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Valuing Water (Bonus Episode)

Valuing water is about much more than price. In this bonus episode (a condensed version of our Let’s Talk About Water virtual forum on World Water Day), Jay talks with three individuals each with a unique perspective on valuing water. Featuring Kirsten James (Ceres), Gidon Bromberg (EcoPeace Middle East), and Dr. Karen Kidd (McMaster University).

Please note: For seasons 1 and 2, we were known as “Let’s Talk About Water,” so you may hear that title in this episode. Don’t worry, it’s still us!

Guest Bios

Kirsten JamesKirsten James

Kirsten James directs Ceres strategy for mobilizing leading investors and companies to address the sustainability risks facing our freshwater and agriculture systems. Her work includes leading the Valuing Water Finance Initiative, an investor-led effort which seeks to drive corporate action on water-related financial risks.

Previously, Kirsten served for five years as the director of California policy and partnerships at Ceres, where she led strategy development for Ceres’s California-focused policy work, engaging companies and investors in support of public policies that call for sustainable water management, clean energy and greenhouse gas emissions reductions in California.

Prior to Ceres, Kirsten worked for nine years at a regional water resource-focused NGO, Heal the Bay, as their Science and Policy Director. In her personal capacity, she serves as a committee appointee for the Los Angeles County Safe, Clean Water Program and an appointee of the Speaker of the California Assembly to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Advisory Council. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University and a master’s degree in environmental science and management from the Bren School at University of California Santa Barbara.

Gidon BrombergGidon Bromberg

Gidon Bromberg is the co-founder and 25 year Israeli Director of EcoPeace Middle East. Mr. Bromberg has written extensively on the relationship between water issues and Middle East peace and has presented before the UN Security Council, UN Climate Summit, US Congress, European Parliament and other international forums. Mr. Bromberg, an attorney by profession, is an alumni of Monash University in Australia, Washington College of Law at American University and Yale University’s World Fellows program.

EcoPeace Middle East is a unique organization that brings together Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli environmentalists. Our primary objective is the promotion of cooperative efforts to protect our shared environmental heritage. In so doing, we seek to advance both sustainable regional development and the creation of necessary conditions for lasting peace in our region. EcoPeace has offices in Amman, Ramallah, and Tel-Aviv.

Karen KiddKaren Kidd

Karen Kidd is an Ecotoxicologist, studying how the health of aquatic organisms and food webs are affected by human activities and the fate of pollutants in freshwater ecosystems. She is the Jarislowsky Chair in Environment and Health at McMaster University and held a Canada Research Chair in Chemical Contamination of Food Webs from 2004-2017 at the University of New Brunswick. She leads a multidisciplinary research lab at McMaster which includes ecology, biogeochemistry, chemistry, and toxicology – and works on lakes, rivers, wetlands, and coastal zones spanning tropical through Arctic climates.


Full Virtual Forum on World Water Day 2021


Further Reading


Photo Credit

Gidon BrombergYale University
Karen KiddWikipedia; Rory Warnock
Kirsten JamesU.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

Full Transcript

Gidon Bromberg:
At a time when see a global outbreak of this virus, of COVID and climate change I hope that we wake up to the importance of science.

Laura McFarlan:
Hi, everybody. My name is Laura and I’m a co-producer here at Let’s Talk About Water and I’m also a grad student at the University of Saskatchewan. Now I know we’ve all been patiently waiting for season three of Let’s Talk About Water. So, to hold us all over, we’ve put together a bonus episode. We did this one here in house without our usual producer or experts from The Walrus. And we’re actually hoping to have a few of these off season episodes to tide us over while we wait for season three. So, if the sound is a little off it’s because it lacks its audio finesse and expertise that go into our regular production.

This episode was recorded live as part of a Let’s Talk About Water public forum on World Water Day. This is a condensed version of our two-hour forum with industry, non-for-profit, and academic experts discussing this year’s World Water Day theme of Valuing Water. You can watch the full version on our Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Without further ado here it is.

Jay Famiglietti:
Today, I’m joined by three individuals, each with a unique perspective, Kirsten James, Gidon Bromberg and Karen Kid.

