What About Water? with Jay Famiglietti

Global Institute for Water Security

"What About Water" connects water science with the stories that bring about solutions, adaptations & actions for the world's water realities. Hosted by Jay Famiglietti and presented by the Global Institute for Water Security and The Walrus Lab. Formerly known as "Let's Talk About Water".

Season 2 Trailer
Trailer 1 min 11 sec

All Episodes

For centuries, we have built big dams, reservoirs, and levees. Humans have steered and shaped the flow of water to irrigate deserts, prevent floods and access groundwater. But through big engineering, we’ve also created breaks in the natural flow of freshwater from source to sea. The good news is: we can look back to nature for solutions.  In this episode we speak with Sandra Postel, one of the world’s leading freshwater experts, about how solutions rooted in nature - like cover cropping and river restoration - are key to mending the broken water cycle. We also speak with Lisa Hollingsworth-Segedy, a Director of River Restoration for American Rivers, about a demolition project along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvaniad. She sees dam removal as a critical first step to river restoration. mending our planet's broken water cycle.     About our guests: Sandra Postel is an American conservationist, a leading expert on international water issues, and Director of the Global Water Policy Project. She is the winner of the 2021 Stockholm Water Prize. During her years at the Worldwatch Institute in Washington, DC, she was early in adopting a multi-disciplinary approach to water, after having studied geology, political science, and environmental management. In 1994 Postel founded the Global Water Policy Project. She is also the co-creator of the water stewardship initiative Change the Course, as well as a prolific writer and a sought-after communicator. Between 2009 and 2015, Postel served as Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society.    Lisa Hollingsworth-Segedy Lisa joined American Rivers in 2008 to work with communities, individuals, government, and other non-profit organizations to facilitate the removal of dams that have outlived their useful life. She has been involved in the removal of nearly 100 obsolete dams.Lisa is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and brings more than three decades of experience in community and regional planning, environmental and resource protection planning, water resource management, project management, community economic revitalization, geology, and hydrogeology to her position.Lisa was an associate producer for American Rivers’ documentary “Restoring America’s Rivers,” and has completed several demonstration projects using Large Wood Debris for river restoration and aquatic habitat in Pennsylvania.

Nov 24

30 min 2 sec

It’s no surprise growing food uses lots of water. One cow needs anywhere from 3 to 30 L of water a day. It takes 3200 L of water to grow one pound of lentils. In this episode we ask, what do we do when there's not enough water to feed our food? Here in Canada, 2021 made history as prairie farmers experienced one of the worst droughts Western North America has seen in the last 1200 years. After three years of reduced precipitation, prolonged dry spells change everything from the crops we’re able to grow, right down to the cost of the food on our plates.  In this episode, we hear from Merle Massie and Reg Low -- Saskatchewan farmers who are experiencing the impact of drought and unpredictable precipitation firsthand. Jay talks with Leon Kochian, Associate Director of the Global Institute for Food Security, about the 'root' of the problem. We look at how far science has come in breeding drought-resistant crops to help farmers adapt to both floods and water scarcity, and at where it's headed as we try to feed an ever-expanding human population.  

Nov 10

25 min 16 sec

In this episode, we visit the city of Iqaluit in Canada’s northern territory of Nunavut, which is battling a water crisis on multiple fronts. This month, residents were alerted not to drink or cook with water due to contamination. But for years, the city’s main water supply - Lake Geraldine - has experienced dropping levels. And overall, climate change is impacting everything from the city’s water supply, to thawing permafrost. Janet Pitsiulaaq Brewster served as Deputy Mayor of Iqaluit, and was recently elected to her territory's legislature. In this episode, recorded shortly after that alert was issued, she shares how the people of Iqaluit are coping with these water challenges and what they mean for the Inuit and their traditional way of life.

Oct 27

27 min 56 sec

On this episode: Katharine Hayhoe’s new book, Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World, is a practical and compassionate guide for talking about climate change across differences. Combining her research with thousands of conversations with everyday people, Hayhoe shows us how shared values can activate ordinary citizens to become climate change champions. Hayhoe joins us for our first episode of the third season to discuss reframing the climate conversation and the foundation for real climate hope: action. 

Oct 13

27 min 36 sec

Water is one of the main ways we experience the effects of a changing climate. As flooding, drought, and climate extremes grow widespread, the way we use every drop counts. This season, join What About Water with host Jay Famiglietti, as we meet the people adapting to our planet's new water realities, with innovative ideas, strategies, and most importantly -- a sense of hope. Whether it's traditional knowledge or cutting-edge technology, this season is all about the way humans adapt and dive deeper into water solutions for a thirsty planet.

