What is the Best Way to Make Four Dollars out of One?

with 🎙️ Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer

💧 Michael holds a Ph. D. in Geography and builds upon a unique (and multidisciplinary!) skill set, making him a Global Water expert.

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What we covered:

🍏 How we used to close and now re-open the rivers in our cities for roughly the same set of legitimate reasons

🍏 How (spoiler!) every dollar invested in river restoration actually provides a four-dollar return on investment

🍏 The perks and pitfalls of semi-natural ecosystems in the heart of cities

🍏 How 60s ‘urbanization miracles’ became modern nightmares

🍏 The three new and updated reasons why people want to go to cities (and why that matter for businesses)

🍏 The blue-green movement that changes the way we do economy

🍏 How better technical understanding and digitization enables to engineer with nature

🍏 How Sponge Cities are a new level of urbanization and environmental engineering, although still being a vivid debate in society

🍏 How involvement of all stakeholders is crucial to building a blue-green infrastructure

🍏 How cognitive connectivity needs to be restored along with water rehabilitation (and how that connects to… Heidegger!)

🍏 How water needs to be presented in a fun and lively way instead of focusing on the negative reconnection

🍏 Why and how a ‘Water Incubator’ could turn the tables 

🔥 … and of course, we concluded with the 𝙧𝙖𝙥𝙞𝙙 𝙛𝙞𝙧𝙚 𝙦𝙪𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨 🔥 


Teaser:


Resources:

➡️ Send your warm regards to Michael on LinkedIn

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Full Transcript:

These are computer generated, so expect some typos 🙂

Antoine Walter:

Hi, Michael, welcome to the show!

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Hi Antoine. How are you?

Antoine Walter:

I’m really good and you?

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Wonderful. Thank you. It’s a beautiful 23-24 degree early, early to mid morning right now, bright and brilliant with a bright blue sky.

Antoine Walter:

So that is somehow the beginning of your postcard that you’re sending from Buffalo today. Can you tell me something about Buffalo lemon? The name is already quite a story, but I would be interested to have your most crispy anecdote about Buffalo.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Buffalo is, you know, it’s a uniquely magical city in its own way. It has a tremendously interesting history. And one of the fun things about Buffalo is that in the late 18th century, when the city was founded, when people first came to this region of the United States, it was the, you know, the Western frontier at that point to be buffaloed meant to be tricked. So it has sort of a slang to it. And also there’s a, a fun, little bit about the name too, which is that. So the Ellicott family, they spoke a version of Dutch and people have been wondering about the name of Buffalo for years, you know, does it come from French well flu? And I think it comes from a kind of Dutch Flemish dialect, similar to sales. You know, the idea of posts, ELLs cause Brussels, you know, as we pronounce it in American English, it’s marshy land and Buffalo was cited at the confluence of a few creeks, the Niagara river, and it’s on Lake Erie where it turns into the Niagara river. And so it was on this marshy rich land. And it literally means I think, great place to live because you know, we’re water people. That’s what we do.

Antoine Walter:

So it’s fantastic because from your postcard already, we can tell that you seem to have kind of an inclination towards the meaning of things that this geography aspect of, of things, which we’ll uncover in a second. But it’s, it’s really, really interesting to see that from the very beginning of the conversation, we can feel that. And actually I have to say that, and don’t, don’t take me wrong here. But to me, you are an UFO in the water sector. I’ve seen you in many occasion across LinkedIn to be transparent, not physically, of course, in these strange times we’re living, but I’ve seen you in many discussions, many debates, many topics, and all the time you come with something really crispy or really accurate, really straight to the point. And I’m like, what’s your core expertise? Because it seems to me like there’s no barrier in the frontier. So maybe you have to test that today. But if ask this simple question, what is your core expertise? What’s your story with this water world?

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Of course, I’ll give you the technical terminology and the plain language version of that, if that’s okay with you. So by training, I am an applied multi-disciplinary physical geographer. So I’m a combination of a scientist who has some degree of engineering expertise with a lot of expertise in geospatial analysis. And I’m also heavily imbued in the world of philosophy and theory. So, I mean, I can, I can talk intelligently about digital water or, you know, Heidegger or Kant or, or, you know, the Daoist approach to the teaching. And the whole point of that is from the academic perspective that I was trained in that’s, you know, I got, I have a PhD in geography from the university of Buffalo, from that perspective, it’s about seeing the whole picture of water because water is literally what connects all of us. It is the low point on the landscape and it is the low point in human society without water.

I think about what water does, how we relate to it and how we can maximize the value of water to people in cities through proximity to water - A water quote by Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

There is no civilization. So in plain language and plain language, what do I do? I think about water people in cities. I think about what water does for people in cities and how we relate to water and how we can maximize the value of water to people in cities, through proximity to water. Because by being close to water, we are able to enjoy its benefits fully because Tobler is first law of geography is everything is related to everything else, but things that are close together are morally than, than things that are further apart. And that’s what cities do. They concentrate people and energy. And I think that water plays a huge role in that. And we know from history that it does. Does that make any sense?