Kirsten James is the program director for water at CERES. CERES is a nonprofit organization transforming the economy to build a just and sustainable future for people and for the planet.

Gideon Bromberg is the co-founder and Israeli director of EcoPeace Middle East. EcoPeace Middle East is a unique organization that brings together Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli environmentalists.

And Karen Kidd. Karen Kidd is the Jarislowsky Chair in Environment and Health at McMaster University and she’s held a Canada Research Chair in chemical contamination of food webs from 2004 through 2017 at the University of New Brunswick.

The theme, valuing water. It’s about much more than price.

So what I’d like to do is start off by asking each of the panelists to give us a brief introduction to their work and how valuing water enters into it.

Why don’t we start with Karen.

Karen Kidd:
Thank you so much, Jay. It’s a real pleasure to be here. I grew up in the petrochemical capital of Canada in Sarnia and I grew up on the shores of Lake Huron. And what I witnessed is the conflict that arises between industrial production and demand for water and consumers’ demands for their products.

And then the conflict around the discharge of chemicals into the environment and the downstream impacts that this has on aquatic communities, as well as, human communities. And so I think that really influenced me getting into ecotoxicology and spending the last three decades, looking at water pollution issues.

So, we’ve worked on oil refineries and agricultural runoff. Also on municipal wastewater, discharges, and really trying to understand the chemicals that we use on a daily basis and what the impacts of releasing them into our waterways are for the health of our aquatic systems.

Jay Famiglietti:
Thanks very much Karen, Kirsten.

Kirsten James:
Great, well happy World Water Day, everyone, really great to be part of this discussion today. So as Jay mentioned, I’m the water program director at CERES. We’re a nonprofit sustainability organization. And we work with the most influential capital market leaders to look and hopefully solve the world’s greatest sustainability challenges.

We work directly with companies to improve their water stewardship. In particular, we’ve zeroed in on the food sector, which is susceptible to water risk.

And then in addition to working directly with companies, we’re also working with networks of investors to engage those companies that they own around water risk, and really using that as a leverage point. So anyways, that’s a little bit about our focus at CERES and how we’re looking at the value of water.

Jay Famiglietti:
Thanks very much Kirsten, onto you Gidon.

Gidon Bromberg:
Thank you very much, Jay, and really wonderful to be here. So I think that no one values water more than when they feel that they don’t have enough water for their daily lives or enough water to go around for basic needs.

And I come from a part of the world, which is perhaps one of the most water scarce, part of the worlds, the Middle East and North Africa. And the organization that I co-founded 26 years ago, EcoPeace Middle East is all about valuing water as an entry point for cooperation and for peacebuilding. Many people have said in the past that water will be the main reason for wars in the future.

Well, at EcoPeace Middle East we don’t think that’s true at all. And we think that because of the unique value of water, the unique need, that everyone needs water for the very basic aspects of life. Water if managed properly can be a very powerful entry point for cooperation and for peace building.

And that’s what we do at EcoPeace Middle East. We’re also a nonprofit organization, a civil society organization. That’s very uniquely made up of Palestinians and Jordanians and Israelis together. In fact, we’re the only organization that exists that brings Palestinians, Jordanians, and Israelis under one roof.

And that speaks already to the incredible value of water to promote cooperation. As an organization, we focus on two broad themes. Half of our programming is community-based where we work with young people about understanding my water reality, my neighbor’s water reality and the interdependence between the two.

So we work in schools. We develop curriculum, we’ve developed quite uniquely a curriculum on water diplomacy. That is actually being taught in high schools around the region. We work with young professionals. We work with their parents and the schools and the mayors in the different communities that we work in.

We managed to bring together the mayors of the Jordan river, Palestinian, Jordanian, Israeli, to actually jump into the Jordan river together. As a means to highlight that our destiny is very much intertwined and our destiny is connected to the rehabilitation of our natural water resources. Including this iconic river, holy to half of humanity.