Oct 12

1 min

Join our guest host, Professor Graham Strickert, as he hosts a panel of experts to discuss the pitfalls and problems of hydropower dams. Inspired by our screening of the award-winning Patagonia film "DamNation."

Oct 4

22 min 44 sec

Join us as some of Canada's leading water scientists and experts discuss how testing wastewater for SARS-CoV-2 can help us detect emerging community outbreaks. It's a dirty subject that is saving lives.

Aug 28

23 min 14 sec

Climate change has a price. In this bonus episode (recorded on Earth Day) our host Dr. Jay Famiglietti has a live virtual roundtable with three experts, each with a unique perspective on this multifaceted topic.

Jun 11

33 min 4 sec

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.

May 22

36 min

We've had a great second season on Let's Talk About Water, diving deep into some of the planet's most pressing water concerns. We looked at disadvantaged communities who don't have access to safe drinking water, and at the activists fighting to change that. We talked about how the politics of 2020 impacted water rights. And we confronted the climate crisis, examining the many ways rising sea levels and polluted waters endanger us all. Have a listen to some of our best moments of Season Two. 

Mar 11

5 min 39 sec

Mark World Water Day on March 22 by checking out our extended director's cut of "Towards a Greener, Better World with Jeffrey Sachs". Tune in as Dr. Sachs dives deeper into how humanity's 50,000-year-old dependence on conflict and suspicion keep us from enjoying the full benefits of our technological revolution. When we forget about territory or division and focus on innovation and exchange, Dr. Sachs argues, we can accomplish great things – to heal the planet and change the world.

Mar 11

43 min 23 sec

World-renowned economist Dr. Jeffrey Sachs believes humanity can leap forward with science and technology – but only if we drop our primeval addiction to war and conflict. We can create new vaccines in less than a year or measure water below ground using satellites in spaces, but political institutions are still locked in a 50,000-year-old "Us vs. Them" mindset that prevents global cooperation and advancement. With a broader, more inclusive worldview, Dr. Sachs says, we can create a more sustainable planet.

Mar 8

27 min 52 sec

Colorado water lawyer James Eklund and California water policy expert Ellen Hanak talk to Jay about the future of water -- or rather, about water futures. Water futures and securities are increasingly valuable investments. Some may feel anxiety at letting financial markets commodify such a basic human essential, but Eklund and Hanak, whose states have unique systems of water rights, say it's a legitimate resource management tool and way forward for landowners struggling to monetize their assets.

Feb 22

29 min 59 sec

For thousands of years Indigenous North Americans drank some of the world's purest drinking water. Then came colonization and government neglect. First Nations' water quality fell and, with it, their health. But as Jay learns, change is coming thanks to Indigenous Water Protectors, like Deon Hassler, a teacher of water treatment plant operators for the File Hills Qu'Appelle Tribal Council, and helpers, like Bob Patrick, a water expert at the University of Saskatchewan.

Feb 10

27 min 25 sec

In this episode, Jay talks with an old friend about hope: hope for cleaner and safer water in America. Felicia Marcus is an attorney/consultant who has served in government, the non-profit world, and the private sector. She's been a board member on numerous national and international bodies, including one that oversees Canada-U.S. water issues. She is currently the Landreth Visiting Fellow at Stanford University's Woods Institute Water in the West Program.

Jan 26

24 min 5 sec

Dr. Chelsea Rochman, an associate professor at the University of Toronto, says plastic, everyone's favourite cheap and easy resource, comes with a high price. Microscopic pieces of plastic flake off every time we wield a disposable bag, or wash a polyester sweater, or any number of things. They permeate our water, air, soil, bodies, even unborn foetuses. It's a problem that will plague humans for untold generations unless, she says, we take aggressive action to control our plastic addiction.

Jan 11

23 min 31 sec

This week climatologist Micah Hewer and economist Pat Lloyd-Smith tell Jay about the good, the bad, and the ugly effects of global warming on Canada's outdoor recreation sector. On the bad side of the ledger: shorter downhill skiing and skating seasons and slime-covered lakes in the summer. On the good side: longer, better seasons for outdoor pursuits like hunting, bird watching and cross-country skiing. And one of the best of all: better, more widespread winemaking, especially of fine red wine.