Antoine Walter:

That makes a lot of sense, but still I would question how and why water. I mean, water is a key element as you alluded to, but why water specifically? I mean, you could have looked at, I don’t know, urbanization, or I’m not a geographer right now, so I don’t have a clever example to bring you, but, but why water

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Think about, think about what we need as human beings. We need water because it provides us with water to grow food and Oh, route by which to transport ourselves, you know, goods and provide services. So before we had the engineering expertise to build roads, say we used water because it comes down to friction. Cities grow up at the confluence of commercial routes and human routes. And that’s what water provides. It’s the place where things meet and cities grow there because that’s route, could we conduct commerce and live our lives? It’s the place where we are human. And if we go very far back, if you think about the temple of [inaudible] at a redo in old Sumeria, he’ll think of, think about, you know, the symbolism associated with N key. It’s the, you know, the cosmic spring, there’s this water symbology that’s replete throughout history. So it’s encoded into our beliefs and our mythology to water is the center of our life. That’s why water matters. It provides for us. And if we think about the, I think the word is ma on, you know, [inaudible] in Arabic means people and water, you know, [inaudible] kind so water people.

Antoine Walter:

It’s interesting because that makes for a smooth transition of course, into our deep dive for today, which is this, this element of water as a central element in the cities. But, but before diving into that, and that’s kind of a question I would somehow put in the fridge because we are checking it later on that I guess in our discussion, but everything you just explained makes a lot of sense. If you look at history and if you look at the early roots of water as a roots, as a source of life, as something you drink as something you use to irrigate your crops, but have the feeling that this central place of water kind of got lost within time and with the evolution. Because as long as we didn’t have anything, if you don’t have roads, you need to have a river. But if you have the roads, then river is maybe less important.

Antoine Walter:

The river needs to be clean. If you don’t know how to clean the water yourself. So I would say my feeling right now, and you’re going to correct me in the next hour, I guess, but my feeling is that water has been central at the very early ages of humanity. And maybe it lost a bit of the central place through evolution. And one could debate how much that’s an evolution and not a regression, but let’s start from those roots. You’ve alluded already to, to these elements that cities were built around water because it was a good proxy to replace the roots that were not existing yet. But is that the full story or is there something else? I mean, why Paris is next to the sea and why, or why London is next to the team’s river? Why New York is next to the the Hudson river? Is there a reason beyond the fact that a river is, is a good replacement for a route?

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

I think of rivers also again, it’s a very broad question and I’ll, and I’ll approach it, of course from a, you know, a geographic and a spatial perspective. So, okay. When I think about the phenomenology of a river, you know, what is a phenomenology it’s sort of the, it’s the experienced form of a river? Yes, of course we have the functional use values of rivers as routes. And there’s also the ecosystem services that rivers provide, you know, services like historically say in London, for example, a lot of those small rivers in London, this, the creeks rivers, tributaries of the Thames. They provided food for people. So people grew up and they built their homes and did business were where they were close to food. Because remember we couldn’t, we didn’t have access to all of the energy that we do these days. We didn’t have oil, Wells, natural gas, Wells, nuclear energy.

A lot of the small rivers in London provided food for people. So people grew up, built their homes and did business where they were close to food! - A water quote by Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

So we had to stay close to our sources of food and fresh water and where the sources of food. And this is all theoretical and speculative. From my perspective, there’s probably some research out there that can establish it, but I, I’m not familiar with it. Places like, say, let’s look at London. Why London? Why, where London is? Well, some of the richest salmon runs occurred in those small tributaries to the Thames and you could go there and you can get food easily. So it’s about, it’s about minimizing energy, right? You want to be efficient. You want to be efficient as a person because any energy that you waste is energy that goes away from survival and reproduction. So rivers provide this geographic locus because there are edges, there are connection points and edges, and will we see connection points at edges? We see opportunities for exchange.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

And in the case of the example of, you know, say fishing for salmon in the place that became London, that edge, that barrier was a way for people to easily transition from land to water and get services like food with it at the same time. Now I remember also, so I lived in Germany for a short while I lived in a, I lived in the North in a place called Brown shoe bike, and we visited a place called LAR in the hearts mountains. And one of the reasons that it brings this up is because rivers also provided power for people to remember before we had access to a lot of energy. As I mentioned before, you could use the force of flowing water to turn a wheel and that generated power. And so if you have a mining industry that needs to run a bellows, so you could smell it, you know, I think it was silver.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

That was being smelted. It was being sort of extracted from aura and Goss liar know, which was an Imperial capital. You needed the water there. So cities grew up around water because it provided power to there’s a reason for that. And perhaps I don’t know much about the origins of Paris, but I think that there may be similar reasons for that. Also. Now another place I lived in Germany to give another example of how to think through those geographically, of course, is I lived in a place called [inaudible] in Franconia and the mind river flows there by the Marion Berg festival to the fortress. And remember rivers provide microclimates also and that’s wine country. So if you are trying to minimize the energy that it takes to survive, thrive and reproduce. If you settled by water, that water is going to moderate the climate and perhaps even extend your growing season.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

