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Chemical Cocktails: What’s in our Groundwater? with John Cherry

If it’s not stuck in glaciers or polar ice, 99 per cent of the world’s freshwater is groundwater. Water underground supplies nearly half of the world’s drinking water. But what happens when dangerous chemicals and waste – polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), oil, gasoline and road salts – percolate down into that supply?

On this episode of What About Water? Jay sits down with the father of contaminant hydrogeology, Dr. John Cherry, to talk about the water under our feet, and how we can better monitor it. In the 1970s, Cherry wrote the foundational textbook on groundwater with his colleague, Al Freeze. And we hear how one of his students paved the path for his successful career in the field.

To find out what’s actually being done to stop industry polluters from dispersing PFAS chemicals into our waterways, producer Erin Stephens speaks with Marc Yaggi, CEO of the global nonprofit Waterkeeper Alliance. Yaggi shares what Waterkeeper is advocating for in Congress, brands eliminating PFAS from their production lines, and how everyone can get involved in the effort to get these “forever chemicals” out of our rivers. Check out their surface water quality survey here to learn more.

Got a question for Jay? Write to us at and you may hear your question in an upcoming episode. Voice memos are also welcome!

Guest Bios

John CherryJohn Cherry

John A. Cherry holds geological engineering degrees from the University of Saskatchewan and University of California Berkeley, and earned a Ph.D. in hydrogeology from the University of Illinois. He joined the faculty at the University of Waterloo in 1971 for field research on the migration and fate of contaminants in groundwater and their remediation. He retired from Waterloo in 2006, but he continues research as a Distinguished Professor Emeritus. He co-authored the textbook Groundwater with R.A. Freeze (1979) and co-edited and co-authored several chapters in the book Dense Chlorinated Solvents and Other DNAPLs in Groundwater (1996).

Dr. Cherry has participated in the development of technologies for groundwater monitoring and remediation, co-holds several patents, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and has received awards from scientific and engineering societies in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. He held the Research Chair in Contaminant Hydrogeology at the University of Waterloo from 1996 to 2006 and is currently the Director of the University Consortium for Field-Focused Groundwater Research. Dr. Cherry is also a principal investigator at the Morwick G360 Groundwater Research Institute and an Adjunct Professor in the School of Engineering at the University of Guelph.

Marc YaggiMarc Yaggi

Marc Yaggi is Chief Executive Officer of Waterkeeper Alliance, a U.S.-based, global movement of community-based advocates and supporters united to protect clean and abundant water for all people and the planet. Marc has dedicated his entire career to environmental advocacy and has been instrumental in expanding the Waterkeeper movement around the world for more than 20 years. Marc leads with a deep, personal passion for clean water and provides organizational leadership by developing strategic partnerships and promoting the Waterkeeper model of advocacy. Marc works daily to raise public awareness about the issues central to the organization’s vision for clean, healthy, and abundant water for all people and the planet.

Before joining Waterkeeper Alliance, Marc was a Senior Attorney and Watershed Program Director for Riverkeeper, Inc., where he worked to protect the 2,000-square mile watershed that serves as New York City’s drinking water supply. Previously, Marc served as a Staff Attorney with the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, D.C.

In addition to authoring numerous articles, Marc has appeared in publications like The New York Times, The Guardian, and Politico, and his quotes have been picked up by wire services such as AP, Bloomberg, and Reuters. For the past two decades, he has inspired audiences all over the world with keynote speeches, conference panels, and corporate seminars.

Marc has a degree in Administration of Justice from The Pennsylvania State University and a J.D. and an LL.M in Environmental Law from the Pace University School of Law. He lives in New York with his wife and two children. They love getting out on the water as a family as often as they can.

