Charles Fishman

  It’s been a rough year for the U.S. water system already, and it’s only summer. Two U.S. cities (Charleston, West Virginia, and Toledo, Ohio) have gone for days with no safe water service. The nation’s largest reservoir is lower than it’s ever been. The nation’s largest state is in the worst drought ever recorded....

  Weather forecasting has gotten a lot better in the U.S. in the last 20 years — today, the four-day forecast is as accurate as the two-day forecast was in 1988. And storm forecasting — both for tropical storms, like Isaac, and winter storms — is also dramatically better. But seasonal forecasting remains poor, and the...

  I love a good sewage treatment plant. The wastewater treatment plant of San Antonio, Texas, USA, resembles its sister plants around the world: a wide expanse of deep, in-ground concrete tanks filled with brown liquid. There’s a faint organic odor, not unpleasant, and noise from big pumps and motors that are moving city-size quantities...

  Across the U.S., three major research universities have decided that we need big leaps of progress in water — in water technology, water access, and water management. Those three universities — the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Fresno State, and Michigan State — think they can make a difference. Imagine, for a...

  Despite organized anti-bottled-water campaigns across the country and a noisy debate about bottled water’s environmental impact, Americans are buying more bottled water than ever. In 2011, total bottled water sales in the U.S. hit 9.1 billion gallons — 29.2 gallons of bottled water per person, according to sales figures from Beverage Marketing Corp. The...

  Although water is always with us — sitting on the desk in a bottle, splashing from the kitchen tap, at-the-ready to be flushed in the toilet — water problems often seem remote. Drought…somewhere else. And how many of us are farmers, anyway? The lettuce and tomatoes always appear in the supermarket. Fading aquifers…but who can envision...

If you’ve read about World Water Day in today’s headlines and on your favorite blogs, and are thirsty for more stories and data on the planet’s H20 problems, check out the following books, all published within the last year or so: The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water By Charles Fishman...

    In the last two years, we have spent a huge sum of money on infrastructure — one kind of infrastructure. Infrastructure — that’s the stuff we know is important but unsexy. The asparagus of investment. But these infrastructure numbers are anything but unsexy: In two years, we’ve spent $57.4 billion on this one...

  I grew up in Miami, Florida, which back in those days called itself “The Magic City.” It was, for a lot of us, the city by the bay — I learned to swim in Miami, I learned to canoe there, and to sail, and I snorkled my first coral reef just south of Miami. It...

    It’s possible that the stunning Maya civilization — with mastery of mathematics and astronomy, farming, water management, pyramid building and city planning — was undone by summer rain. Not enough summer rain. Undone, in fact, by exactly the kind of rainfall changes we ourselves are starting to experience — small shifts in rainfall that...

  I remember the moment when the silliness of bottled water became vividly clear to me. I was standing in the factory in San Pellegrino, Italy, at the foot of the Italian Alps, where San Pellegrino water is sealed in those shapely green bottles. Leave aside that the glass bottles weigh more than the water...

  A couple nights ago, my family ate dinner at a restaurant. The silverware we used was in someone else’s mouth at lunch — those forks and spoons right on some stranger’s tongue. Last week, I stayed at a hotel. The linens I slept on, the towels I used after my shower, had been against...

  If you’re one of the 4.5 million people who live in Ireland, you pay no water bill. Municipal water is free, no matter how much you use. And no one knows how much you use — not even you. Ireland has no water meters and no water bills. In fact, Ireland is the only country...