How to Overcome the 6 Water Crises Ahead. The Rise of Small Scale Solutions?

In “Water For All” David Sedlak offers a compelling exploration of the multifaceted water crises facing our world today. At a time when pessimism could easily take hold, Sedlak encourages a different view—one of optimism and innovative problem-solving.

Through a detailed examination of past and present water crises, he provides a roadmap for overcoming the challenges posed by water scarcity, pollution, and climate change. As I wanted to dive deeper into Sedlak’s insights, focusing on how small-scale solutions could be the key to securing water for all in a rapidly changing world, I sat down with him on the mic. Here’s the result:

with 🎙️ David Sedlak – Professor at UC Berkeley & Author of Water 4.0 and Water for All

Apple PodcastsSpotifyDeezerStitcherGoogle PodcastsPodcast AddictPocketCastsCastBoxOvercastCastroPodtail


🔗 David Sedlak’s Linkedin:

🔗 David Sedlak’s “Water for All”

🔗 David Sedlak’s “Water 4.0”

🔗 David Lloyd Owen’s “Global Water Funding”

🔗 Matt Damon & Gary White’s “Worth of Water”

🔗 Peter Gleick’s “Three Ages of Water”

🔗 My conversation with David Lloyd Owen

My full coverage of the UN Water Conference:

(don't) Waste Water Logo

is on Linkedin ➡️

Full Video:

Understanding the 6 Water Crises

David Sedlak’s categorization of the global water dilemma into six crises provides a framework for understanding the multifaceted nature of water challenges. Each crisis represents a critical aspect of water security, from ensuring access to clean drinking water to balancing the needs of human development with those of the natural environment.

  1. Water for Household Use: The daily requirement for water in homes for drinking, cooking, sanitation, and hygiene underscores the basic human need for reliable access. In many parts of the world, this fundamental need remains unmet, leading to significant health and socio-economic implications.
  2. Safe Drinking Water: Beyond mere access, the safety of drinking water is paramount. Contaminants ranging from pathogens to industrial pollutants pose severe risks to public health. The crisis of safe drinking water is not confined to developing countries; aging infrastructure and emerging contaminants challenge even the most advanced nations.
  3. Water to Grow Food: Agriculture consumes a significant portion of the world’s freshwater resources. With the global population projected to reach nearly 10 billion by 2050, the pressure on agricultural water use will only intensify, raising critical questions about efficiency, sustainability, and food security.
  4. Water for Nature: Water is the lifeblood of ecosystems, supporting biodiversity and ecological balance. However, human activities have increasingly encroached upon natural water systems, disrupting habitats and endangering species. The challenge lies in reconciling human water use with the needs of the natural world.
  5. Impacts of Climate Change on Water Resources: Climate change introduces an additional layer of complexity, affecting water availability, quality, and demand. From melting glaciers to more frequent and severe droughts and floods, the impacts of climate change on water resources are profound and far-reaching.
  6. Sustainable Water Use in Urban and Agricultural Demands: The rapid expansion of urban areas and the intensification of agriculture pose significant challenges for sustainable water management. Addressing these demands requires innovative approaches that balance growth with conservation.

Climate Change and Water: an Escalating Challenge

As the globe grapples with the intensifying challenges of climate change, water resources emerge as a critical flashpoint, deeply intertwined with the planet’s warming. In his book, David reveals a future where water scarcity, quality, and distribution are increasingly jeopardized.

Climate Change is not a distant threat

Climate change is not a distant threat but a current reality, altering the hydrological cycle in profound ways. As global temperatures climb, we’re witnessing more extreme weather events, from devastating droughts to catastrophic floods, each carrying significant implications for water availability and management. Sedlak points out that the essence of the problem lies in the erratic nature of these changes. Regions that once depended on predictable seasonal rainfalls find themselves grappling with uncertainty, making water management an ever-evolving challenge.

A warmer atmosphere means more evaporation from both land and sea, which, while increasing the amount of moisture in the air, does not translate to more water where we need it. Instead, the distribution of rainfall shifts, with some areas experiencing intense downpours leading to floods, while others face prolonged dry spells. This imbalance exacerbates existing water crises, making it increasingly difficult to sustain agriculture, maintain clean water supplies, and protect natural ecosystems.

We observe changing climate patterns today

Furthermore, climate change impacts the timing and intensity of snowmelt, a crucial water source for many regions. Sedlak highlights the dilemma facing areas dependent on snowmelt for their water supply. Warmer temperatures result in snow melting earlier in the year, altering river flow patterns and potentially leading to water shortages in the months when demand is highest. This shift poses a significant challenge for water storage and distribution systems designed for a climate that no longer exists.

Sea level rise, another consequence of climate change, poses a dire threat to coastal communities and freshwater resources. As ocean levels climb, saltwater intrusion into freshwater aquifers becomes more prevalent, jeopardizing the drinking water supplies of millions. Sedlak underscores the urgency of adapting our water management strategies to mitigate these risks, advocating for innovative solutions that account for the changing climate.

… which lead to new environmental risks

Moreover, climate change intensifies the strain on water resources by increasing the frequency and severity of droughts. These droughts not only reduce water availability but also impact water quality, as lower water volumes concentrate pollutants. The challenge is twofold: ensuring sufficient water supply while also maintaining the integrity of our water resources in the face of escalating environmental stressors.

Sedlak’s analysis makes it clear that the water crises fueled by climate change demand a proactive and adaptive response. The traditional approaches to water management, reliant on static assumptions about climate and water availability, are no longer viable. Instead, we must embrace flexible, sustainable, and innovative strategies that can adjust to the unpredictable dynamics of a warming world. By understanding the intricate relationship between climate change and water, we can begin to develop solutions that ensure water security for all, even in the face of an uncertain future.

Traditional vs. Innovative Solutions: Paving the Way for a Sustainable Water Future

In the face of escalating water crises exacerbated by climate change, the contrast between traditional water management strategies and innovative solutions becomes starkly evident. David Sedlak’s “Water For All” not only illuminates the limitations of conventional methods but also champions the potential of innovative, small-scale solutions to revolutionize our approach to water sustainability.

Modern problems require modern solutions

Traditional water management has long relied on large-scale infrastructure projects, such as dams, reservoirs, and centralized wastewater treatment plants. These systems, designed for stability and predictability, have served as the backbone of water supply and sanitation for decades. However, as Sedlak points out, these methods come with significant drawbacks. They often require substantial financial investment, can lead to environmental degradation, and may not be adaptable to the rapidly changing conditions brought about by climate change. Moreover, the centralized nature of traditional water management systems leaves them vulnerable to failure in times of extreme weather events or prolonged droughts, underscoring the need for more resilient approaches.

In contrast, Sedlak’s exploration of innovative solutions reveals a growing recognition of the benefits of decentralized, small-scale water management strategies. These innovative approaches, including rainwater harvesting, greywater recycling, on-site wastewater treatment, and precision agriculture, offer flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and environmental sustainability. For instance, the modular water recycling system developed by the Dutch company Hydraloop exemplifies how technology can enable households to recycle greywater for non-potable uses, reducing demand on centralized water supply systems and lowering water bills.