Dive Deeper

  • The Groundwater Project
  • Waterkeeper Alliance
  • Groundwater is susceptible to pollutants including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. PFAS are a large group of human-made environmentally persistent organic compounds introduced in the 1940s with properties that make many of them toxic and persistent in the environment. (EPA)
  • 99% of the world’s liquid freshwater is groundwater (A snapshot of the world’s groundwater challenges)
  • Groundwater supplies 38% of the drinking water in the United States and almost half of all drinking water worldwide. (The Nature Conservancy)
  • The G360 Institute for Groundwater Research has a nearly two-decade long collaboration with the City of Guelph (population 130,000) near Toronto to design and install a high-resolution 3D groundwater monitoring network using the most advanced technologies to track groundwater levels and water chemistry over time. (Smart Water Magazine)
  • Groundwater contamination is nearly always the result of human activity (EPA)


Photo Credit

  • John Cherry – Submitted
  • Marc Yaggi – Bryan Bedder

Full Transcript

John Cherry: The ground is the ultimate repository for everything that we humans don’t want to think about and are willing to allow to escape. And the groundwater environment does an amazing job of cleaning things up. But if you give it these really weird chemical cocktails and whatnot, the ground can’t.

Jay: Welcome to What About Water. I’m Jay Famiglietti. Well, after more than four years living and working in Canada at the University of Saskatchewan’s Global Institute for Water Security, I’ve come home. I’ve retired from my position as Executive Director at GIWS to return to the United States, so my wife, Cathy, and I can be a little bit closer to family, especially to our two kids.

While it’s sad to say goodbye to so many great colleagues and friends up north, I’ll be taking on a new challenge with Arizona State University, where I’ll be a Global Futures Professor in the School of Sustainability. ASU is working very closely with state and local leaders to invest in and create cutting edge technology that’s going to help water conservation around the world, which is pretty cool.

So for me, it means leaving the cold and snow of Saskatchewan for a place that’s considerably warmer. But for you as a listener, you probably won’t notice too much. Although being in a place like Arizona, a real hotspot for water stress is important. I find it’s usually in these hotspots where the most innovative and creative work happens, and where the most compelling stories emerge.

These are the stories that we are excited to keep exploring with you at "What About Water?"

About 99% of our freshwater that’s not frozen is groundwater and humans are depleting and degrading that groundwater at an alarming rate with overuse and contamination. Whenever chemicals and waste seep down, things like gasoline, oil, road salts, chemicals, they pollute our groundwater, making it dangerous to use.

If you like to drink water, like I do, that’s a huge problem because groundwater supplies almost half of the world’s drinking water. Professor John Cherry has dedicated his life to the study of groundwater. With his colleague, Al Freeze, he literally wrote the textbook on it, and his pioneering work led to the creation of an entirely new field in water science called contaminant hydrogeology.

John is the recipient of the 2020 Stockholm World Water Prize, leader of the Groundwater Project, and the director of the University Consortium for Field-Focused Groundwater Contamination Research at the University of Guelph. John, welcome to What About Water?

John Cherry: Hello, Jay. Well, it’s my pleasure to talk about this topic, as always.

Jay: Yeah, we really appreciate you making time for us. And so let’s get right to some questions. And everybody must ask you about the textbook. The textbook that you wrote that I mentioned, I even used it as a student twice for my master’s degree and my PhD, probably like thousands of other students. How does it feel to be so influential and really ahead of your time?

John Cherry: Well, you mentioned that book. Even my children took groundwater courses where they had to read that book, as has so many people across the globe. And Al and I were a really good pair. We both went to Berkeley together for our Master’s Degrees and we both did geological engineering in Canada before that.

And Al was writing a book and I was writing a book and then we met at a meeting and decided to put our books together. And it turned out to be a very fortuitous event in our lives because it immediately put us on the world stage. And from then on, people actually thought that we knew what we were talking about.

And that gave us a tremendous advantage.

Jay: You know, I didn’t know that part, that Al was writing a book and that you were writing a book and that you, I mean, think about that, you know, you changed the course of history, or at least hydrologic history, by getting together on that book. That’s pretty amazing.

John Cherry: Well, we were fortunate in that a modern book hadn’t been published for 15 years since Davis and DeWiest’s book in 1966. So the market was kind of waiting for a new book. So we hit the market just at the time when groundwater contamination was expanding and groundwater was being discovered. So as the saying goes, timing is everything.