And then the second aspect of our work is focused on top-down advocacy, where we write reports, but quite uniquely, we write those reports, bringing together Palestinian, Jordanian, and Israeli experts to co-author those reports. To be able to then speak in our respective languages, to our respective governments other decision makers.

And then we benefit from the synergy of both bottom-up and top-down advocacy that we undertake in order to try and help create the political will needed change the reality on the ground to see that water is managed sustainably from a regional perspective and equitably shared not only between our three peoples, but between the needs of people and the needs of nature.

Back to you, Jay.

Jay Famiglietti:
Thank you everyone for those great introduction. So I’d like to loop back to you Kirsten. So now we’ve just seen and heard that people value water in different ways.

When you are dealing with investors and you’re trying to mobilize investors and companies, how do you deal with these differences?

Kirsten James:
The bottom line is that no company can survive or thrive without a clean, dependable supply of water. But the problem that we’re facing is that economic players really have treated water as though it’s infinite. And as a result, this has led to a lot of misuse and waste and inappropriate management of water.

And the reality is, is that water scarcity and water pollution are growing global financial risks to companies and investors. So, we typically break this down into sort of three categories.

So there’s the physical risks, right? So too much or too little water can cause, risks to companies.

Also, regulatory risks there’s new regulations that come into play and can be a risk to companies if they’re not managing their water resources appropriately.

And then lastly, we talk about reputational risks.

So, these are all risks that we’re facing.

We believe we’ve made some good progress on mobilizing companies and investors on water stewardship. But despite all that progress, there is still this large gap between the commitments and action we’re seeing and the scale that is necessary to match the problem of our water crisis.

Jay Famiglietti:
Thanks. Very much Kirsten. So Gidon, I’d like to ask you the same question.

Gidon Bromberg:
Absolutely. In the midst of conflict, they’re really no nice guys. People will act where they see a clear self-interest and therefore we try to appeal to self-interest that lead to mutual gain.

The conflict in the region has, for instance, led to the utter demise of this iconic river called the Jordan river in its stretch from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea.

So the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all identify tremendous cultural, religious value towards the Jordan river yet it’s the peoples in our own region who make up mostly Muslims, Jews, and Christians that have been responsible for the demise of that river. So by appealing to religious leadership by bringing together imams and priests and rabbis we’ve been able to bring a tremendous attention to the fate of the river, to the understanding that this iconic river so important to the cultural and religious background of at least half of humanity has paid a tremendous cost.

Another entry point for valuing water is from its national security perspective.

For instance, in Jordan with over 1.3 million Syrian refugees crossing the border in a country that prior to that refugee crisis was already one of the most water scarce places on earth. And then the combination of increased, population through refugee and the direct implications of climate change on Jordan itself means that we see even further instability.

By highlighting the national security implications of not having sufficient water, not only for your own people, but also for your neighbors. We are able to highlight the need to cooperate.

So, two examples from our work at EcoPeace of how to raise the value of region wide water security. As a national security issue as a cultural and religious issue of shared value to all of us in the Middle East.

Jay Famiglietti:
Thanks, Gidon.

Karen, I’d like to turn to you now. And so, we’re bringing these different experiences. And so, I want to ask you a two-part question. One is that you brought up a different kind of conflict, right? In your opening remarks, this sort of conflict between industry versus municipalities and the different needs. So. I’m curious about the experiences you’ve had with how those two broad groups value water, and also then what you think is the biggest threat to water right now.

Karen Kidd:
Well, I’ll start with the second one.

I think the biggest threat to our waters is our really heavy reliance on synthetic chemicals and our increasing use of chemicals on a daily basis. We’re so heavily reliant on them for industrial food production, for the products that we use, our pharmaceuticals, personal care products, for health and wellbeing.

And society needs to put the brakes on. It’s great to be working with industries to reduce their emissions, to reduce their use of water. But at the same time, I also think we need to step back and think about the chemicals that we’re demanding as a society and that we rely on because I don’t believe that we need all of them.