A new realm for urban and rural environments

One of the most compelling aspects of these innovative solutions is their ability to provide net zero water buildings. This concept entails buildings that generate their own water through collection and treatment, achieving a sustainable balance between water use and replenishment. Such systems not only make water management more sustainable but also personalize the relationship between consumers and their water supply, enabling adjustments to water quality based on specific needs and preferences.

Sedlak underscores the transformative potential of these solutions in rural settings and for individuals facing inadequate water supplies. The adoption of small-scale, decentralized systems can empower communities, offering a path to water independence and resilience against the unpredictability of climate change. Furthermore, these innovations hold the promise of disrupting traditional water supply and sanitation models, shifting control from centralized authorities to local users and communities.

… but also new challenges to overcome

However, realizing the full potential of these innovative solutions requires overcoming several challenges. Sedlak identifies the key to widespread adoption as modularization, which enables economies of scale in manufacturing and simplifies installation. This approach can make advanced water treatment technologies financially viable for a broader segment of the population, including those in less affluent communities.

In conclusion, Sedlak’s analysis in “Water For All” presents a compelling case for the transition from traditional to innovative water management strategies. By embracing small-scale, decentralized solutions, we can address the limitations of conventional methods, enhancing resilience, sustainability, and adaptability in the face of climate change. This shift not only offers practical benefits in terms of water availability and quality but also represents a broader move towards empowering individuals and communities in their quest for sustainable water management. As we confront the water crises of the 21st century, the rise of innovative solutions offers hope for a future where water for all is not just an aspiration but a reality.

The Rise of Small Scale Solutions: A Beacon of Hope for Water Sustainability

In the shadow of the daunting global water crises, the exploration and adoption of small-scale, decentralized solutions have emerged as a beacon of hope, offering innovative and sustainable paths to water security. David Sedlak’s “Water For All” meticulously outlines the shift towards these grassroots solutions, underscoring their potential to significantly mitigate the impacts of water scarcity, pollution, and climate change.

Embracing Localized Water Sources

The pivot towards embracing local water resources represents a critical step in reducing dependency on traditional, large-scale water infrastructure, which is often environmentally intrusive and economically burdensome. Sedlak highlights the success stories of regions like Southern California and Singapore, where local initiatives—ranging from seawater desalination to advanced wastewater recycling—demonstrate the efficacy of localized solutions in bolstering water self-sufficiency. These examples not only showcase technological innovation but also emphasize the importance of community engagement and policy reform in fostering sustainable water management practices.

The Potential of Water Recycling and Stormwater Capture

A cornerstone of small-scale solutions lies in the innovative use of water recycling and stormwater capture. Sedlak draws attention to the transformative potential of treating and reusing wastewater within communities, thereby reducing the demand for freshwater sources. Similarly, the strategic capture and storage of stormwater not only alleviates pressure on urban drainage systems but also replenishes local aquifers, serving as a critical resource during dry periods. These approaches, exemplified by initiatives in cities like Los Angeles and San Diego, highlight the dual benefits of enhancing water availability while promoting environmental sustainability.

Decentralized Wastewater Treatment: A Paradigm Shift

The move towards decentralized wastewater treatment systems marks a significant paradigm shift in water management. Sedlak illustrates how these systems offer a flexible, cost-effective alternative to centralized treatment facilities, especially in rapidly urbanizing areas or regions lacking existing infrastructure. By treating wastewater at or near its source, these systems minimize the need for extensive sewer networks, reduce energy consumption, and lower the risk of pollution. Furthermore, the integration of green infrastructure, such as constructed wetlands, into these systems underscores the synergy between technological innovation and ecological conservation.

Overcoming Challenges through Innovation and Adaptation

Despite the promising advancements in small-scale water solutions, Sedlak acknowledges the challenges that lie ahead. The successful implementation of these initiatives requires not only technological innovation but also significant shifts in policy, public perception, and investment priorities. Overcoming regulatory hurdles, ensuring economic viability, and fostering public trust are critical steps in scaling these solutions to meet global water needs.

The Role of Community Engagement and Education

A recurring theme in Sedlak’s analysis is the indispensable role of community engagement and education in advancing small-scale water solutions. By involving local communities in the planning and implementation of water projects, policymakers can foster a sense of ownership and responsibility towards water resources. Educational campaigns that highlight the importance of water conservation and the benefits of decentralized solutions are crucial in building public support for sustainable water practices.

Planning for Change: Policies and Practices

The transition towards small-scale, sustainable water solutions necessitates a radical shift in policy and practice. David Sedlak’s “Water For All” underscores the imperative for a collective reevaluation of our approach to water management. Integrated water management, a concept that advocates for a holistic view of water resources, stands as a cornerstone in this shift. It encourages the consideration of the entire watershed and its interconnected ecosystems, promoting coordinated development and management of water, land, and related resources to maximize economic and social welfare without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems.

The rise of Community Engagement

Community engagement is another critical pillar. The successful implementation of small-scale solutions depends heavily on local buy-in and participation. By involving communities in the planning, execution, and maintenance of water projects, we ensure that solutions are tailored to local needs and are more likely to be sustainable in the long term. This grassroots approach fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility towards water resources, encouraging conservation and efficient use.

Investment in research and development is equally crucial. Innovation in water-saving technologies, efficient irrigation methods, and water purification techniques can dramatically enhance the efficacy of small-scale solutions. Governments and private entities must prioritize funding for water research to drive innovation and develop solutions that are both effective and accessible.

Lastly, a paradigm shift in how society values and manages water is essential. Recognizing water as a finite and vulnerable resource requires policies that promote conservation, protect natural water cycles, and incentivize sustainable use. Only by embracing these changes can we hope to address the complex water challenges of the 21st century and ensure water security for all.


The path to overcoming the looming water crises lies in innovative, small-scale solutions. David Sedlak’s “Water For All” illuminates the potential of these approaches to revolutionize water management. As we face the challenges ahead, it is imperative that governments, communities, and individuals come together to embrace sustainable water practices. By investing in integrated management, fostering community engagement, supporting research and development, and shifting societal values towards water, we can navigate towards a future where water security is a reality for all. The time for action is now; the well-being of our planet and future generations depends on it.

Full Transcript:

These are computer-generated, so expect some typos 🙂

Download my Latest Book - for Free!

Antoine Walter: Hi, David. Welcome to the show.

David Sedlak: Thank you for having me, Antoine.

Antoine Walter: I’m super pumped up to have that conversation with you today because I read your book cover to cover. I think it’s a recording notes, which I’ve taken on your book, but I have a tradition on that microphone, which is to open with a postcard.

Where do you send me a postcard from today? And what can you tell me about that place?

David Sedlak: Well, I’d send you a postcard from my home here in Berkeley and the Berkeley Hills. And I tell you that we’re extremely happy. Because it’s raining almost every day. And after almost a decade of drought and uncharacteristic weather, I now have a great appreciation of our wet, foggy, muddy winters.