Jay: It really is. So let’s talk a little bit about that groundwater contamination. You were working on it in that timeframe, in the ’60s and the ’70s and the ’80s, when it really wasn’t on a lot of people’s radar. So what got you into it?

John Cherry: Well, as a matter of fact, I did my PhD at the University of Illinois, where I learned about all about groundwater quantity and pumping tests and all of that.

And then I realized that I hadn’t learned anything about groundwater quality or geochemistry. So I got a postdoc and went to France for a year and studied that at a very good institute in Bordeaux. And then I came back to the University of Manitoba to be Canada’s first so-called hydrogeology professor.

And I was setting forth on a career of studying groundwater hydrogeochemistry. And within the first week of arriving at U of M, a young woman, a civil engineering student, arrived in my office, the only female student in engineering at Manitoba at that time, saying, "Dr. Cherry, I spent the summer working at the White Shell Nuclear Research Establishment where they were developing experimental reactors, and they had a little waste disposal ground for radioactive waste."

And she had taken it upon herself to develop a summer project studying whether or not there’d be any leakage coming out of this little disposal area. And she’d found some leakage, so she told me she found leakage, and in her mind this was a very serious problem, and I should get out there and start doing studies, because she had to go back to university.

And I indicated, well, groundwater contamination wasn’t anything that was on my mind, and I really didn’t know anything about it. And she said, "Well, Dr. Cherry, you should feel obligated because you’re the only educated person within a thousand kilometers, and I should take that on as sort of a responsibility."

"Furthermore," she said, "Dr. Cherry, I’ve set it all up, so all you have to do is go out there, and I’ll have money waiting for you to continue the studies." And that was correct. I went out there, and they bestowed money on me, and I basically got into that. soon I realized that, wow, you know, groundwater contamination is interesting, number one.

Number two, people didn’t know much about it. And it just took off from there. So people credit me with having great foresight and absolutely not. I followed my nose and the advice of a young student.

Jay: So who was that student?

John Cherry: That student has the name of Barbara Lund. So if anyone knows of a Barbara Lund of about to that age vintage, then I’d be very pleased to meet her again.

Jay: I think it’s amazing, John, that as professors, we have this opportunity to learn from our students. I think the outside world may think, "Oh, we generate all the ideas," but we learn so much from our students. And very generous of you to credit your student like that in getting you headed in that direction.

But we do learn so much from our students.

John Cherry: Yeah, and that was the era in the ’60s when students were really thinking about the environment and whatnot. So, you know, it all kind of made sense. Students were very environmentally conscious then in the late ’60s and the ’70s.

Jay: And even I as a little kid, you know, that’s kind of what got me into water.

Just right then, like the first Earth Day and all the, right, you know, the rivers on fire and all that stuff, I was super impressionable. So, you know, you’ve learned a lot about groundwater contamination through the years, but do we know anything today that we didn’t know back then?

John Cherry: Well, today we know that almost every aquifer in the world where there are people living and using it has contamination.

Now the word contamination means any chemical compound that’s anthropogenic, you know, human produced. And people think of groundwater being pristine, and by my definition, pristine groundwater is water with no anthropogenic components. And I think that’s surprising. was surprising to me as that dawned on me over the decades.

Because when we begin to use aquifers, we change the hydraulic head distribution and that draws in young groundwater. So so in essence, groundwater is no different than surface water. Like all lakes and rivers have some contaminants of one degree or another. That’s what we expect. And now we need to expect that for aquifers.

Although to give groundwater credit, you know, the number of contaminants in aquifers are relatively small compared to lakes and rivers, and they’re a different blend. And in fact, the blend is becoming larger and larger and more worrisome.

Jay: When I hear some of your talks, whether it’s a more recent talk you’ve been giving on global groundwater sustainability, or a talk that I saw a few years ago when you talked about all the contamination worldwide, it really gets me concerned.

