Untapped potential: Journalist Fishman speaks on the future of water
Charles Fishman visited the North Country to speak about the future of water, and said the area is blessed with lots of water unlike many other parts of the world. How can we be smarter about water?
Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - 16:01
'WORKHORSE RIVER': The Raquette River, pictured here in Colton, N.Y., is nicknamed the 'Workhorse River' because of all the hydroelectric plants that harness power from the river. (Photo: Janelle Hoh)
On April 25, 2012, celebrated journalist Charles Fishman spoke at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Potsdam to a crowd of students, professors and inquisitive community members. His latest novel, "The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water," aims to uncover the relationship people from all around the world have with water. At his talk, Fishman told eye opening stories from distant places, like India and Australia, to places a little closer to home, like Burlington, Vt.
Armed with just his background in journalism, Fishman spent years traveling around the globe to learn how other cultures interacted with water.
Perhaps the most perplexing and shocking story of the night came from — of all places — Las Vegas, the gambler's paradise in the middle of the desert. Las Vegas doesn't get much rain per year: just over 4 inches annually. The population of Las Vegas has increased dramatically over the years and with so little rain and only one reservoir, Lake Mead, to supply water (to Las Vegas, California, Arizona) ... how do people manage, water-wise?
Fishman informed the crowd that for over 20 years Patricia Mulroy has been overseeing the Las Vegas Valley Water District and helping the area maintain consistent water use, even though population has increased. Las Vegas has rules and regulations that are strictly enforced, which help limit the use of water and the waste of it. The city actually cleans and recycles water back into Lake Mead. In a city known for luxury, Las Vegas certainly doesn't waste water, a luxury in the desert. The city is a model for water sustainability.
What about the North Country?
While Fishman did spend time talking about far away places, he also noted that the North Country has plenty of potential for smart water use. He said companies that use a lot of water in manufacturing are locating themselves in dry areas, so we should invite them to consider the North Country as a location for their business. For those who feel like North Country resources are being wasted, this is an idea that would put those resources (i.e. water) to good use. Also, bringing companies to the North Country that need water for their business could supply jobs the North Country needs.
One of the most prominent rivers in the North Country, the Raquette, has been a defining feature for a very long time. From the headwaters in Raquette Lake, in the conveniently named town of Raquette Lake, N.Y., the Raquette River flows 146 miles north until it reaches the St. Lawrence River, in Akwesasne. Over the years, the river has been used for recreation and as a source of power for 27 hydroelectric plants. When the logging industry dominated the Adirondacks, the Raquette was used to transport logs out of the mountainous forest, before railroads, of course. The Raquette River was, and still is today, a powerful river that a lot of people depend on. Could the Raquette River do more?
Plenty of other rivers and bodies of water have sustained the North Country for many, many years. The untapped potential is definitely something to think about.