And then to draw that back home here to, you know, Buffalo, New York here to the Niagara region, Western New York and your Southern Ontario, Canada, we have these lakes too. So when, when you’re in, what do you know when you’re an Apple grower? We have a lot of fruit growers around here. We have some grape growers too. It’s a rich agricultural regions. There’s wine country here too. You want to, you want to kind of hedge your bets. And by living near water, water is a heat sink. It will moderate climate. And it lets you know that your fruits not going to freeze your grapes, aren’t going to die on the vine and you have access to the resources. You need to grow the grapes. You know, people, you know, how do you turn water into wine? You grow grapes, it’s still a miracle, right? So that’s a little bit more about cities and why they grew up by water. It’s about minimizing energy. It’s the low point. Like literally it moderates and moderates, the rates of change, the temperature of the area that you might be living in a growing food in. And it makes it easier for you to live there because it’s more certain you’re reducing uncertainty. So does that make any sense?

You have the old-school methods to overcome flooding risks, like large scale mega engineering projects. It works, but there's a lot of costs to that! You lose all the ecosystem services of the river by disconnecting it from its flood plain - A water quote by Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer

Antoine Walter:

Yeah, there’s a negative side to it as well. If you’re next to a river, there’s chances that the floods come from that river at some point, and you mentioned fresh water. Of course a river is a source of fresh water as soon as you’re the one which is really upstream, because if you’re downstream, it’s also a source of lots of waste from all the ones which are upstream on that same river. So how did humanity overcome those two risks. I would say?

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

There’s a few different ways. I mean, one think about water sources. So people typically weren’t drinking water out of rivers because of the problem that you mentioned underneath, you know, we, we have this upstream, downstream problem, you know, who knows what’s going on upstream. You can’t necessarily trust it downstream, but people were using spring water. So people would find fresh water sources that were outside of the main STEM of the river. And that’s how they typically overcame the problem of drinking water. And you may see in a lot of older cities, a lot of a large reservoirs were built to capture spring water, which was then either fed by gravity or pumped later in time to the population. And that’s what allowed these cities to grow, you know, access to this clean water. And then rivers of course became routes for transportation and sources of food.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Now, flooding yes, of course flooding is a big problem, but we’ve overcome flooding at least historically in many ways that the easiest way to overcome flooding is you just don’t build on the flood plain. You just don’t build there. And we stopped doing that recently because we, you know, there’s sort of this human hubris, this this idea that we can do, whatever we want, wherever we want, we can make nature, submit to us. And the answer is, well, no, in the plainest terms. No, because we are part of nature, that’s it? We are part of nature. And how else do we overcome flooding in modern cities? Well, there’s a number of new methods that are being adopted. Now I’ll look at the older methods first and we’re talking about things like large scale mega engineering projects, you know, dam based, flood control, flood retention, reservoirs, something to capture the water before it gets to the city so that the city doesn’t get washed away.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Well, that works, but there’s a lot of costs to that. Also, you know, we lose all of the ecosystem services of the river by simplifying the river system by disconnecting it from its flood plain, we lose all of the nutrient processing capacity in the floodplain. We lose, we lose a lot of the breeding and juvenile habitat for the fish species that we used to be able to out of rivers. And you know, we also, aren’t thinking long-term when it comes to those sort of large scale diversion and flood retention projects, we did them because we could do them because it made sense. We understood the mathematics, we understood the engineering and it worked, but we didn’t see the downsides. You know, it’s unified, functional, get one job done. Now that’s evolved over time. So what’s happening these days is that now we’re smarter. I’m optimistic.

There was no long-term thinking with those large-scale diversion and flood retention projects. We did them because we could do them! We understood the mathematics and the engineering, and it worked. But we didn't see the downsides. A water quote by Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

You know, we’ve gotten smarter as people, right? I’m a believer in humanity. I’m a, I’m a huge fan of human beings. Not just because I’m one of them, but because I like them too. So we’ve gotten smarter. And what do I mean by that? Well, think about the effect. Think about the longterm effects of developing our computational power. You know, we get integrated circuits and here we are 40 years later and we’ve got a digital economy. So what that means from sort of a scientific perspective and engineering perspective is we can now model natural systems with a high degree of resolution, you know, fairly accurately, no model is perfectly accurate, but digital modeling allows us to get a sense of how these systems behave without having to actually wait for the flood to happen. And because we have more complex means of understanding how these natural systems work, these rivers work, we can then regulate them in more natural ways.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

So the army Corps of engineers, the us army Corps of engineers, engineer research and development center called Burdick. They called Erdrich for short there’s. This initiative called the engineering with nature initiative. And it seeks to understand how to more effectively and of course, more efficiently, lower energy cost, right? How to use nature and natural methods to regulate floods. Now, what does this mean for cities? Well, I mean, cities are kind of complicated because we have all this sunk cost, you know, all the capital expenses of our infrastructure, which means that we might not be able to regulate rivers and cities in the most natural way, but there are some opportunities, especially in cities like Buffalo, where, you know, we’ve lost a lot of the urban core population. So to kind of recap that idea right there. Yeah. You know, we’ve gone from simple to more complex. And now that we have more complex ways of seeing floods of seeing rivers, we have opportunities to do a better job by working with in mimicking nature. The big term right now is biomimicry. So hopefully that gets some insight into the question.