And so, in terms of the blend of chemicals and things that are on the radar now. I mentioned a couple of dangerous chemicals that can leach into groundwater, oil and gas, but there’s this other dangerous culprit and that’s the so-called PFAS, the P-F-A-S, the per and polyfluoroalkyl substances. What are these things and what are they doing to the groundwater?

John Cherry: So from a groundwater viewpoint, these compounds are organic compounds. They’re large and they’re complex, and they were formulated to be very mobile and long-lasting. So they were formulated for a specific purpose to be flame retardants. And the flame retardant properties, then, as it turns out, gives them absolutely the worst properties when they get into the environment.

They’re very difficult to analyze for, so the expense of actually taking a groundwater sample and determining what’s in it is expensive. And there are thousands of different versions of them. So it presents a huge chemical analytical challenge and an unprecedented type of groundwater contamination problem.

Jay: It sounds like an analytical nightmare.

John Cherry: Oh, it’s an analytical nightmare, the experts tell me. And it’s a toxicological nightmare in terms of trying to determine the harm they do. And they may not be as harmful as some people think, and they may be more harmful. So huge uncertainty there.

Jay: So where did the PFAS family come from?

John Cherry: Well, they were invented to put in clothing and whatnot, and bedding to prevent flames, but they were originally invented then to spray on the ground as fire control. So all airports that have had fire control activities, et cetera, with fire training have them. and then they’re in sort of pots and pans, et cetera.

I guess the lesson there is that governments were aware, in some government circles, 15 or 20 years ago, that PFAS were coming at us. Industry producing them was aware. So this is an example of our modern, wonderful society with all these good things in it, giving us a bad hand now late in the game. it’s gonna be hard to deal with it.

Jay: So just to follow up on the multiple families and variations on these, is that something that companies do to avoid regulation? For example, in the United States, Environmental Protection Agency might regulate a certain variation, and then a company can change the chemical formula a little bit, and then that one won’t be regulated.

Is that part of the reason for such a big family?

John Cherry: I think it goes much deeper than that. Like there are millions and millions of human-produced chemicals on the market, and the number of new ones each year is huge. And there’s not an avenue in our regulatory framework that either demands or checks on the environmental impact of them.

So we in society are basically getting what we deserve by not electing governments that in fact proceed to set up the regulatory framework to protect us. And there’s something called the circular economy, and a circular economy means anything we produce in our society, we should be just striving to make sure that it doesn’t have waste and residues that cause an environmental problem.

That’s been known for 50 years. So it’s a societal breakdown, and it happens in all countries. It’s astounding.

Jay: So are there other countries that are more proactive about it that will require that kind of testing before a new chemical is allowed on the market?

John Cherry: I don’t know of one that has advanced the circular economy to the point of dealing with what we’re talking about.

PFAS is added to the many other chemicals in groundwater, such as nitrate from agriculture. So nitrate is nearly everywhere. It’s presumed to be relatively innocuous, but that’s not what recent studies show. so basically we’re adding PFAS and a variety of new compounds to a groundwater that also commonly contains a bit of nitrate.

And then the question is, well, what’s the safety of the cocktail? You know, the melange, the mixture.

Jay: That is a difficult question. And so, what are your hopes for technology? I mean, this season we’re talking about technology and innovation, and there’s a lot in this field. Is there anything that’s really exciting to you that can make headway on these or other problems?

John Cherry: Well, I’m excited about all the developments in groundwater monitoring technology that have happened over the many decades. The technology is there to be applied, but it’s a rare country that can claim that it has its groundwater properly monitored. And to properly monitor your groundwater, you have to understand the water levels in all the aquifers, and you have to understand the water chemistry.

And that’s not happening. So what the groundwater science and technology community has developed for humankind is not being applied into groundwater, because it’s out of sight, out of mind, and the timescales for payoff to our political leaders is too long. Too long.

Jay: Right. It doesn’t happen in a two or four or six year cycle.