And I hope that El Nino keeps going for a few more years and the forest that surrounds me doesn’t catch on fire again.

Antoine Walter: Your book has. regular comebacks to California and as to what’s happening there, several examples, good and bad, but for sure the thing you would expect is not rain. So I guess that is a bit unconventional.

David Sedlak: You have to remember we’re, uh, Mediterranean climate and When things go right, we have six months with no rain or seven months with no rain. And then we get almost as much rain as Great Britain in a period of three months. So it’s really feast or famine.

Antoine Walter: I’d like to start with a background. I looked you up in Google scholars in preparation for that discussion, because I knew you had written another book, but I was wondering as a professor, how much papers you wrote.

And. What I found, and you’re going to correct me, is that you’ve written 86 articles, you’ve been cited over 30, 000 times, and you published Water 4. 0 10 years ago. And if I’m right with that first book, you wanted to educate decision makers and inform the public. So before we go into the second book, I’d like to understand.

Your feedback of these 10 years. Did you succeed in these endeavors?

David Sedlak: Oh gosh, that’s a great question Antoine I set out to write water 4. 0 at first because I was interacting with the public There was a lot of interest in our team’s research on the presence of things like pharmaceuticals and steroid hormones in recycled water and in drinking water systems.

And I was amazed at how little the public seemed to understand about where their water was coming from. So I thought I was writing a book to try to educate the general public, but then as I wrote the book and talked to water professionals, I realized that we in the water field also are not. That knowledgeable about our water systems and where they came from.

And this whole idea of a lock in effect. So, you know, we’ve inherited this water system from generations and generations, and they were put together to solve past problems and water professionals seem a little like the old. parable about the blind men and the elephant. We all have our specific area that we understand, but our understanding of the other pieces of the water puzzle is incomplete.

And so I wanted to tell that story. And I think that I have partially succeeded. And the way I measure that success is if I meet a young water professional and they tell me that the book helped encourage them to go into the water field and see it differently. When I meet. Someone who maybe is an elected official or a decision maker for a city who seems to have a better, more nuanced understanding of the challenges they face.

And even researchers who have hopefully started to embrace this idea of one water. So I’d like to think that I had a small role to play in this gradual. evolution of the way we think about water systems as one water. If I could have been a small part of that, I’d be very happy.

Antoine Walter: I heard you speak with my friends and colleagues, Jim Loria and Adam Tank on their What Are We Talking About podcast.

They asked you a question about how the process of writing the new book came and you said something about the success of the first book, allowing you to go out and discover more stories, which then you had to pack in the book, which reminded me of what Seth Siegel told me when he was on the podcast, that he wrote a book to also teach himself something about water.

And in the process, he thought if it’s interesting to him, it’s going to be interesting for the many. Does that resonate with your approach in writing this new book?

David Sedlak: There was an ulterior motive. In writing the first book and also in the second book, the first book I wrote as I was getting ready to lead a large National Science Foundation program called Renew It, which stood for reinventing the nation’s urban water systems.

And for me, it was a little bit of my homework assignment to try to understand what we’d study as a team. And this book was written to coincide with the launch of the U. S. Department of Energy funded National Alliance for Water Innovation, or NAOI, and that’s a program to try to take desalination to the next level.

So in some ways they were my at home studies to help inform the research that I was helping to lead in both of those programs.

Antoine Walter: Is this book then a zoom in in the four of 4. 0 or is it the five which comes after the four?

David Sedlak: It’s actually neither. It’s the fact that after I wrote Water 4. 0, I realized that I hadn’t written a book about the world’s water crises.

I’d written a book about water for rich people. who lived in cities. And there’s so much more to the water question that I was a little apprehensive about writing about in Water 4. 0 because I didn’t feel that I was qualified. I threw some of that caution to the wind in writing Water for All because I think none of us are really qualified to fully understand the depth of the global water challenge.

And I saw the connections. between the things that people were doing in wealthy countries to deal with water scarcity and other water problems, with water in low and middle income countries, water for agriculture, water for the environment, and saw that if we could start thinking about it a little more holistically.

We might open up opportunities for more kinds of novel solutions.

Antoine Walter: So Water 4. 0 was Water for the Wealthy, which is one of your six crises, and now you’ve added the five. Do I oversimplify that?

David Sedlak: No, I don’t think so at all. When someone talks about a water crisis, it’s really a question of their perspective where they’re coming from.

And here we are in wealthy country or I work in a university where we’re focused on doing cutting edge technology research. But that’s only one piece of the water puzzle. So I think understanding the rest of the water puzzle is really important. And that’s what I’ve tried to do.

Antoine Walter: Your book goes into six water crisis, and that’s maybe 20 percent of the book.

And then it aims to solve those crisis. Water for the wealthy, water for the many. Water for the unconnected, for good health, for food and for ecosystems. You’re giving a very optimistic look at it because you’re always aiming for solutions, you’re always showing what’s worked in the past, what’s worked in the present, what might be working in the future, what’s also not worked so well, but then aiming for the solution.

I’m the French party pooper here. So before going into that, I’d like to understand what prevents us from solving these six crises.

David Sedlak: I think that every water crisis that we run into gets resolved in some way or another. It’s really just a question of whether it gets resolved to our satisfaction. A crisis for water and agriculture can get resolved by people following fields and not growing food anymore.

And a crisis of water supply for a middle income country could get solved. resolved by building a giant dam or reservoir that will become obsolete in 20 years. So these problems, when they reach the level of crisis, they inevitably get solved. I think the real challenge is figuring out how to create solutions that are robust and that work in the long term for society.

This book aims to address and give people at least ideas about how someone in some other part of the world solve their own problems so they can repurpose that approach to their own specific needs.

Antoine Walter: You opened with agriculture, which to me is a very good example of the difficulty of what we’re discussing here, because your book shows absolutely well how we need 70 percent more calories by 2050.

At the same time, we have water scarcity hitting. more people on the planet. We might exhaust the arable land. We might run out of water, but we can go for better irrigation. You show how drip irrigation is a solution. Fertigation is also something you address, but then you show if you go for that, you might be making your land more salty, which in turns will aggravate your problem.

So just to give some of the effects you show in the book. And I’m thinking if you take all the problems one by one, there’s an easy solution, but the easy solution. Might be the wrong solution. You have read to zoom out and to be holistic. If not, you’re going to make more harm than good. That’s. Incredibly tricky.

David Sedlak: Yeah, it sure is. And and I, I think that I don’t claim to actually be presenting solutions in the book. I hope to just give people a sense of this wide palette of colors that we have to create solutions from. I think one of the greatest parts about working in the field of water is the opportunity to be creative.

And to work as a team to understand local conditions to have a vision of things beyond water when solving problems. So an example of that is that a water person might see this need to grow 70 percent more food in the next 26 years as a water problem, but an agronomist might see it as a plant breeding problem.