Antoine Walter:

Yeah. Let me deconstruct what you just said, because there’s a lot in what you just explained that I really want to dive much deeper into this retaking of the natural side of things, but just before, you know, what, if you’ve been walking into CTS and not so long ago, you know, I’m not that old. And yet I recall when I was working through my, in my hometown, I had no clue there was a river there and currently are they’re working around that. And the river is, is back into the city. But that, that river has always been there. It just, it was, it was covered with concrete and that is not a single story. And what I like here to address is why at some points, did we hide the rivers? Why did we cover them? Why were the city growings on top of the rivers and not around the rivers anymore? Because before explaining how we recover from that, it’s important to understand why we went down that route.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Well, the simplest answer I can think of is that we weren’t thinking about it and it was easier. And I can give you a good example from, from my hometown from Buffalo. So as the city was growing in the 19th century, so Buffalo was the Western Terminus of the Erie canal. You know, the Erie canal connected the Atlantic ocean to the great lakes, creating this extensive Seaway. Now the population was growing more rapidly than we could really figure out what to do with it. And people were getting sick. You know, you would get cholera, there were these terrible cholera epidemics, you know, and that kind of brings, you know, we can talk about COVID later if we wanted and how it might affect water, but to get back to the point when you have human waste and industrial waste going into waterways that are open, they are like open cesspools, their breeding grounds for pestilence.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

And the quickest thing to do is to cover up and say, all right, this is now a sewer. And that’s what happened here in Buffalo. I think it was in the 1850s after some of the early 19th century cholera epidemics, the first sewer, the great interceptor sewer, you know, has this wonderful title, the great interceptor. It’s like something out of star Trek. It’s like something in space Sci-Fi, but you know, back then sewers were kind of scifi technology. They were new. We hadn’t known sewer since, you know, Roman times. So anyway, the great interceptor sewer was built and it just captured all that waste that was going down slope into the smaller creeks in the area, instead of putting it upstream, as we’ve talked about before it just put it right into the Lake and then it washed over Niagara falls. So that’s kind of how the process began.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

And then later on, I can give you another example as the city grew further and industrialized, you know, another Creek called Skyjack would a Creek was just covered over with concrete too, because it just stunk. It was an eyesore. And the easiest thing to do is just to integrate these natural water systems, you know, Creek streams, rivers to integrate them into the emerging city sewer systems, because, well, we can’t have dirty water around people because it’s a public health hazard. So that’s kind of how it happened. People just had to get it done. Right. And remember, what do we always do? We do what we can do.

You have human waste and industrial waste going into waterways that are open, they are like open cesspoools, they're breeding grounds for pestilence. The quickest thing to do is to cover up and say: "All right, this is now a sewer" - A water quote by Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer

Antoine Walter:

What you mentioned was we were able to do it. So we did it. And I think that’s, that’s an important element because you know, I’m living just next to the Rhine river and the Rhine river has a cool history with that. It’s you mentioned the many function of the river, but one of the reverse function is also to be a border. And historically the Rhine river is the border between France and Germany. And the Germans found out much before, long before the French that they could domesticate Rhine river. And before the Rhine river was really moving from year to year and within a decade, it could move by like 100 kilometers to the East or to the West. And of course, if that river is flowing far to the East then France is much bigger. And if it’s flowing far to the West, then Germany is much bigger.

Antoine Walter:

And as the Germans were able to domesticate the river, they just domesticated it’s the further on the West side they could. And that way they gained kind of a 100 kilometer land on the French side. And that’s stayed that way for a long time, until there were some big flood events. And then everybody recalled that they were in. I mean, the rain was flowing here and the people were living here, but the Rhine is much stronger than houses or anything you can build in that brings you back to this kind of humility element. And that’s spectacular when we talk about the rain. But when we talk about the rivers within the cities, there’s also that elements, that there’s a good reason why a river is behaving. Like it behaves it’s because that’s a way to slow it down, to give it some chance, to bring some alluviums and to let them there and to settle and everything. And if you put everything into a concrete wall while the velocity is goes through the roof and the risk becomes much higher as well. So it’s somwhat arrogance as a human to say, I can domesticate nature and nature. Doesn’t like arrogance. At some points you have to pay the bill.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

There was always a price to pay. You will never, ever, ever be to the river. However you can dance with it. And that’s the change. I think we’re seeing in this world, you know, to bring it to a big thought, you know, we’re learning to work with nature and dance with our rivers once again, because as you mentioned, when we put our streams into concrete boxes, what we’re getting is we’re, you know, we’re getting, we’re getting convenience. You know, we’re optimizing our engineering design for flow conveyance. One thing that we can get done, but what we’re losing, what we’re losing is so much more to we’re losing the dynamism of the river. We’re losing its ability to, to refresh and restore the land, to return it to life. And what happens when we don’t work in cycles because nature works in cycles, just like we do when we take the cycles away and linearize a natural system so that we can predict it and control it.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

We think at least we lose its ability to regenerate and to restore itself. And that’s what we lost in cities too. You know, there’s this concept of urban stream deserts. Now it’s actually a more recent concept from a researcher, I think, out of Detroit, Michigan USA. [inaudible]. And That [inaudible] has been looking at the concept of urban stream deserts. Are you familiar with the concept of the food desert? Nope. Nope. Okay. So let’s hold the thought of a river has to run free in order to rejuvenate the land. Okay. So hold that for a moment. No, that there’s this parallel concept of the food desert. So when there’s food deserts in say an inner city where people just don’t have access to food, they don’t have easy access to the resources they need to survive. Now, when we don’t have rivers and cities, wait a minute, what did we lose when we put them into concrete boxes?