And so it’s not particularly sexy to run on that as part of your platform. You mentioned monitoring. I wanted to follow up on that because I agree it’s incredibly important. I know you’ve done a ton of work there. So you’re a senior advisor for some really cool projects with the G360 Institute for Groundwater Research.

Can you tell us a little bit about that?

John Cherry: Well, that institute developed by my colleague, Dr. Beth Parker, does field studies, and they bring all the new monitoring methods that are developed pretty well to field sites around the world, actually, and one of them is the City of Guelph. So there are examples where modern technologies by this institute and by a few others are actually being applied.

So it’s not that we don’t have examples, but they need to be applied country by country, specific to the country’s problems.

Jay: With the City of Guelph, what are you doing? I heard something about some high resolution modeling, but what’s the scope of what you’re doing? Because I think it’s great. You know, you work around the globe, but you’re digging in deep and working with your local community, which is fantastic.

John Cherry: Well, g360 institute has partnered with the City of Guelph and the entire Ministry of the Environment to actually bring these methodologies to the City of Guelph aquifer. And it’s a particularly complicated aquifer because it’s bedrock. and the City of Guelph, with 130,000 people, is the largest city in Canada that gets nearly all of its groundwater from bedrock.

So I would say that there are a few cities across the world that are demonstrating modern groundwater monitoring. And for bedrock, Guelph is leading the way.

Jay: Really amazing that you’re able to do that at the city level. just for our listeners, we need these computer models that John is talking about to understand what’s going on and predict what’s going to happen in the future.

But they’re no good without any data. So the two, the data collection and the modeling go hand in hand. And it sounds like at G360, you are doing an amazing job and probably a prototype for many other cities, especially those with the bedrock aquifers.

John Cherry: Oh, I might also mention that the one country the world that stands out for having brought modern groundwater monitoring to the entire country is China.

So ten years ago, China realized that it’s got some of the most severe groundwater problems in the world of almost all types. The government then declared that the China Geological Survey would proceed and set up a national groundwater monitoring network. And they actually have in China, I think, 20,000 locations where they’ve installed modern groundwater monitoring equipment with pressure transducers that send information to head office and all of that.

Now, China’s a huge country with 1.4 billion people, and so they need to do that, but they leapfrogged over the rest of us in general.

Jay: I didn’t know that. So thank you, and thank you for bringing that to our listeners. And do you get to collaborate with any of Chinese colleagues on this?

John Cherry: Yes. I’ve been traveling to China once or twice a year for two decades or more.

And years ago I gave lectures there on how to do modern groundwater monitoring and that’s what they’re doing. They’re doing it there and we’re not doing it in many places elsewhere.

Jay: So do you find yourself when you come back to Canada and you’ve given lectures all over the world, do you find yourself pointing to Canada and maybe in the United States where you’re a foreign member of the National Academy of Engineering, do you find yourself pointing to China and saying, "Look, we should do this"?

John Cherry: Yes. In my international travels, it’s very interesting for me to find out what’s going on in those countries that are leading the way. You know, in Canada and the U.S., we lead the way in some areas, and many areas we absolutely don’t lead the way. And that’s one of the things I’m interested in, is finding out where the examples of excellent work are.

Jay: Speaking of excellent work, I know that you’ve been spending this part of your career on something called the Groundwater Project. Can you tell us about that?

John Cherry: Yeah, so the "Freeze and Cherry" book that you mentioned, published in 1979, that was such a fortunate hit around the world for Al Freeze and myself, it led to many people over the decades saying, "Well, why don’t you revise it?"

And after a decade or so, we realized that we couldn’t revise it and do it justice, because groundwater science had moved so fast and so far. And then eventually, the time came when I needed to deal with that, in that I was getting lots of comments from colleagues and whatnot, and what occurred to me and others was we need to replace that book with many books.

And so I’m the leader of the so-called Groundwater Project, whereby I reach out to experts across the globe and invite them to write a book on whatever they want to write on, or write a book on topics that we’ve identified. And now we have nearly 30 books published, 35 more in draft, and 200 more planned.