So really what we’re talking about is the need for a second green revolution and water people have some role to play because we’re probably going to do that with a lot more. irrigation and more efficient irrigation, but plant biologists are going to breed new plants and soil scientists are going to understand how to use the soil better and all other types of actors will come into this story of trying to feed the world’s growing population that’s living at a higher standard of living.

And that’s what I think is really exciting when you can start thinking a little more holistically and realizing that it’s not one specific gadget or one sub area of a field that solves problems, but the complex problems that we’re facing require some understanding of areas beyond your own specialization.

Antoine Walter: And how do you bridge all those gaps? Do you need then someone who writes a book called Earth for All and then collects your inputs and the inputs of agronomists and so on?

David Sedlak: I think we need to maintain our curiosity. So, you know, we shouldn’t limit our understanding of the world to a very small area. And, and as an educator, I think it’s important also to give people that kind of systems understanding.

But I also think it’s the kind of thing that learning how to work as a member of a team and Being able to listen to others when. You have team members who come from a different background is one of the keys to creating effective solutions. So we have to be a little bit more patient and I think that’s also another place where it’s really challenging because when you’re dealing with crises, time is of the essence and things have to get done quickly.

So maybe it’s also a question of preparing better. For impending crises, like it’s obvious looking at the world that the water system that we have today is going to undergo dramatic changes in the next three decades, we should be anticipating some of those challenges and working on it and not trying to patch up a water problem when it rises to a level that public perceives to be a crisis.

Antoine Walter: What do you believe is the public’s understanding of those six crises? Water for the unconnected, I’m pretty sure. is very well understood. First, by the unconnected, they understand the pain. And second, it’s the one we speak about. 2. 2 billion people unconnected, 600 million people in rural areas, which have really no access to any kind of advanced water.

I’m not so sure about the understanding of water for the wealthy, for instance, or water for good health. You in water to understand it. Maybe. It’s my own tropism.

David Sedlak: I think that, you know, we understand these crises when we encounter them directly. So if you talk to someone in a wealthy country where water scarcity is important.

So if you talk to someone who lives in one of the Australian cities or the American Southwest or in some of the Mediterranean countries about water scarcity, they have a, an understanding that if there’s not enough water, there’s going to be a crisis and there’s a need to invest money. And likewise, I think this issue of water for health, if your community has been dealing with a problem like PFAS or arsenic or nitrate in drinking water, you’ve probably You’ve been exposed to information that these things are possibly detrimental to your health and that you have to do things to, to get ready to address them, but you’re not sure what the answer to the problem is.

You just want someone to make the problem go away. And in the process, not take too much of your wealth in the process of fixing the problem and to create something you don’t have to worry about again. It’s a little like, I had a friend once whose father was on a local city council and he found out that I was studying environmental engineering.

And he said, the only thing that an elected official wants to know about the environmental problems that engineers study. Is that you’re going to fix it. They don’t care about the details. They just want it fixed. So I think in some ways that, you know, they, they know there’s a problem. They suspect that someone knows how to solve the problem.

They’re just hoping that they do it quickly and that it’s not going to cost them a fortune.

Antoine Walter: Let me insist a bit on that one, because I’m an engineer. I got trained on sales. When I got trained on sales, the number one lesson I was taught is don’t insist on the solution, insist on the problem until your customer has.

understood the problem and the implications of the problem, there’s no need to come with solution. He won’t understand why that matters. Do we insist enough on the crisis so that everybody gets it that it’s not just something that engineers or professionals will solve? It’s a bit more profound than that.

David Sedlak: I do think that we, we need to do a better job. Helping decision makers understand that the crisis that they’re dealing with today is not just one and done, that the world is changing and in many places, what we expect with climate change or what we expect with respect to global development is going to just change.

Put more and more pressure on us and that the things that might’ve worked 30 or 40 years ago might not be robust. And so I don’t think we do a good enough job telling how the solutions that we might develop are going to age over time. And it’s especially hard when you get to the end of a line with an approach that’s worked for many generations.

I mean, that was the idea behind water 4. 0 is that it takes a long time to realize that. What you’ve been doing, say, with your sewage, just putting it in a great big pipe and sending it to the next town down river, won’t work anymore, and no one wants to accept that, and so you go through many, many years where people say, well, the rivers are dying, or people are getting sick downstream.

If we could just optimize what we’re doing better, we could just build a longer pipe, we’d be okay. Someone has to say, no, actually we’re going to have to start building sewage treatment plants and it’s going to cost us a bunch of money. And so I think that that idea that when it’s time to have, I don’t want to call it a paradigm shift, that’s a little bit lazy, but when we, we have to have a major change in the way we do things, I think it’s, it’s hard for us to give that news to someone because when that happens, we’re not in.

Entirely convinced ourselves that it’s time to disrupt the institutions that have worked for us in the past. That’s one place where we need to do a better job articulating the problem, especially when those problems are related to a changing climate, which is, is really something that we’ve never processed fully before,

Antoine Walter: but it resembles a bit, you know, when you’re cooking, that’s a weird metaphor.

Sorry about that one, but you’re cooking sea. seafood and you cook them alive, works with frogs as well in French, you’re cooking them alive and water rises. And at some points water rise so much that the animal realizes it’s going to die, but it can’t do anything about it. It’s too late. And that’s sometimes what I feel with this, this, this water crisis.

That’s yeah, temperature is rising and the challenge is getting tenser, but we have to, to react at some point. And what I’m referring to is that if you look at the history, for instance, the clean water act in the U S if. rivers didn’t catch fire, there would probably never have been a clean water act. It would have taken 10 more years.

If people would not have been forced to the loo by Cryptosporidium, we would still not use ultrafiltration. And so far and so on. You can always trace back all major shifts in the way we deal with water to a major crisis, but which has a beginning and an end. Don’t we miss that very, very strong Beginning and ends on the six crisis you’re describing.

David Sedlak: No, I don’t think so, because I think that crises come to a head over and over again. And what we do is we try to apply the old ways of doing things and when it just doesn’t work anymore, someone somewhere has developed another way of solving the problem. And you go and look at them and you say, Oh, of course, that’s how we should have been doing it all along.

You know, when the social scientists look at this question of technology transitions, what they see over and over again is that the status quo has tremendous staying power. People really want to stick to what they know because anything else is very risky. But there are always places that are on the front lines of crisis.

And in those places, there’s often the so called protected space, this place where people experiment with an alternative way of doing things because the tried and true methods aren’t working. And every so often, one of those approaches succeeds and everyone comes and looks at it and says, gee, maybe we should try that too.

And so I think that this idea of changing the way we address crises. We have to look around the world. There’s a science fiction writer, Gibson, who said, the future’s already here, it’s just not evenly distributed. That really is true, that there are people and places around the world where the confluence of crisis that they’ve faced and their local situations made it such that they could try something different.

And that different thing worked, and then it can get repurposed and used somewhere else. Stay Forever

Antoine Walter: Where is the future on earth, according to you? Singapore?