One of my pet peeves is anti-microbials that are put in hand-soap for example, we think that they make the soap more effective for cleaning our hands. But it’s unnecessary and causes downstream impacts for fish. So for me, biggest change that needs to happen is a really hard look at our production of chemicals, our use of chemicals, because we know that they get released ultimately ending up in surface waters and many of them over the decades and decades we’ve been using them have shown that they’re boomerangs.

So they don’t break down. They concentrate in our food web and now we’re increasingly recognizing that those mixtures that are out there in the environment are having long-term impacts on diseases in humans and wildlife as well.

So it’s about valuing water and not treating it like a garbage bin.

Jay Famiglietti:
What you’re really talking about really hitting the demand side, right. The consumer demand side. So how do we get that message out? How do we get consumers to focus on it and to demand that we want less of these things?

Karen Kidd:
That’s a tough question for me to answer. I’ve been thinking about this a lot and how to affect change. We know that individuals collectively have a lot of social or can have a lot of social license with companies I think we really need to throw everything at it except the kitchen sink, or maybe even the kitchen sink.

Jay Famiglietti:
Kitchen sink might help, that would have an impact.

That would hurt.

So Kirsten, I wonder if you want to jump in with a comment sort of on the investor side, in the whole sort of social license thing.

Kirsten James:
Yeah, that’s a very important consideration and Karen’s comments really resonate in terms of what we’re working on together with the valuing water finance initiative.

And you know, we saw in some of films that we watched for today brave blue world, some of the examples of the apparel industry, implementing different technologies to have zero liquid discharge and really better understanding the chemicals. I know a number of apparel companies that CERES work with have joined together on, various hazardous chemical initiatives. And, you know, there’s still a lot that needs to be done, but I think industry can be part of the solution.

Definitely there’s a lot that companies need to be aware of and ensuring that they’re not contributing to the pollution issues that Karen so nicely articulated.

Jay Famiglietti:
Thanks Kirsten. Gidon. Did you want to follow up on this?

Gidon Bromberg:
It’s so important to speak to the life cycle issues around how good to manufactured, I hate the word wastewater or sewage, because it’s seen as something that it’s really not, it’s not rubbish.

It’s not something that we should just dispose. It becomes a resource. Treating wastewater turns it into a very valuable resource.

In Israel where I come from, half the agriculture produced is grown on treated wastewater. And that is certainly the direction for all semi-arid parts of the world and with climate change, perhaps for most of the world, but if we’re not governing, if we’re not managing, and we’re putting in chemicals that we have no idea what implications they will have when we re-use the treated wastewater. Or if we know in advance such as hormones, that we struggle, you know, to have the capacity to remove those hormones from our wastewater stream then we’re actually poisoning ourselves. And, and we mustn’t do that. We really need to control these chemicals to understand what chemicals we’re contributing to our water cycle.

Otherwise in the end we do pay the price both at the human level and certainly at the broader ecosystem level.

Karen Kidd:
I’ll just jump in and say, it’s so much easier to control at the source. And a great example of that in Canada recently was the ban of microbeads in cosmetic products, rather than having to try and remove them from municipal wastewaters, which is nearly impossible.

It was much smarter, you know, as a nation to take them out of the products and remove that source.

Jay Famiglietti:
Thanks for that, Karen. I just wanted to follow up with you. Two-part question. Many people around the world have this notion that there is some source of pristine water that we’re gonna be able tap into. And I wonder if you think people ever get away from that, or do you think that they really have the understanding of all the things, all the chemical constituents that end up in our waters?

Karen Kidd:
We’re only monitoring the tip of the iceberg. When you think about 140,000 chemicals on the market worldwide we only look at maybe a thousand or several thousands of them. So it’s a huge black box. But that being said, I think people are increasingly recognizing, that waters are becoming increasingly contaminated. And it’s hard to find those virgin waters that you’re talking about. And that we need to respect water as a resource, given how critical it is for us.

Jay Famiglietti:
Thanks very much, Karen. Yeah, I’m troubled by that.

And just a follow up question. What would it take if, say your lab identified some real dangerous from some new chemical what would it take to get regulatory action?