The goal then is to get volunteer authors across the globe so that everything that’s relevant in groundwater is written up by people that know what they’re talking about. And then we get them translated. So the whole idea here is to democratize groundwater knowledge, to make it free and available to everybody. And that’s what we’re doing. And although I lead it, I’m just a cheerleader in essence. Colleagues around the world are pitching in and all sorts of people are doing wonderful work as we continue to publish these books. And soon we’re gonna have the start of a series of books suitable for high school students.

We’ve got a children’s book out there that’s soon gonna be the most widely read groundwater book in the world, being translated into nearly 30 languages. So this vague notion that I had has been turned into a real growing concern by my colleagues just pitching in and making it happen.

Jay: You know, it just strikes me that you could have been just hanging out with the grandkids and retired, but you chose to take a completely different path with the Groundwater Project.

John Cherry: Well, as it turns out, I was in Singapore in 2016 receiving the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize, which is a big prize in Asia, And I was asked by an interview, "Well, Dr. Cherry, now that you’ve received this prize and the award, what are you gonna do with your career?" And of course, that was a very unfair question.

At my age, I had a right to retire, but I had this idea for books in the back of my mind, so I blurted out, "Well, I’ve got this idea that people have suggested to me, and I think we’ll pursue it." So that was the


Jay: You were put on the spot. I would have said, I’m going to Disneyland.

John Cherry: I was put on the spot, and really, I’m so thankful for that.

Jay: No, that’s amazing. So I wanna finish up by this problem that we have, and I know you’ve spoken to it. How do we get people, more people, to care about groundwater? We can’t see it, it’s underfoot. You know, what do we tell people to make them understand the importance of groundwater and why it should have their attention?

John Cherry: Well, the main issue with groundwater at the moment is food. The international food distribution system is propped up by irrigation. Little known fact, and almost all the irrigation is from groundwater, and much of that irrigation is from aquifers that are being dewatered. So basically we human beings have to think of the food that our children and grandchildren are going to have, and if that’s what we’re going to be concerned about, their future and their life, then we have to focus on food and we have to get our governments to pay attention to the type of agriculture that’s gonna be sustainable.

And that’s what we need to demand from our politicians. And we even should have our food labeled. Organic food can be useful in a way, but we need labeling as to the sustainability of the food. And if we don’t get there, then people won’t be able to vote with their pocketbook, and then we’re gonna be on a dire trajectory.

Jay: Really sobering stuff. I just want to share with you that I saw one of those labels on a cereal box in a grocery store, and I bought it for that reason. The cereal was good, so I felt like I was eating good, healthy food and that it was water smart. John, thanks so much for joining us today. As always, it’s a pleasure.

John Cherry: Well, thanks, Jay, and thank you for your podcast, and thanks for this opportunity to speak to your audience. I’m really pleased about this.

Jay: John Cherry is the Founder of the Groundwater Project and a Distinguished Emeritus Professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada. He’s a foreign member of the United States National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

He received the Stockholm Water Prize in 2020 and the Lee Kuan Yew Prize in 2016.

And now it’s time for Ask Jay. And as always, that’s we bring on our producer, Erin Stephens. Hi, Erin.

Erin Stephens: Hi, Jay.

You know, this interview with John Cherry was really interesting, but it raised a lot of questions about what’s actually being done to get rid of PFAS in our waterways. So I reached out to Marc Yaggi He’s a friend of the podcast and CEO of the global nonprofit Waterkeeper Alliance.

It turns out Waterkeeper did a nationwide surface water quality survey for PFAS in the lead up to the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. And they’re doing a bunch of advocacy work on this front. Here’s Marc Yaggi.

Marc Yaggi: Our data set unequivocally demonstrates that dangerous PFAS pollution is widespread in surface waters across the country and that existing laws and regulations have been inadequate to protect public health and the environment. we found that 83% of 114 waterways that we tested across 34 states and District of Columbia were found to be contaminated by at least one type of dangerous PFAS chemicals.