David Sedlak: Oh, well, I mean, I think that future, I’m not sure, but it’s Singapore. But as long as we’re staying on that lines, you know, an example of a place that had to be a protected space is Orange County, where the modern approach to potable water reuse with reverse osmosis membranes really got going.

And that was a place where They had a fair amount of wealth. They had very poor water rights because they had arrived last and everyone else had claimed all of the easy sources of water. They coincidentally had a wonderful groundwater aquifer under their feet. And so this idea of replenishing the aquifer with clean water seemed obvious.

And so initially they thought they’d do it with desalinated seawater, but then they realized that that was technologically improbable and too expensive. And so this idea of purifying Treated wastewater and putting it in the aquifer started as like a small experiment and it worked and it worked well and, and it took off from there.

So if you look at Singapore and their water recycling system, they came and saw what was happening in Orange County and they realized that they could adapt that. And instead of putting water in groundwater reservoirs, they could pump the treated water to their surface reservoirs and send it to their, their industry.

And so. it took off from there and now it’s spreading around the world. So these innovators and early adopters are really important to try to understand and nurture. And so I think one of the things that we could do a better job of is not only tracking where innovations and early adopters are, but even supporting them because they’re doing the experiments.

will ultimately benefit us all.

Antoine Walter: How do you support early adopters? I had a conversation or several conversations on that microphone around the trial reservoir, for instance, how you just fund the pilot so that the early adopter de risks his first take at a technology. And I found that so stupidly brilliant that I was wondering why it took so long for someone to put such a program in place.

But I’m just wondering, how do you support those early adopters?

David Sedlak: Well, I think if we were talking about a field where people could. Make a lot of money. For example, I think about semiconductors. We would never be having this conversation about how do we get early adopters going or how do we support innovation?

But when you have a field that has a public benefit and profits that are long in coming Say like maybe it’s, maybe it’s a profitable field, but only if you’re in it for the long haul, there are two models. One is we fund those early experiments. And usually that is seen in the national interest of some country or regional interest.

The other one that I don’t think we do enough of is thinking about it. from institutional standpoint. So I think there are some companies and I think you wanted to think a little bit in this, this discussion about what companies can do. There are some companies that have the long view about proving that something works and building a business opportunity by.

Being first and supporting it. I’ll give you an example of this back, back in Orange County. Again, I mean, just something that I’m familiar with. Trojan Technologies partnered with the water district to test and verify that their UV peroxide system could achieve the desired reductions in chemicals that pass through the RO membranes.

And once that system had been vetted and satisfied the regulators, it was very easy to sell more of those to other water recycling facilities. And it started to become the industry standard. And I think you can see that in seawater desalination. You know, there are a few companies that really have a lead in that because they worked with some of those early adopters to demonstrate it.

So it was in their best interest. So I think that If you could see it as a long term Business opportunity to pioneer a market and working with an early adopter might be seen as a long term business investment that pays dividends.

Antoine Walter: I had that conversation a while ago with David Lloyd Owen, who wrote the book Global Water Funding, where he’s showing that one way to go out of water crisis in general might be to allocate more money to it.

But if we’re realistic, as that’s not happening, one big thing is making more out of the same amount of money. And in your book, there are several occasions where you show how it’s maybe not the most efficient. use of money that’s been done. There’s one example with the rainwater barrels in Australia, but the cost is born by private people.

So after all, why not let, let them do something inefficient. I’m just wondering if you, as an engineer, a professor, a researcher, if that worries you, that we might not be putting our limited quantities and amounts of money to the best possible use,

David Sedlak: I’d like. To think that I could be prescient in their early days of development of a new technology and know what its ultimate potential would be and help people avoid those ideas that seem just like they’re never going to pencil out and work, but I’ve also been wrong in my life.

I’d like to leave open the space to doubt my own initial analysis. So, you know, the first time that someone does something, they may explain it in a way that doesn’t make a lot of sense. But later on, you see an opportunity that something that seemed completely impractical has an application space. And people talk about this, like this curve of.

Initial hype that goes into a new invention and people think it’s going to solve all the problems in the world. And then they get disappointed and they, they’re, they’re, they really don’t want to do it. And then somewhere along the lines, years later, they readjust their expectations and they find niche applications.

And so I think that. If we could think about this as like a cycle of, of hype and then disappointment and then reassessment, maybe it doesn’t quite seem so out of it. So for example, if you, your example of rainwater tanks, well, certainly there are people in the early days who think that rainwater tanks are going to completely solve all their problems and it seems really inexpensive.

And then when they’ve realized that it didn’t solve the problems and ultimately it’s, You know, per unit water, it’s more expensive. They, they get a little disillusioned with it, but there probably is a sweet spot where rainwater harvesting has an application that joined with other technologies is quite good.

So an example of that is if you wanted to make an off the grid home where you recycle the gray water or black water and used it for things like toilet flushing and laundry, you’d say, well, I can do that, but I really don’t know if I’m going to be able to use this gray and black water for drinking, but I only need.

You know a few liters a day per person of drinking water. Well, maybe I could capture the roof water and purify that You know disinfect it filter it etc and use that as my tap water It might not be the solution for an entire house because you’d need a giant rain barrel But if all you need is, uh, you know tens of liters per day for a household Then a rainwater tank might be the thing that lets you cut the connection to the water supply grid And so it got repurposed and used in a way that you never thought possible.

And I think that’s true of things that seem like a little unrealistic, like the, the big hype that surrounds atmospheric water harvesting. I don’t think we’re going to solve the world’s water problems with atmospheric water harvesting, but if we think about it as, well, we have to. Dehumidify homes as part of the indoor comfort.

And we’re going to have water that comes as a result of that. And there are times when it’s inexpensive to run those systems because of the electricity costs. It might provide a certain quality of water that has a use in the home. And it has this ancillary benefit of being part of the indoor cooling and comfort.

And that, that holistic way of thinking is probably where we should try to go right away. Cause I don’t think there’s any magic. Technology that’s going to solve all the problems alone.

Antoine Walter: That’s technology. I would have the same question on the mechanisms which we put in place to solve those crises. You’re speaking in the book about water.

org’s approach, for instance, water credits. And I don’t want to sound like, like book club, but in their book, Matt Damon and Gary White write about these coping costs of water. And they show that the coping costs. of not having access to water about 300 billion dollars per year when, according to the UN, solving that issue should cost 116 billion dollars per year.

So you would think the cost benefit ratio is so good, it’s a no brainer, we should instantly give access to water to all those people. And they proved with the water credit approach that by having no background check on nobody you’re giving a loan and loaning money to the poorest people on earth, they get a 99 percent payback and a proven taken out of poverty scheme working.

Would you see here some space for a more innovative forward looking approach to the mechanism we put in place as well?

David Sedlak: Sure. And I think the fault that we have is When people coming from outside of the water finance area, look at it, they miss some of the nuance. And so it’s true that water. org approach is fantastic.

When you look at rural communities in, in certain kinds of geographic settings and political settings, but. The majority of, many of the people facing this crisis of water for the unconnected live within cities and megacities or on the outskirts of those cities, and probably their solution involves some sort of centralized piped water.