Karen Kidd:
Well, there’s a strong chemical management program in place in Canada they have a list of chemicals that they’re reviewing regularly.

They review how they’re used, where they go, the risks to environmental health and human health. And when they identify unnecessary risks either to humans or the environment, those chemicals are reduced or restricted in their use. So you know, it’s a process that doesn’t happen overnight, unfortunately, but several times there’s been public pressure to remove plasticizers from baby bottles for example, or microbeads from cosmetics.

And that certainly helps raise awareness towards reducing our use of harmful chemicals.

Jay Famiglietti:
Thanks very much, Karen. As Kirsten mentioned, there’s some passionate and intelligent innovators out there working on our water problems.

So I’d like to hear from each of you, about some innovations that you think can help us, in the solution, space, technology, data, collaborations, anything that you’re excited about, or you might want to see in the future. Karen, I’ll go start back with you.

We’ll go in reverse order.

Karen Kidd:
Well, something I’m super excited about that was in the movie was this and Gidon talked about this too, was this re-envisioning of wastewaters as a resource and not a waste. And so the example in Kenya and the one in Chicago where we’re pulling phosphorus out of wastewaters.

Capturing that source of phosphorus for agriculture is fantastic because to me, that’s, that’s a, win-win –win. You know, we win because we have this resource of phosphorus and energy, we win because we’re putting less phosphorus into aquatic systems. So we’re reducing eutrophication. And then we also win because when you treat wastewaters as a resource, you know, and you have increased processing of the waters, you reduce the release of synthetic chemicals.

So for me, it’s a fantastic opportunity to not only benefit from the waste. You know, you have human benefits, but also environmental benefits from changing our mindset around municipal wastewater.

Jay Famiglietti:
Gidon how about you?

Gidon Bromberg:
I’m really excited about and Eco-Peace actually completed a research study on, is the issue of desalination.

Now, you know, desalination, we believe should be the last choice, should be the technology of last choice. That we need to employ everything else related to good governance and pricing and conservation, but in many areas of the world even after you employ all of these efforts, we simply still don’t have enough water because of population issues in particular and declining, freshwater availabilities.

And one of the programs we’re really excited about is powering desalination through solar and wind, and by doing it in a manner that creates healthy cross border interdependencies to be more specific we’re really excited about, Jordan and with its vast desert areas, having the comparative advantage to produce renewable energy at cheapest prices.

And if we can have Jordan sell that electricity, that renewable electricity to the coastal countries in this case, Israel and Palestine, and use solar energy to desalinate Mediterranean water.

So to reduce the ecological footprint of desalination and then increased dramatically the water pie so that we don’t have to experience the vast and scary water insecurity that the region is currently facing. Harnessing the sun and harnessing the sea can really be the entry points to bring stability and perhaps even peace.

Jay Famiglietti:
Thanks, Gidon. Kirsten anything to add to the innovation side.

Kirsten James:
The one thing I’ll add, in this sort of vein of innovation and really what is needed to move the ball forward that we’re seeing. Is really, this movement around collective action. And so, we really need to get our head around that we can’t fix water issues by ourselves.

We need a big tent of collaborators. And we’ve seen some really interesting collaborations among companies and other partners. CERES developed a collective action effort on public policy engagement in California, recognizing that public policy needs to be a key piece of the solution and water management. Other initiatives on the collective action side the California water action collaborative is one where companies are coming together and implementing projects and really sort of moving towards this trend of net positive. And that it’s no longer enough for companies to just reduce their own water or use or eliminate their own pollution, but really must focus on, becoming resource positive and giving back more than they take from the planet.

Jay Famiglietti:
Thanks Kirsten. So that’s a nice pivot. you know, when we think about SDG number six, clean water and sanitation for all, you know what is holding us back?
And so Karen, we’ll start with you.

Karen Kidd:
From my perspective consumerism really is driving a lot of our water pollution issues and that mentality that we need the latest greatest, we need to look 10 years younger than we are.

Jay Famiglietti:
So, I’m trying to achieve that with my zoom filter. And I don’t know if it’s working.