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Well, well, we lost a lot. We lost access to those critical all environments, those human habitats that help us to recover from stress because okay, there might be a river somewhere in the countryside, but if you don’t have a car, if you’re a person who is living in poverty or working hard or working class person in a city, you don’t have time to drive two hours to a pristine stream in a beautiful country park. You just don’t have that. Which means that you don’t have access to those restorative experiences. Remember a river, a river doesn’t just refresh flood, plain. It refreshes the mind. It restores the mind of people. And so a stream desert is a lack of access to a restorative blue water landscape. We talk about, you know, green scapes, but remember there’s blue scapes too. There’s river scapes. And we lack river scapes in cities.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

When we lacked those river scapes, we’re losing out our people are suffering because we need to be around ideal human habitat and that’s water and forests.

That's the change we're seing in the world. We're learning to work with nature and dance with our rivers once again! A water quote by Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer

Antoine Walter:

Is there a way to quantify that? Where are the studies that try to identify what that meant? I,

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Yes, I cannot give you the exact data right now. I just can’t give it to you off the top of my head, but let me think about this. Let me dig, let me dig deep into my mind for a moment. Like I mentioned, I think it was the net pure all ski studies that really showcased that there was a lack of streams. And of course it was because of stream burial. Now there is some evidence and I was criticized. I was criticized for this during my dissertation defense because you know what, there’s just a lack of evidence, but I believe that there is a way to quantify this and here’s how I would do it.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

And I’m going to draw it to a previous example. So it’s a preview, it’s some work that was done in the early nineties by someone named Alrich. So I’ll lay it out. And then we can talk about, you know, say a South Korea after that, if you wish, because there’s a good example of why that place works too. So anyway, to bring it back to how to quantify this, how do we quantify this? We measure human stress by tracking things like that, you know, monitoring. So we want to monitor people’s, you know, physiology you want to, we want to see how people respond to stress and we can measure various aspects of human experience, uh, cortisol levels, heart rate, and similar, you know, I’m not, I’m not a physiologist, so I can’t give you the exact numbers, but this would be a multidisciplinary study. And then we just examine people who don’t have access to rivers and cities.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

We examine people who do have access to rivers and cities, and then maybe we examine another group that’s living in the country by a river too. And just compare all that data. Of course it would be a wonderful big data project. This would be a huge data science project. So that’s how I would do it. I would look at people’s stress levels and markers for stress within, without rivers, and then say, all right, if, uh, if you have more exposure, if you have greater proximity and more frequent interaction with urban streams or rivers, you’re probably going to be less stressed. And if you’re less stressed, you’re going to be happier and healthier. And you’re going to be able to contribute to society. You’re going to be able to add more to the world because happy healthy people make a better world than what makes a great country and a great world, happy, healthy people who can work together and engage in more complex social behaviors. Because getting back to the idea of energy when you’re not happy and healthy, you’re spending a lot of energy on coping just to manage that stress and of having a river in a city like literally three or four blocks from your house. If you could walk there and it’s easy to go to, you can get there. And it, this is a form of environmental justice. Also, you know, think about the value of a river to environmental justice and social justice and cities. If you feel better,

Antoine Walter:

I fully subscribe to what you said. I really fully subscribing. And that makes a lot of sense in terms of scientific evidence and with the, the, these goal in mind to, to do good for the society. I fully get that. But if I take a bit of cynicism, you know, I’m pretty surprised that we were conscious enough as a society, that nature is so important and that’s the reverse switch important that we started acting on that. And I’m trying to see if there’s not a hidden agenda behind that, because to my understanding, you know, you shortly alluded to COVID and that COVID situation has been referred to a lot, like the first time in history that a humankind is putting health above economy. I dunno if it’s the first time or not, and that’s not my debate. My debate is rather it’s, it’s still surprising to us when we see that we are putting our wellbeing above other considerations. So when you see that movements that people bring back rivers into cities are, you’re just clapping and say, Hey, that’s awesome. Because finally we are putting wellbeing at the top of everything else. Or do you also see probably there’s a hidden agenda and while we can live with the hidden agenda, because what matters is that the rivers come back with their benefits? Well,

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Well guess what, you know, there’s also, I don’t know if it’s a hidden agenda. There’s also evidence out there that restoring rivers and restoring water features in cities has economic value too. So I guess I’ll touch on three points here and I’ll organize these three points according to, you know, the Robert Wood Johnson model of community health. You know, Robert Wood Johnson, I think was from Johnson and Johnson way back when, and the model basically focuses on environment, economy and society. Okay. So when we restore rivers and cities, you know, the Buffalo river in my hometown of course, was, you know, it, it recently got some funding from a program called the great lakes restoration initiative. G L R I, the great lakes restoration initiative did work over the past. I think 25, 30 years, and a number of researchers, I think out of the university of Michigan found that in cities like Buffalo and Detroit, it adds $4 for every $1 spent on restoration work to the economy. So it has economic value. So there’s a one point that’s the economy