And we see over and over again that the approach that succeeds in cities has to do more with working with a municipality and finding a way with Like, you know, the way that the development banks work to help make this happen. And to just make the simplistic statement that small loans are going to connect all the people that are unconnected now, that, that seems a little naive.

It’s probably there, there’s a sweet spot. Where that approach is going to be particularly effective. And then there are other places that either it’s not suitable now or they’re on the verge of changing because they’re undergoing rapid economic development and the population and wealth is changing in that community.

There might be a different approach. And so the solutions that have evolved around the world to address these problems. I think the issue is that the bureaucracies need to be kind of shaken up every few decades. And people need to rethink what their original mandate is. And so I think over and over again, we, we see this in wealthy countries with our inability to build housing and transit and new water systems.

You know, we, we build rules and we come up with ways of financing and managing projects that make sense at the moment, but when they’re in place too long, it seems like they develop a. bureaucracy that’s no longer responsive to the way the problem may have changed. And so I think this idea of having external actors like NGOs challenge the existing ways that we finance projects is really wonderful because it should force those other entities to reassess what they’re doing.

To ensure that they’re relevant in the future. So if I was a government agency or development development bank, and I was working in one of the communities where water. org was having such success, I would be questioning my business model and the way I was working. And I would think maybe my organization needs to reform and take some lessons from these new people who came to town.

Antoine Walter: When you’re discussing bureaucracy. And the need to revamp the approaches, it’s too tempting for me not to ask, what did you think of the UN Water Conference last year?

David Sedlak: I didn’t go and I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it, but I do see a purpose in bringing people together to make these high level statements.

I think they, they serve as a touchstone for all the institutions below them. It’s easy to dismiss, you know, discussions of the sustainable development goals or the, these big speeches at, at organizations like the UN is just posturing. But I do think that people who work at the next levels down in the bureaucracy take that more seriously.

And. Use it as a way to rally their efforts. Those types of things are really just the starting point. It’s holding our elected officials and our leaders responsible for the follow through and the follow through often requires the political will. So I’m unimpressed by someone who goes and then comes back and doesn’t keep working on it.

But if they put their shoulder into it and they follow through, it’s a great. Starting point because they need to have something to show for all of their effort they need to have some political gains to show that they’ve done it so I think we have to hold those people who come to organize it come to meetings like that hold them responsible like what you said you were going to do this and here we are five years later and nothing’s really happened what happened

Antoine Walter: first I know it’s that you’re really positive and optimistic it’s not just a book so.

Kudos for that. Then, the main outcome of the UN Water Conference, the one thing that everybody agreed on from all these countries that were there is, we need to appoint a UN Special Envoy on Water.

David Sedlak: A Special Envoy on Water. Special Envoy for Water. Special Envoy. Special Envoy. For Water.

Antoine Walter: Special Envoy.

Special Envoy.

David Sedlak: Special UN Envoy. Special Envoy. United Nations. Special Envoy. Special Envoy. Special UN Envoy on Water. I got it.

Antoine Walter: Then we can debate if that’s a good idea. The number one thing they committed where one year later, they haven’t appointed a special envoy for water. Number one, do you think that would bring something?

And number two, did you send your resume?

David Sedlak: Um, well, I was born and raised in New York. And so I know what it’s like. to live there. So I’m not sure if I’d send my resume. We already have a special repertoire for the, you know, the human right to water. And, and I think that the people who’ve been in that role have been important to shining a light on these water issues.

So, you know, it’s not just the UN in the United States, people say, Oh, we need a water czar. Who’s going to. you know, wrangle all these federal agencies to start working on water issues. I guess that, you know, that’s an approach, but I think this kind of person can be symbolic and they can, if they have moral standing, if they are politically savvy, they can.

serve as a rallying point for a very, like, confused set of actors. But I think in many cases, the power doesn’t get given to this person. So they’re really more of a figurehead or, or, uh, someone who rallies everyone and makes them feel good. But rarely do we give these kinds of people any, any type of power.

So it’s just a, maybe a convening power or, uh, some sort of visibility. And that’s not enough. We need to go further.

Antoine Walter: On a more serious note, in your book, you tend to believe that we can achieve STG6 by 2030. I would question that. But when I was discussing with David Lloyd Owen, he was making the calculation that we are progressing at a quarter of the speed we should, and that it might be great that by 2030 we have a plan so that by 2050, maybe we achieve it.

What’s your point on that?

David Sedlak: I think the events of the last few years have Made me feel like, well, maybe we’re not going to quite reach the goals. But I think that the idea that we in the water world have a plan for achieving the sustainable development goals for water is only a piece of it. It seems to me that a lot of the ability of people to lift themselves out of the crises around.

Being unconnected comes from economic and social development and political advancement that goes far beyond water. So as much as I’d like to think that water professionals and the Gates foundation and all these organizations that go out and do wonderful work for the unconnected is the reason that we’re getting.

Towards the SDGs, I think just as important is this idea that many of these countries where the majority of the population was in extreme poverty are gradually moving out of that. And as people move out of extreme poverty, they provide tax revenues that allow for water projects to be built, and they develop the economic wherewithal to buy their own way out of their water crises.

So I think economic development. is important not only to water, but it’s important to health and to nutrition and to education and to the long term economic prospects of any region of the world. If the trends that we’ve seen over the long term continue, and maybe they’re, you know, they’re held back by, uh, climate change or by things like pandemics or political upheaval, but if they do continue like they were, I think we eventually get there.

And maybe that’s like, I’m sounding a little too much like Hans Rosling here. Uh, but I think that that piece of it can’t be ignored.

Antoine Walter: Again, that’s the positive and optimistic side to it. So the contrarian in me forces to answer back or to question back. If you look at the charging the water futures report, which is now a bit dated from McKinsey and the World Bank in 2015, they were predicting that about 700 million people will be displaced.

by water scarcity, climate change, and all the links in between, in which case it would be water for the many and the unconnected that should be solved by water for the wealthy if they don’t want that crisis to come haunt them.

David Sedlak: I think you touch on this issue and I talk about it in some detail in the book of.

perceiving water crises as so called force multipliers, this idea that it leads to global instability, it leads to refugee crises, it destabilizes the world. And I think that that’s absolutely true. So, you know, a lot of my hopefulness in the book requires that I believe that we’re going to Go in the right direction with respect to adaptation and mitigation of climate change.

I think without that, you know, things just keep deteriorating and whether it’s water that gets you or wildfires and extreme heat that gets you, you know, you’re in a rough situation if you’re in the lower income countries of the world. We’ll have water crises if we don’t get the climate emergency under control.

But even if we could solve the water crisis, people would be dealing with so many other crises. So you’re right. It is the thing that’s stands over. A lot of this is if we can’t figure out how to get ourselves off of a path to three plus degrees of warming. A lot of these imaginative solutions work for fewer and fewer people.