Karen Kidd:
You’ll have to share your secret with us after. Yeah. So I think it’s really, it’s flipping that mentality on its head, and recognizing that we don’t need all of these products.

Jay Famiglietti:
So Gidon and how about you, what are some thoughts?

Gidon Bromberg:
So I think that if we all agree that water is a public good, we also need to focus on governance to make sure that regulations are in place. That first of all, regulating water as a public good is completely justified.

When I visit, parts of North America, and I come in here that, if you own the land, you also own the water under the land. Well, that’s crazy. From, I mean.

Jay Famiglietti:
Welcome to our world

Gidon Bromberg:
If there isn’t the governance structure that reflects water as a public good. Then we’re not going to be able to achieve the results that I think that we’re looking for, which is, sustainability of water usage of water equity to make sure that there’s not only your water valued and available to people, but also enough water left for nature. How do we get to hear nature’s voice if water is seen as a private good. If water is only seen as a commodity.

So to me, technology is important, education is important, but primarily if we don’t have the governance structures in place that reflect water being a public good, then, we’re not gonna able to achieve the objectives and the goals that I think that we’ve talked about as far as sustainability and equity and water for nature.

Jay Famiglietti:
Yes. I agree. Wholeheartedly. Kirsten, any thoughts?

Kirsten James:
Yeah, from CERES perspective, as I’ve mentioned, we really need to see the investor and business community make water management a business fundamental.

That’s key for us to get to SDG six. Also, a lot of those great technologies we heard about in the film we need the capital going into those solutions and a lot of our investor partners are doing just that. So, I think that’s a key piece.

Governance and public policy, as I’ve mentioned before is a key piece, whether it’s, the local watershed level, the state level, the country level. We need that governance structure supporting all of this work, if we’re gonna you know, make it to the finish line.

Jay Famiglietti:
All right. Thanks very much. I think we’re at the point where we want to start to take questions from the audience.

Ah, here we go. How can we ensure safe and potable water to the poor countries through laws or methods or regulations and uh, Gidon we’ll toss this one to you.

Gidon Bromberg:
Sure. So, if we’re talking about trans boundary waters then there’s international legal principles that need to be considered about the fair share of any shared body of water. So that all countries, irrespective of whether they’re upstream or downstream or rich or poor can have a fair allocation. So, international legal principles here are important, but even the domestic level, often we find that the poorer the person, the poor, the population, the more that they tend to pay for water resources.

And, think we need to go to the heart of those issues and, how that happens, that there should be a scaling. There should be a system in place where you know, water is subsidized for the poor to make sure that minimum quantities of water can be available for your basic needs, but once you’ve met those needs that then water truly reflects its full value.

Its full value in relation to scarcity, its full value in relation to the needs of water for nature, water for your neighbors. So that if water beyond meeting those minimal needs to meet basic human hygiene and cooking and cleaning and so forth that then water becomes relatively expensive.

So that really valued for its importance and for its scarcity and to encourage conservation both at the domestic level, at agriculture. So, in most parts of the world, your water for agriculture is distributed almost for free, if not for free. And therefore there’s no incentive for agriculture, which in many parts of the world is the greatest consumer of water. To not invest in water conservation technologies.

And when water then becomes freed up, you know, from agriculture to other purposes than needs of the poor can be better met. So that we don’t see the great disparity where, poor communities can pay a very heavy price. And then farmers, whether they poor or rich but generally the larger farmers that are relatively wealthier, are receiving water for nothing or receiving water at a heavily subsidized price.

So, uh, you know, it’s a complicated issue and it’s very specific to the circumstances in place that when we value water to meet the different needs and prioritize water for the poor as a high priority issue, then, I think that we go a long way in understanding and then helping solve that issue.

So, the water for the poor can be prioritized.

Jay Famiglietti:
Thanks Gidon, some very thought provoking stuff.

Okay. next question. Indirectly, how can we establish more integrative metrics for valuing actions that promote the conservation of water resources considering the multi-functionality of agricultural landscapes?
So, I will leave that one open and see who wants to jump on it.