Dec 2020

31 min 31 sec

Dr. Kelsey Leonard, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo and member of the Shinnecock Nation, discusses how Indigenous views on the personhood of water can save that water. More and more bodies of water around the world are being granted legal personhood status, which gives them the right to be defended from industrial pollution. Dr. Leonard is fighting to make water justice a priority across government and bridge the gap between Indigenous belief and Western law.

Dec 2020

25 min 40 sec

This season, host Jay Famiglietti sits down with some of the world's leading experts to once again talk about water and learns why some marginalized communities are denied safe water access, how flooding and droughts may end up forcing billions of climate refugees to flee their homes, which regulations have been gutted and need to be brought back to save us from disaster and more. Join us as we dive into our waters at home and abroad, confront the dangers they face, and learn how to save them.

Nov 2020

1 min 11 sec

Dr. Peter Gleick, co-founder and president emeritus of the Pacific Institute, believes Joe Biden could be the man to save American water policy, which has been foundering under Donald Trump. In his co-authored policy brief, Water Recommendations to the Next President, Gleick and his colleagues lay out the biggest issues with US water safety and access, and what President Elect Biden needs to do to guarantee continued clean water for all Americans and limit the global repercussions of climate change.

Nov 2020

27 min 21 sec

Debra Perrone, Assistant Professor UC Santa Barbara, discusses the dwindling groundwater supply affecting 12 million US wells caused by global warming and over-consumption. The world relies on groundwater, which is getting harder and harder to find.  With groundwater close to the surface vanishing, well-drillers are forced to turn to deep drilling for corporate, agricultural, and domestic water needs. But going deep this way is far more expensive and increasingly yields contaminated water. 

Nov 2020

28 min 4 sec

Abrahm Lustgarten, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated environmental reporter, talks to us about climate migration, one of climate change's biggest looming threats. Rising temperatures, rising sea levels, and ever-increasing natural disasters are forcing people to abandon their homes and their ways of life to seek safer ground. As the planet heats up, the number of climate refugees will just keep swelling, up to 3 billion people -- a third of the global population -- by 2070.

Oct 2020

27 min 6 sec

Dr. Ingrid Waldron is a sociology professor at Dalhousie University who argues that African Nova Scotian and Indigenous communities are victims of environmental racism, forced to drink tainted water, breathe polluted air and live next to waste dumps. Now these concerns are reaching national and even global audiences thanks to a best-selling book and widely streamed documentary, both titled "There's Something in the Water," made in collaboration with actor Elliot Page.

Oct 2020

27 min 20 sec

In this episode of "Let's Talk About Water," California is burning. And Oregon. And Washington State. And not only are mega wildfires in the U.S. threatening – and sometimes taking -- lives and property there, they're pumping smoke and fallout high into the atmosphere that has spread to Canada and even entered European air space. Host Jay Famiglietti switches gears this week to talk about the absence of water in his onetime stomping grounds of California. Jay speaks to an old friend who resides in his fire-threatened former hometown of Sierra Madre, a leading climatologist named Bill Patzer; University of California wildfire expert Crystal Kolden and Hayley Smith, a reporter with the Los Angeles Times, who’s living on the edge of the biggest story of her life -- the infamous Bobcat Fire -- as it blazes in the mountains overlooking L.A.

Sep 2020

29 min 38 sec

What is the impact of COVID-19 on our water supply? As we learn on the Season 2 debut of "Let's Talk About Water" scientists' initial fears the virus could be a waterborne as well as  airborne have lessened. But as it has in just about every other aspect of our lives, COVID has affected how we understand and use water. Host Jay Famiglietti speaks to water scientist Markus Brinkmann about the University of Saskatchewan's involvement in an important new international surveillance project. It tracks COVID-19 through large populations by studying their sewage. Jay also speaks to Navajo rights activist Emma Robbins. Robbins explains how COVID has jeopardized people engaged in the day-to-day struggle to find potable water on the largest Native American Reservation in the United States. And he talks to high-tech entrepreneur Trever Andrew, a member of the Shuswap First Nation in South-Central British Columbia. Clients from around the world are flocking to buy Andrew's new web-based app to help secure their water treatment systems during this anxious period of pandemic.