Antoine Walter: I promise it’s my last question on. someone else’s book, because I really don’t want to sound like the books club, but I guess you have a geographical proximity to Peter Gleick, who has been extensively working on the water wars and the influence of water on geopolitics. You’re touching a bit on it in the book with the example of Libya, for example.

You seem to have a more optimistic view of the world and water’s influence on the world than he does. Is it like good cop, bad cop, or is it the kind of stuff you discuss?

David Sedlak: When I look more carefully at the idea that we’re already fighting water wars, I’m not as convinced. So I tend to come down on the side of some of the people who are experts on these crises and see water as one of many different.

contributors to, you know, a whole host of things maybe that are driven by climate. So, for example, people like to hold up the war in Syria as being driven by climate change because a drought coincided with the start of the Syrian war. But if you look at the experts in Syria and what they say, well, they come up with a whole host of other factors that Influenced and, and led to the political instability in Syria.

So was water scarcity and, and the way that it drove farmers into cities contributing? Yeah, maybe, but also policies that the government took or global food prices or, or other types of things may have contributed as well. So I really not convinced that we’re, we’re fighting water wars or that we’re going to get to the level of.

uh, here another book, The Water Knife, you know, a dystopian world where people are fighting over water and making water the touchstone. There are so many other things that people fight over. It’s hard to distinguish water from the rest of them. But, but maybe, maybe that’s just kind of like, I, I, I’m always hesitant to put on a pair of sunglasses with lenses that only let me see water.

I think that the world is much, broader than that and, and, and there are many other reasons why we have conflict in the world.

Antoine Walter: Coming back to the very beginning of this conversation, you mentioned how this book is the result of your own homework and exercise as to the inception of Nahua, which looks into desalination and reverse osmosis.

That technology is around for 50 years. Why does it need to be pushed? And does that mean that technological development in water stopped in the 60s. Well, thank you. It’s a tainted question.

David Sedlak: Well, thank you, President Kennedy for pushing the, the office of saline waters that led to the great innovations like the cellulose acetate reverse osmosis membrane and helped push CDI.

But there you are, you know, 50, 60 years to go from an initial invention. to something that is, uh, taken for granted technology. And we see this over and over again with the so called technology development S curves, that the time from an initial invention of something to its maturity as a technology is measured in decades in the water space.

When we sat down to look at this question of the role of desalination in the world’s future water supplies. We quickly realized that seawater desalination is becoming a mature technology and there’s not really a great reason to put a lot more energy into optimizing or improving seawater desalination.

But desalination is a lot broader than that. You know, we’ve got inland brackish water. We’ve got water from municipal wastewater, from industrial wastewater that undergo desalination, and those technologies are far from optimized. Now when we use desalination inland, we have this tremendous problem with.

Brine management, what to do. Can we valorize this brine? Can we safely dispose of it? That’s really holding back a lot of development of brackish water desalination and industrial desalination. The high costs, not only of dealing with the scalence in the water, but also what to do with the brine when we’re done with it, small scale desalination.

I mean, we know how to build. giant seawater desalination plants, but what about desalination at an individual well? Or more to the point, what about the times when we don’t need to take absolutely all of the salts out of the water, but we want to selectively remove the arsenic and the selenium and the fluoride from the water and let all the other salts go because they’re beneficial?

We still lack those technologies. Selective removal of ions, management of the brines and salts, and probably most promising In my mind is this idea of leveraging the fourth revolution in manufacturing or manufacturing 4. 0 to, to think about how we can make water devices that are not bespoke engineering projects that take many years to design and pilot and test, but they’re more like washing machines that you buy and you hook up.

I think there’s a lot of. Scope out there for building smaller scale water systems that are very reliable. And just like, you know, the solar panel and the decrease in costs of rooftop solar opened up all of these applications that no one imagined before. I think that taking desalination down to something that’s modular and doesn’t need a PhD to run has the possibility of opening up a whole bunch of.

additional applications that we can’t even imagine right now.

Antoine Walter: I won’t open a sidetrack, but it’s something I discussed with, Upmanu Lall from the Columbia Water Center, who was explaining how if you look just what’s available on Amazon today compared to what was available on Amazon two or three years ago, in terms of RO you put under the sink, the flow rates through it and so far and so on, it just shows the speed at which the technology is evolving.

But I don’t want to trap you in a sidetrack. What’s the timeline for, for NAWA and the full initiative?

David Sedlak: You know, that’s the other problem with the research initiative that has bold goals. If you look at that office of saline waters from the 1960s, they were around and well funded for about 15 years, but the fruits of their research didn’t become apparent.

for another 10 or 15 years after they closed their doors. And this is the challenge we had with Renuit, also our National Science Foundation center. Renuit had a lifetime of 10 years. Now he is about three, three and a half years in. And, you know, we may go. As long as 10 years, I think the things that could be developed in that time, it’s a little like venture capital where, you know, you talk about 19 out of 20 companies failing.

So you don’t know which of the ones that you work on are really going to have the staying power. You do the best you can to choose wisely and you hope that that the market. responds, and that you have it right. So I think in, in the cases, it’s not only a question of rolling the dice and trying to create technologies that have lifespan that exceeds the length of the program.

It’s getting people to think differently. So as an educator, I think that something that’s almost as important as the technologies we develop is. The way we train people to think and to solve problems. And it goes back to the earlier stage of this conversation about this holistic way of thinking. If we can train young water professionals to think about what’s possible, we don’t know what they’re going to do after they leave and go out in the world, but hopefully they’re not wedded to.

old ideas that don’t make sense anymore and they’ve learned the skills to be creative and to leverage ideas coming from different fields and solve problems. So I’d like to think about it the way a chemical engineer thinks about a catalyst. A catalyst doesn’t get depleted by the reaction it undergoes.

It keeps working and working and working. The human capacity that we create lives on beyond any Small research program we do and, and, and hopefully it diffuses out and influences others. Who needs to read your book? I guess first and foremost, I’d like to think that young water professionals or aspiring water professionals would read it and question what they’re learning and drive them to be more curious about the world around them.

I’d like to think that people further on in their careers. Come back and read this book to see if the things that they’ve learned jibe with what’s in this book and to try to understand their place a little bit better. Those are the kinds of people that I think will benefit most from this book. I think the first book, Water 4.

0, was a little more accessible to the broad general public that was only casually interested in water, but I think that this book, because it has so many examples and. It’s a little bit more detailed, is meant to challenge people who already know something about water or for people who are curious enough to read it.

below the surface and hold more than one thought in their mind at a time. That kind of person is usually someone who is either very curious about many areas of science and technology and policy, or who views themselves as a water person.

Antoine Walter: First, I can Give you my testimony that I mean what I said in the opening that I read it cover to cover and I really learned a lot of stuff.

I would disagree with you. You say the other one was, was more accessible. I find that one equally as accessible. Sometimes there’s, it’s a bit witty. You have a couple of, I mean, you have a tone in the book. It’s really an easy read. I wouldn’t. Qualify it as something which, which needs advanced, I mean, there, there’s reading understanding at all the levels, but I really woods and phases how it’s, it’s for everyone.

