Welcome to The Water Main

Water – we think we know it. It comes out of the tap when we turn it on. It separates Minnesota from Wisconsin. In reality, water knows no boundaries and sustains all life on earth.

But across Minnesota, the country and the globe, water is under stress. The nature of water issues are complex – ranging from geography and water source to quality and quantity.

What would our lives look like without enough clean water? We don’t have to guess. In 2015, I spent time in Kibera, Kenya, which is Africa’s largest slum. With no dependable source of clean water or sanitation, water related illnesses run rampant, affecting people’s quality of life and ability to earn a living. One in five children doesn’t live to see their 5th birthday.

Of course, we don’t have to travel to other continents to experience water quality problems. As many as 63 million people — nearly a fifth of the United States — from rural central California to the boroughs of New York City, were exposed to potentially unsafe water more than once during the past decade, according to a News21 investigation.

And yet, because the majority of Americans are not confronted with a daily crisis, the topic remains largely invisible in our public consciousness.

The Water Main aims to change that. It is an effort supported by American Public Media to make sense of the central and complex role that water plays in our lives – from our economy, to our well-being, to our food, and even to our cultural and spiritual identities.

We want to be a hub for reporting, research, personal stories, live events and digital experiences that increase our collective understanding of water issues and explore the decisions, challenges and solutions needed to manage this essential and common resource. We welcome your insights and expertise, and we hope you will share the many ways that water shows up in your lives.

As we debut The Water Main, I can’t help but reflect on the way that water has brought both joy and hardship into my own life, from growing up near the Potomac River to living in South America where drought and water quality were regular challenges.

I remember making the life-altering decision to move with my family to Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes. It was a crisp September night, and there was a harvest moon glowing orange over the waters of Lake Minnetonka. At that moment, I shared Loren Eiseley’s sentiment that “if there is magic in this world, it is contained in water.”

Amy Skoczlas Cole

Managing Director, The Water Main