Sep 2020

32 min 25 sec

Host Jay Famiglietti speaks with globe-trotting water expert Henk Ovink about the Dutch approach to water, particularly in comparison to North America. They explore the difference between how humans react to disaster versus how they react to climate change. Both are fraught with danger. Finally.... cue the theme music from "Cheers." It's the 10th and final episode of Season 1. We bid a fond farewell (for now).

Mar 2020

32 min 26 sec

President Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton. Aaron Salzberg. One of these 3 people regularly wears a pretty sick ponytail and has sat down to talk water policy with the other 2. That person is our guest this week: Aaron Salzberg is Director of the Water Institute at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill.  He joins host Jay Famiglietti to chronicle his journey from car mechanic to heavy-hitting water diplomat in the State Department, to his new gig at UNC. Aaron tells some riveting behind-the-scenes stories on his time working with politicians, and he and Jay start an impromptu therapy session on the struggles of working in the water world.

Mar 2020

31 min 13 sec

A brief trip down memory lane for host Jay Famiglietti on a jaw-dropping moment in 2015 with the CEO of Nestle Waters North America. Then, back into the thick of it with guest Ian James, a reporter with the Arizona Republic newspaper in Phoenix. Jay and Ian dig into James' 6-part investigative series on groundwater depletion in Arizona, called "Arizona's Next Water Crisis," and touch on the Trump administration. Audio credits: Audio from the special report on azcentral.com, The Arizona Republic’s website. Audio clip from “Nestle Waters CEO isn’t stopping bottling in California, says new tech save millions of gallons” from Southern California Public Radio.  (p) 2015 California Public Public Radio.  Used with permission.  All rights reserved. 

Feb 2020

23 min 58 sec

Guest Ian James is a reporter with the Arizona Republic newspaper in Phoenix. He and host Jay Famiglietti reflect on their roles in the big bottled water battle that gripped California in 2015 as Nestle Waters North America refused to stop drawing water from a national forest during a drought. Ian shares a harrowing story about violence against small farmers in Peru who were seeing large farm companies running water pipes through their area, all while they were seeing their water levels drop.

Feb 2020

22 min 9 sec

Big topic: what's the state of drought in California these days? Plus host Jay Famiglietti talks about that one time he almost got fired from NASA, guest Newsha Ajami and Jay ponder what made people start using less water in California.

Jan 2020

30 min 29 sec

Recorded at the American Geophysical Union's annual fall meeting in San Francisco. Host Jay Famiglietti sits down with old friend Bridget Scanlon, head of the Sustainable Water Resources Program at the University of Texas in Austin. They discuss big bad Texas storms, why flood waters are not commonly captured to be used in drought times, and how contaminants in water can be all natural.

Jan 2020

20 min 24 sec

Part 2 of our interview in Tel Aviv, Israel where host Jay Famiglietti sits down with Gidon Bromberg, co-founder and Israeli Director of EcoPeace Middle East. Gidon talks about his leap from attorney to non-profit founder. Jay and Gidon discuss how the holy site of the Jordan River has been "turned into little more than a sewage canal," and how it can recover.

Dec 2019

28 min 42 sec

This episode, host Jay Famiglietti sits down with Gidon Bromberg, co-founder and Israeli Director of EcoPeace Middle East. Gidon comes from the most water-scarce region in the planet, where basic facts and science are so heavily politicized that it's hard to agree on them. He lays out the landscape of this conflict over water between Jordan, Israeli and Palestine people. Gidon explains how people who often view each other as enemies are working together to deal with their immediate needs, like getting sewage treated, and how scientists are cutting through the politics to address shared water issues.

Dec 2019

26 min 4 sec

Our guests this week haven't always seen eye to eye when looking at a river delta that acts as a breeding ground for massive numbers of wildlife and waterfowl. Gary Carriere lives in a community that relies on the Saskatchewan River Delta for its culture and livelihood. Graham Strickert, Assistant Professor in the School of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Saskatchewan, studies it. Host Jay Famiglietti navigates the waters with these two men as they explain how they came to see eye to eye. They also get into why this delta is troubled, and how they are melding science with real-world solutions for a Canadian Indigenous community.

Nov 2019

26 min 6 sec

Karen Kidd takes us underwater, metaphorically speaking. She tells us how pharmaceuticals, birth control and mercury affect fish and aquatic life — and how they got there in the first place.

Nov 2019

20 min 6 sec

Starting soon, Let's Talk About Water, a podcast from the Global Institute for Water Security and The Walrus Lab.

Nov 2019

1 min