David Sedlak: I didn’t make jokes about pee in this book, so that that’s maybe a little different, but I, I, I do think that, um, uh. You know, I wrote the kind of book that I read. I read nonfiction in many different areas and not just in water. I said, what would I want to know if I was a curious person who had some knowledge of other topics and had never really thought about water?

There are many casual readers who, who get discouraged when you ask them to keep Multiple ideas in their, their head at once. And so, um, I, I felt like water 4. 0. I tried to keep the humor going and not, not get quite as deep until at least halfway through the book when they’re already hooked.

Antoine Walter: You mentioned the wealth of example, which you give in this book.

Would you have just one to pick the curiosity of your wannabe readers?

David Sedlak: I think that that’s the thing that. I want to pique your curiosity about is that the world is undergoing a period of dramatic change and we talked already about as 70 percent more food by the year 2050, the largest cities in the world are all going to be in sub Saharan Africa, and they’re going to be growing like crazy.

The climate of the Mediterranean is going to be the climate that we now see in, in Morocco and Northern Africa. And, and Australia is going to become more arid as is the American Southwest. And faced with all of these challenges. We’re going to have to create a system that is unknown to us today. And I think, like, things like buildings that don’t have to be hooked up to the water grid.

We already have buildings that recycle more than half of their water. Cities that no longer discharge wastewater to the ocean. So in Southern California, We’re at a point where there’s no more wastewater coming out of our wastewater treatment plants. There’s only a small amount of brine. I think those kinds of things that you might someday live in a home that is not hooked to a water system.

And because your car won’t have a gas tank, you might have a tank in your car that brings a small amount of drinking water home with it, these kinds of ideas that seem futuristic and science fiction, or like there’s something out of Dune. They’re going to become our reality in the future. And how we get there is, is really what this book is about.

Antoine Walter: You’re mentioning Dune. I think it’s a whole chapter towards the end of the book about the steel suit for the cities. But I’m leaving that to the readers to go and read the depth of that. You write at the very beginning of the book, anyone that aspires to be a changemaker must know the status quo that they hope to disrupt.

Are you a changemaker?

David Sedlak: I would love to be one. I aspire to be a changemaker, and I think if I’ve done anything to support that, it’s inspiring other people to take a look at what they’re already doing and question it. So, if that’s being a changemaker, that’s, that’s my goal.

Antoine Walter: We discussed it very fast before starting the recording, but I noted that you have just one mention of France in the entire book.

And it’s just to say that in 2003, we were out of water. Our nuclear power plants rely on water. So because we didn’t want to heat the rivers too much, we shut down the nuclear power plant, which is absolutely right, which happened several times in between as well. Do you need some help to, to, to look into what’s happening in France?

I mean, we had fascinating stuff happening. For instance, last year we had riots because of water, which you wouldn’t expect in France.

David Sedlak: That’s after. So if you’re. offering to, uh, invite me to France to help tackle the challenge of water scarcity and climate to the great wine growing region of the South. I will take you up on that and we can go and visit some, some wineries and figure out how they might adapt.

But seriously, I am fascinated by the French approach to water. I think there are many things about it and I’ve spent several months in, in, in France and I always struggle. with the fact that many of the things going on in France don’t get well documented in English. So it’s on me to improve my, my French or to take more advantage of, uh, the various translators out there to, uh, to really learn more about it.

Antoine Walter: The word has this stupid habit of doing everything in English when we should be doing everything in French, but, but okay, I, I can’t be right on everything. On a more serious note, David, it’s been a pleasure to explore a bit, and trust me if you’re listening to that, only a bit of what’s in your book. I had blocked myself some time to go through the book, and I ended up needing twice the time I had blocked.

There’s a wealth of stuff in the book, we could discuss it for two, three more hours and still not cover it fully. So thanks a lot for, for sharing your insights today. To round off those conversations, I have a set of rapid fire questions. If that’s fine for you, I’d switch to that last section.

Download my Latest Book - for Free!

Rapid fire questions:

Antoine Walter: What’s the most exciting project you’ve been working on and why?

David Sedlak: Premise scale building systems, because I think that we are right at the edge of an era. when water service is going to be something that is integrated into the home, the apartment building and the office.

Antoine Walter: Can you name one thing that you’ve learned the hard way?

David Sedlak: You really can’t know enough. Uh, when you think you know what’s going on, you’re totally wrong.

Antoine Walter: That’s a good one. Is there something you’re doing today in your job that you will not be doing in 10 years?

David Sedlak: I hope that I will not be spending as much time with bureaucracy and that somehow AI is going to slay the, the bureaucratic demon.

Antoine Walter: That’s a very interesting one. What is the trend to watch out for in the water sector?

David Sedlak: Small scale, modular water washing machines. And by that, I mean things that can pure, take water of any kind and create fit for purpose water at a moment’s notice.

Antoine Walter: I resisted several times during the interview to mention fit for purpose water.

You’re bringing it up. So thanks a lot for that one. If I instantly became your assistant, what’s the number one task that you would delegate to me, knowing that I never promised I would do it?

David Sedlak: I would want you to go out and be my scout and find the great new ideas and the seriously innovative people that are out there and tell me why.

Uh, I should keep an eye on them.

Antoine Walter: Well, that’s something I could happily do. Would you have someone to recommend me that I should definitely invite on that microphone?

David Sedlak: Given the flavor of this discussion and, and what I heard listening to other conversations, uh, you know, you seem to like people who think outside the box.

So I would say people like Cornel Rabai from Ghent University. Would be one person, uh, Eberhard Morgenroth from the ETH in Zurich, my colleague, Peter Fisk from Nowy, I think would be interesting for you to talk with. There are many innovative people out there. I guess, uh, Paul O’Callaghan, if you haven’t spoken to Paul yet, from Bluetech, I think these are some of the people.

Antoine Walter: He’s been twice on the microphone. Yeah, I figured you talked to him by now. At some point people will believe I have an affiliation. Thanks a lot for the recommendations. Usually I ask my guests to recommend something to keep on with what they’re doing. But I guess now what we can recommend to the people listening to us at that stage is go buy the book.

It’s available everywhere, including Kindle and all the formats. So I guess that’s the recommendation or would you have another recommendation?

David Sedlak: Go outside and be in nature. After you read the book, we all, we all need to spend more time outdoors.

Antoine Walter: If people want to follow up with you, shall they contact you on LinkedIn per mail?

Send you a letter.

David Sedlak: I’m very accessible. I’m, I’m Sedlak at berkeley. edu. Send me an email or try LinkedIn or wander around, uh. the campus looking for me.

Antoine Walter: The links are in the description. So David, it’s been a great pleasure again to have you. Thanks a lot. And I hope to have a tour of France with you and show you what we’re doing here.

There, there’s some interesting, intriguing, and also not so positive stuff, but yeah,

interesting anyways.

David Sedlak: Okay. Thank you.

Other Episodes:

Leave a Comment