Remember: a river doesn't just refresh flood plain. It refreshes the mind! A water quote by Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer

Antoine Walter:

4 on 1, just to be sure I get that right. I mean, every dollar you put in restoration of river gives you a return on money of four

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

One, and guess what? From the data that I’ve seen out of the HARTIG paper, it’s H A R T I G, and others HARTIG the data I’ve seen says that, yeah, the effects are concentrated in cities because of course proximity and yeah, you get four to one, four to one return on investment, and that’s a conservative number. You know, they’re being good scientists, they’re being good scientists figuring out, you know, what is what we can defend. So there it is. Yeah. You restore a river in a city,

Antoine Walter:

Elaborate to that. How do you get this return on, on money? Because it’s, it’s an impressive number.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Let me think about this for a moment. What are the mechanisms by which it, by which it works? Well? I think, I think the simplest way of putting this is that people need places to live, that they enjoy. So how does it work when you restore a river in a city? There’s lots of business development that occurs along it, because think about the effect of say tourism, you know, if you’re going to go to a place you want to spend time in a beautiful place. And a nice looking river is a great place to spend time to. There’s also a lot of recreational benefits too. You know, the recreational benefits of river restoration create healthier people. You know, so it’s opportunities for recreation and a chance to build public health and the numbers that we get come from, I think land value cause land value also goes up there’s economic activity, and then there’s the value of land by restored streams. So it’s a good idea. And I remember reading also, this is actually one of my LinkedIn posts from a while ago. It’s about the stream in Korea. The, how do we pronounce it properly again, the Cheonggyecheon stream. Yes.

Antoine Walter:

I’m glad that you tried it and not me because I was going to say something like Cheonggyecheon, but

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

I always have to remind myself, you know, I’m, I’m human. I have to remind myself of how to say things. Sometimes I admit I am fallible, but I check my hubris at all the points. No, no. Hubris is always just going for the truth, getting back to the rivers and cities. Yeah. That’s how it works. Increases in land value. I think that the HARTIG paper looked at land value and economic exchange. And then of course, there’s the, there’s all these unquantified benefits. You know, we could talk about quantification of the benefits of restoring rivers all day long. There’s all the unquantified benefits of, you know, public health improvements. So just like we used to cover up rivers and cities to improve public health. Now we’re uncovering them and restoring them to improve public health because people feel better around rivers. They’re lower stressed. They want to be there because life happens in places.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

I know we’ve been online for the past year, you know, staring at screens. But the fact is that life happens in person, in real places that are beautiful. And that’s what rivers give us in cities. So that kind of touches on the economic and social aspects of the Robert Wood Johnson model of community health. Then of course, there’s the environmental aspects. And that’s where we get deeper into the idea of say long-term value, you know, rivers, rivers that are able to function as rivers wish to, you know, as rivers, I’m not going to attribute intentions, but I’ll just say wish to, you know, rivers gotta be rivers, right? Just like the Rhine wants to be the Rhine. When they can function that way. We get a return of ecosystem services. So think about how as a river moves across its flood, plain, it deposits alluvium. And that’s where a number of biogeochemical processes take place.

If you have greater proximity and more frequent interaction with urban streams or rivers, you're probably going to be less stressed! A water quote by Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

I spent a year in a biogeochemistry lab a long time ago, looking at things like, you know, hexavalent Chrome reduction, you know, getting rid of toxic metals. But when you have a flood plain, that floodplain can sequester nutrients like phosphorus and provided an opportunity for plants to take up nitrogen. So when a river works, we have a functional wetland and a river. We can actually clean the water too. And that has long-term benefits because if you think about Lake Erie, you know, Buffalo of course is on Lake eerie. You know, there’s lots of nutrient pollution in Lake Erie, and I’m sure there is nutrient pollution and other places around the world, because think about, think of what runoff carries. So if we restore rivers in cities and around cities, they’re going to help us have cleaner lakes too, especially freshwater lakes. So the big, big long-term implication is that when we do a better job with rivers, we’re helping people, helping the environment long-term and helping the economy. It’s a good idea. You know, society moves in cycles one day, we cover it up the next day we open it back up. That’s just how it works.

Antoine Walter:

This opening back. And you shortly mentioned this current example of Cheonggyecheon. Maybe you can explain this a bit more in depth, what that mean, because I think that that’s a good example of the circle and how we are now opening back there that the rivers, but also that there’s not only positive aspects and that probably we still have metrics to improve there, but I’ll let you tell us that the, the story, which is fascinating,

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

The Cheonggyecheon, hopefully I pronounced the name correctly. I apologized to all my Korean friends and colleagues please. Correct.

