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Why Have A Conversation About Water? We Asked Michel Martin

Stephen Voss

In the West, the old saying goes "Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting" -- which is a fancy way of saying water is highly valued. Water is vital for agriculture, recreation, growing cities and, of course, it’s the main ingredient in craft beer.

It’s no surprise, then, that we talk about water a lot in Colorado. NPR Weekend All Things Considered host Michel Martin will open a dialogue at a live event on The Future of Water, May 24, 2016. Ahead of her visit to Fort Collins, Martin shared some of what she hopes the conversation on water will accomplish.

Interview Highlights With Michel Martin

What makes water such a weighty topic?

"One of the things we’ve been trying to do with these programs is take issues and stories that are local and national – and marry the local expertise with the national perspective. Water is something that people in some parts of the country are just starting to think about, but in other parts of the country it’s a very real, very important, and even an emotional issue. Water is not just a tool; it’s something that is essential to life. And probably because it is so essential to life, it has occasioned a lot of art, it has an important place in the culture. And I think that those are all the kind of things we want to lift up and display as part of our conversation."

One of your guests is a mother dealing with the lead-contaminated water in Flint, Michigan. What perspective will she bring?

"Who in this country would have ever thought that you would be told not to drink the water? If you’ve ever traveled overseas, that’s the first thing people will tell you, whether you can drink the water or not. But I don’t think anybody in our generation grew up in this country thinking there would be a place in this era where you would not be able to drink the water anywhere in the United States. And I think that, for a lot of people, this is a very startling and disturbing development – as it should be."

What have you discovered about water?

"I’m very interested in the infrastructure questions; I’m interested in the role water has traditionally played in development. But I’m also just fascinated by the role that water plays in culture. You know, if you grow up in a city, as I did, you think water is just something that comes out of the tap. But if you think about it as kind of a life force, and also if you think about it religiously -- the role that water plays in some of our religious ceremonies, across many traditions… those are the things that interest me. And the fact that a lot of cultures have taken the step of seriously thinking about water, and lifting up the importance of water, is something that I’m very interested in exploring."

Editor's Note: 'Going There: The Future Of Water' is a live event put on by NPR Presents in collaboration with KUNC. The event will be held May 24, 2016 at the Lory Student Center Theater on the Colorado State Univeristy Campus.

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
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