In some places like creeks that are connected to the Potomac River in Maryland, the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania, and the Niagara River in New York, the level of certain types of PFAS contamination was thousands to hundreds of thousands times higher than what EPA experts say is safe for drinking water.

Research has shown that these chemicals are capable of causing certain types of cancer, liver and kidney issues, immunological problems, and reproductive and developmental harm. EPA is now in the process of establishing drinking water regulations for PFAS, which is a good thing, but there’s also a fundamental unfairness there.

And that’s because Americans, as rate payers, will be paying drinking water utilities to get PFAS out of our drinking water, but there are no limits on industry’s discharges of PFAS into the same waters we drink from. It’s a massive issue because there are more than 30,000 suspected industrial dischargers of PFAS in the United States.

So to fix this unfairness and start tackling the crisis, Waterkeeper Alliance is urging Congress to pass the Clean Water Standards for PFAS Act, which would reduce the levels of PFAS entering our waters in the first place. EPA just recently issued guidance to states on using Clean Water Act permits to reduce PFAS discharges.

It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s also essential for EPA to prioritize infrastructure spending on a coordinated national monitoring program and the adoption of regulatory standards for PFAS, including new rules that would designate these chemicals as hazardous substances and require enforceable limits for these pollutants under the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Companies and brands have a key role that they can play in this. Brands like Starbucks, Patagonia, and Gore-Tex are beginning to remove PFAS from their products. And we’ve been working with Sweetwater Brewing Company in Atlanta to identify outdoor brands that have eliminated PFAS from their lines, as well as other brands that are on a genuine journey to eliminate these chemicals from their products.

A couple of things that people can do are, you know, first go to where you can learn more about PFAS and take action to tell Congress to pass the Clean Water Standards for PFAS Act. Also on our website you can find your local waterkeeper and get involved in taking action on PFAS issues in your local community.

You can use your spending power to support brands that are eliminating PFAS from their products, and importantly, vote for public officials who walk the walk and stand up for your right to clean water.

Erin Stephens: That was Marc Yaggi, CEO of Waterkeeper Alliance. It’s a global nonprofit that unites more than 300 locally-based clean water advocacy organizations. As Mark mentioned, you can check them out at

I’ve also gone through our email inbox at, and we’ve got a listener question for you, Jay.

Jay: Let’s do it.

Erin Stephens: This one here is from Agnes in Norway. I was wondering if Project GRACE could help regions relying on hydropower to make long horizon rainfall predictions. This might help us optimize the energy use and stabilize energy prices, which is especially important in times when energy resources have become the weapon of disruption and blackmail of the peaceful world.

Thanks, Agnes.

Jay: Thanks for that question, Agnes. Really interesting. Well, GRACE can’t really help us do long-term rainfall predictions, but it can help us understand the long-term variability of storage in large lake systems. And that’s important because that’s that storage, that amount of water in the lakes that’s going to be driving hydropower.

So it’s sort of a yes and no answer.

Erin Stephens: Thank you, Jay. And thank you to Agnes for writing in. And if you have a question for Jay, email it to us at

Jay: Thanks Erin. Great as usual.

Erin Stephens: No problem, Jay.

Jay: Erin Stephens is our producer here at What About Water.

If you’ve been listening to the episode and you have questions about something here on in the show, send them to We record this podcast at the Cronkite Studios at Arizona State University, which sits on the Homeland of the Akimel O’odham and Pee Posh Tribal Nations. And we produce this podcast on Treaty 6 territory, the Homeland of First Nations and Métis people.

What About Water is a collaboration between The Walrus Lab and the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan. This podcast is a production of Cascade Communications. Our audio engineer is Wayne Giesbrecht. our producer is Erin Stephens. Our fact checker is Taisha Garby. We’d also like to thank Alex Kosiorek and the folks at Central Sound PBS here in Phoenix.

Our GIWS crew is Mark Ferguson, Shawn Ahmed, Fred Reibin, Andrea Rowe, and Jesse Witow. I’m Jay Famiglietti. Thanks for listening.