis was
asked why he joined the rising tide
mastermind and here
is his reply when the mastermind group
was introduced
i said let me get on this thing i want
to be a part of this i want to learn
how to be more productive and make my
days to where i can enjoy my family
time and separated from my work time and
i like what trace does and so i said i
want to be
i want to do things a lot like trace so
let me let me figure out what he’s doing
so that’s why i jump through mark thanks
so much for
your comment and i really appreciate
that you
like how i handle things and get things
but i have to fess up here’s the secret
i’ve had a lot of help being able to
all of the different tasks that i’m
asked to do
and make sure that they get done
and that wasn’t all me that was because
i decided years ago
almost 10 years ago to join
a mastermind group and i’ve been meeting
with that group on a regular basis
since that time now what we do on that
is the same thing we’re doing in the
rising tide mastermind
we are helping each other get further
faster we’re helping each other with our
we’re giving each other tools that maybe
the other person
doesn’t have and we’re letting each
ask each other for help
and we’re giving help folks that’s what
a mastermind
is all about and i truly feel
that we are not built to do life alone
and the secret to being successful
is getting with people that can help you
to that success i urge you to
see if the rising tide mastermind is
right for you go to scalinguph2o.com
forward slash
mastermind to learn more and if this
group is right for you
please schedule an appointment with me
if this group is not right for you
please find one that is again
we are not built to do life alone