Antoine Walter:

If someone is listening to that and knows to pronounce it better, we are really, really keen to have some feedback,

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Please. But, so it’s fascinating because I became fascinated with this because it’s a, it’s what I call a semi natural system. It’s sort of an augmented ecosystem. So after the Korean war Seoul is developing, you know, rapidly developing. And at that point, like in a lot of developing nations around the world, economic development is number one, you as a country, want your population to get richer because that’s a way to social improvement, develop your economy. So a lot of industrialization occurred, a highway was built over this stream that was encased in concrete and it served its purpose. You know, business developed industry developed. And then over time, the highway kind of became an eyesore and people, and it was not pleasant. It was not a pleasant place to be. And it was controversial. And I think that his excellency leave young buck. If I pronounce it, you know, he became, I think later the president of South Korea, it was controversial at the time.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

You know, w why are we going to take all this highway? Why, why take off this highway? That is the source of our wealth. You know, we need to connect people to jobs. We need to connect the North side and the South side of seals. So people can get to work and you don’t make money, but as it turned out, it just wasn’t doing the job anymore because the costs of that highway had outweighed the benefits. The highway was getting older, the area was polluted. And of course these costs accrue over time. So the choice was made. The choice was made. Let’s tear down the highway and restore the stream by creating this augmented ecosystem. This semi-natural system, the one that one that we put our energies into as human beings to make it work. So, okay, let’s gets done. And lo and behold, you know, everyone wants to live there.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

The land value goes up. It becomes a site for cultural activity. And what do people really want more than anything else? They want a great place to live, and they want to see each other and be with each other, you know, and this goes to, I think it was a, an a D so it’s an additional insight into why this works and how it works is provided by a report from a company called endeavor, endeavor insight, and the three key findings from endeavor insight on why people want to go to cities. What makes a city a great place to be where you want to do business, right? Cause endeavor deals with entrepreneurship and business. Okay. So businesses want three things. They want a high quality of life for their workers. You know, you gotta have a nice place to live if you’re going to perform at work, right.

There's also evidence that restoring rivers and water features in cities has economic value too. The University of Michigan found that it adds $4 to the economy for every $1 spent! A water quote by Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Access to markets and an educated workforce. And so getting back to the idea of the Cheonggyecheon, so what did we just create there? What did his excellency leave? Young buck, take a, take a chance on and create. He created ideal habitat for people, a place that is low stress and beautiful, so that they’re happier, which means that they’re more economically productive. And then of course, you see the emergence of a number of businesses in the area of the restoration, and it’s this new kind of clean business. It’s sort of a in line with the digital transformation of water that we touched upon a while ago in this conversation. So that’s kind of how it works. It’s a change in how we do economy.

Antoine Walter:

You mentioned it to be a semi natural river. If you look at it just from an economical perspective, semi-natural is probably the best way you fully control the river and still it’s sufficiently blue and open for people to enjoy living next to it. But semi-natural has also its drawback, I guess, for instance, say if you have a concrete basement to your river, like, like in Chung and showing me you don’t have any kind of, of, of life developing within the soil of that river, because th there’s just no soil to that river. So is it kind of a compromise or is it the end goal to have like semi-natural nature?

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

It depends on what you’re going for. Right. It’s always important to think about what your objective is like, what’s the goal. So the goal with Cheonggyecheon was to really make a better place to live in the heart of an industrial area and to help to reconnect the city. So, yeah, it worked, remember you define success according to your goals. And it also sort of proved a point that we can, we can create in partnership with nature, you know, a more natural systems that work. And in a lot of ways, it points towards a richer future of working with nature, not against it, because if we can do it in cities, if we can, if we can create replicable stream processes, you know, river that we know how it works in a more natural way, we can bring rivers back to cities and yeah, that’s, that’s what we’re doing.

Antoine Walter:

But th that element of working with nature is very important here, because actually we touched on flood prevention earlier on, if you have a semi natural river, you’re not really working with a river in terms of flood prevention, you’re working with the river because you bring back some blue and green elements to the city. You bring probably backs with fishes, you’ll bring back some nice area. And I think some analogies between this Cheonggyecheon river and central park in New York, and yes, it is a kind of nature, but now if it rains on that river, if there’s a high precipitations, well that river is just an open canal, if I may say so. So it’s still a concrete base. It’s not going to slow down anything. And I would probably even bet to the opposite. It’s going to going to speed up again, those velocities and all those steps. So is there a better way here as well, or is the compromise?

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

We, and we have the solutions actually in hand, all we have to do is do them. So I mentioned earlier that we have a more complex understanding of how rivers work these days, and we have the technical means. The engineering means to create, you know, not just a semi natural river, but a, you know, a human augmented hydrology. Now, what does that mean? Well, what if we, instead of leaving everything to nature, we designed our own watersheds to be flood resilient. So because we’re running more complex models, complex digital models, and we have a digital twin of our urban semi-natural water system. We know what to do when the rain comes, and this is related to the whole sponges cities concept. We know how to manage that water in a complex and effective way to protect people and deliver ecosystem services in cities. So, yeah, it seems like on the surface, we might be running a lot of risks, but the more we do this, the more that we build with nature using digital regulation, digital modeling, we can do it. We can have the river and protect the city from the flood.