Gidon Bromberg:
So, I’m happy to give it a start. I don’t think we have time to go into what might be the metrics, but think that somewhat similar to the earlier question as well, we need a whole of government approach.

It’s not just the government that needs to take leadership. It’s not just regulation of industry and industry leadership. It’s not just consumer demand and consumer information. It’s all of it together that we need to be monitoring. And we need to be learning from the experiences from, all of our respective societies and adapting them to the circumstances wherever we might be living.

So, I really think a whole of society approach. That we need to understand, plan, and monitor. The earlier question was also talking, on climate change, I really liked the European approach of a green deal. That the only way we’re going to overcome the tremendous challenge, that climate change presents to us and gain the outcomes that we’re looking for is to plan it involving all aspects of society.

And certainly not just seeing water issues as a water authority problem or an environmental problem, it’s very much a whole of society issue. And we need to measure the outcomes from that whole of society approach, so that we can truly achieve, greater sustainability, greater resilience and protect our water resources in the most sustainable way.

Jay Famiglietti:
Thanks, Gidon. Next question, which is in water restricted areas or countries how do we prioritize drinking water, water for municipalities, irrigation, or industry or water for energy production?
Anyone want to weigh in on that?

Kirsten James:
I can take a stab. You know, it’s something that needs to be explored when you’re looking at industry practices. For example, there’s a lot of tools out there, WFF, or sorry, WWF have tools that help companies really understand where their footprint could have an impact on water quantity and supply and water quality, and really using that to help, you know, if they have existing facilities how can they really focus efforts and develop targets and maybe science-based targets for fresh water, which is emerging in the field and really focus on those watersheds where there are critical issues and be part of the solution.

Jay Famiglietti:
You know, I also think that there’s a challenge to us in the research community to put together the models that we can test out the different scenarios, right?
So I know that some of that exists, but I know as someone who works with computer models that we could be doing a much better job.

Gidon Bromberg:
I’d love to comment on, this one. So, I live in a part of the world where water scarcity is very real and those choices are being made every day. Water for people is not always seen as the first priority. I remember going to a school, I won’t mention which country, but where there was no water to flush the toilets.

And because there was no water to flush the toilets girls were not being sent to school, because the boys can go out to the field, but for the girls they’re not allowed to go out of the field. So they stay home and they’re denied an education.

Yet there’s water to grow bananas. There’s water allocated to grow fruits and vegetables, often tropical fruits and vegetables in the middle of the desert.

That makes me angry. These are policies that discriminate. And we need to change those policies and recognize that water is a human right.

Jay Famiglietti:
I just wanted to add, you know what I think about growing bananas in the desert Gidon. It’s just bananas.

Gidon Bromberg:
It is bananas.

Jay Famiglietti:
So here’s a question. What is the most important role youth can play in this process? And I’ll open that up to the panel.

Gidon Bromberg:
So we work a lot with youth. So half of our programming is with students and young people, and we often find they are actually the agents of change. That they’re the real leaders. That particularly in a conflict setting where there’s distrust and there’s reluctance to work with the other side, by first and foremost, working with youth and undertaking programming, curriculum that helps you understand your water reality and your neighbor’s water reality and the interconnectedness of those two.

Then we’ve often seen that it’s the young people that are knocking on the doors of decision-makers. And often they’re the ones that are forcing the decision-makers to act and their voice is far more powerful.

Jay Famiglietti:
I think we’re going to take one more question, so there’s a question about measuring climate change and sustainability in a water footprint rather than a carbon footprint?
So, this is an idea we’ve talked about many times. We know there are some water footprint calculators out there. Just want to take some thoughts from the panel.

Gidon Bromberg:
So, I would say this not, instead of, it’s an addition to. Because if we’re not, counting the carbon, then we’re not going to reduce the emissions the way we need to. But in addition to counting the carbon, we definitely need to evaluate from a resource use from water life lifecycle perspective because that helps to educate the public. It helps to fine tune or introduce governance where the water footprint isn’t being properly considered. Such as the example of growing bananas in the middle of the desert. People might think that that’s ridiculous, but often, we see tropical fruits being grown in non-tropical areas.

And if consumers were to know that and were to actually receive data when they’re shopping at the supermarket, that these are how many cubic meters of water we utilized for this banana from a water scarce part of the world.

So it’s a difference if the bananas have grown in tropical areas and if the bananas have grown in water scarce or semi-arid areas as to what that means for nature, for society in general. So it’s not just the quantity of water, but how relative is water abundant or scarce in that area that needs to be incorporated into our thinking?

Karen Kidd:
That’s a great idea.

Kirsten James:
And I’ll just add, comparing water and climate, I think you really need to dive into that local level for water, obviously, and really understand that local level footprint. We’ve seen over time a lot of companies sort of reporting aggregate water-use globally. And that only tells us a certain story. You really need to really get to that facility, local field level to really understand the real footprint and the real picture, but agree. Both are critical.

Jay Famiglietti:
That was going to be our last question, but we’re going to do one more and maybe this one is for me and you, Karen. What can the academic community do to better communicate science and all the work that’s being done to the grassroots community, to the general public?

Karen Kidd:
Oh, we need to get out of our ivory towers, Jay, and talk to the media. Give public talks, have discussions, share our thoughts, be willing to communicate our concerns.

Jay Famiglietti:
You know, much like when we talk about solutions, you know, solution space and how we need a portfolio approach.

I think the same thing is true on communication. There’s no one thing it’s not like, you know, we’re going to write an opinion piece and that’s going to be transformational. It’s not like you’re going to give a lecture and it’s going to be transformational. We need to do several of these things and it’s not like we all have to do all of them, but as a community, we need to engage and the getting out of the ivory tower and making the connections with the community.

It’s super important, but I also think it’s really appreciated. People really like to see that we really actually care about water and we care about individuals in their access to water.

So any last words. Gidon, last closing thought.

Gidon Bromberg:
At a time when see a global outbreak of this virus of COVID and climate change I hope we wake up to the importance of science. That we mustn’t take science for granted, that we need to base our decision-making including in the water sector on good sound science as that basis. That we need to counter populist politics that are often based on very narrow self-interests rather than certainly on any rational measure for decision-making.

And so, if we base our decision-making on a sound water economy, on sound science. Instead of populism, then I think we’ll do a much better job in managing our global water resources for all of the multiple uses that we need to achieve.

Jay Famiglietti:
Thanks, Gidon. Kirsten, how about you? Any last thoughts?

Kirsten James:
The bottom line is that we’re working against the clock. And so we need to bring more stakeholders into the tent if we’re going to meet SDG six by 2030. You know, a colleague said to me recently, we can get to 1.5 degrees and that’s going to take a lot of effort, but that’s not going to help us as much if our water resources aren’t there at the end of the day. So, we really need to think of these issues holistically, get a broad tent, learn from the climate work and communicate the water values at risk.

Jay Famiglietti:
Thanks Kirsten, Karen, you get the last word,

Karen Kidd:
No pressure. Well then say that it takes a village to raise a child. And I think it’s going to take a village to tackle these issues. And I know we have lots of serious, some intractable water pollution issues, but I’m really heartened by the grassroots ground up swelling of recognition for improving the health of our waters, our ecosystems, and meeting the SDG goals.

Jay Famiglietti:
Thank you to all of our panelists. We really appreciate your joining us today.

Kirsten James, Gideon Bromberg. and Karen Kidd.

Always a pleasure to be speaking with you. We’ll see you all later.

Laura McFarlan:
Hi, everybody, Laura. Again, this podcast episode was produced and edited in house at the Global Institute of Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan. Thanks to everybody who helped put the show together, including Mark Ferguson, Amy Hergott, Jesse Witow, Shawn Ahmed, Stacy Dumanski, Fred Reibin, and Erin Stephens.

And as always, a special thank you to Linda Lilienfeld. Remember, we’re on Apple podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, and many other podcasting platforms. You can also stream us on Facebook at Let’s Talk About Water podcast or follow us on Twitter at LTAWpodcast.