We used to cover up rivers in cities to improve public health. Now we're uncovering them and restoring them... to improve public health! A water quote by Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer

Antoine Walter:

That’s a difficult point actually, because it can be a conflicting point. I remember, you know, when I was doing my engineering studies, I was doing a study on the eco districts of Freiburg in Germany, which was one of the first in Germany. And the Eco district had one simple rule, which was, we have to be able to treat and cover as much water within that area than if it was just open nature. So you have to think of, of green roofs, but also of of just trenches in the middle of the road, where you would have a place for water to, to settle into, into B, to be treated. And this was seen as a huge sign of progress on one end. And on the other hand, as a, as a huge regression, depending on if you had your engineering goggles on, or if you had your environmental goggles on.

Antoine Walter:

And I wonder because I was working in the district, not when it was built and it was built probably 20 or 30 years ago. I wonder if mentality has changed so much that everybody now would agree that this is a way forward and that this is a progress. Or if that still would be a debate to see, you know, we have this engineering capabilities and it’s like giving up what we can just because we say, Hey, nature is, is stronger. Do you think that there’s a consensus around the fact that that is that’s the right way to do things? Or is it still the debates today?

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

I think that it’s still a debate, but the consensus is rapidly changing towards, yes, we can do this and we are doing it because it’s worth it. Right. I remember reading a paper a while ago that related to culture change in agricultural water districts in the Midwestern USA. And what really was preventing change was that practitioners people like, you know, engineers on the ground doing the work, the language of engineers on the ground, doing the work with water systems was not matching the language of the academics, you know, and the academic research engineers. So the problem wasn’t a technical, it was a problem of trust. And so as, as the water landscape in general changes the water management landscape, we’re seeing a greater willingness to adopt new solutions and it’s based upon communication and trust. The problem is not a technical problem. The problem is a problem of communication and getting along and saying, yes, let’s try this and feeling free to make a mistake once in a while, because as an engineer, you know, you don’t want to make mistakes because people’s lives are at risk, but the more that we try solutions and prove that they can work by doing them, as opposed to just modeling them, we will see these changes happen.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

And what we’ll see, I think longterm, this is me just speculating. I can’t predict the future. None of us can. I think that as we begin to quantify the benefits of more natural, urban rivers, more natural flood control, control engineering with nature, better coastal defenses, too. I think that we’ll start to see an emerging consensus that says, yes, we can do this, and we’re doing it together because it’s worth it because the engineers now have the technical means and they can trust them. And they have the evidence to believe it. The folks on the policy side have the data, which says it’s better for people and improves the entire health of the nation or the city or wherever you are. And then of course we have a longterm environmental benefits. So if that makes any sense, I think that we’re going to see the consensus change over time, because we’re getting towards a world that needs to pay more attention to public health and wellness. Because of, as in an age where we don’t know what’s coming next, we’ve got to be smarter and healthier.

Businesses want three things. They want a high quality of life for their workers, access to markets and an educated workforce. A water quote by Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer

Antoine Walter:

There are two things that I like to go a bit deeper in what you just said. Let’s start with the first one. You, you shortly mentioned sponge cities, and that is a fascinating concept, but not everyone might be familiar with it yet. Can you just explain us what sponge cities are, and why they are interesting?

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

I’ll be really quick about it. My pals Shondra, DACA of DACA, Exxon would know a bit more about that, cause he’s done some of the engineering and design work in that area and maybe own Richards from, I think, I think he’s in Perth, in Australia, no way he’s in the South of Australia, but let me get to the point of the sponge city. So think of it. So what sponge city is really do in the simplest form that I can think and explain it as they replicate parts of the natural hydrological cycle. So instead of falling on impervious surface, you know, those trenches and gutters and roads, but water has a longer flow path between say the rooftop of a skyscraper and the natural channel or the semi artificial channel that we built. So a sponges city acts like the land and the watershed should act in a nature like way in a naturalistic way to create a more natural urban hydrological cycle. So the water works more naturally in cities, as opposed to just going, you know, at the speed of light, at the speed of water, into a drain and killing everything around it and washing everything away. That’s called the urban stream syndrome. So sponges cities soak up the water and release it more slowly so that we can have a more natural hydrograph that make any sense? Yeah,

Antoine Walter:

Of course, of course. And where is this concept applied the most? Because what I’ve seen is that there’s quite an intensive use of it in China, but what you described, I mean, what I was saying with the eco district in Germany, it’s not called spawn cities, but it’s the same principles. So maybe it’s just a terminology matter, but it’s this general idea of thinking the city to be kind of transparent. If there would be no city, there wouldn’t be a big hydrological difference. Is that a concept which, which goes everywhere or do you see some, some restrictions or is it something which you can do if you’re rebuilding cities and not having to assume a legacy?

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

It depends upon how far you’re willing to go. I think that in China, if the government says, do it, get it done, people are saying, yes, let’s do it. And they have that kind of support. So in that situation where there’s strong support at all levels of government and the power to do so then yes, we can rebuild entire cities and make them like they’re from nature. Now in say the USA, it’s a little bit more complex, you know, there’s, there’s different levels of governance and people, people might want to be a bit more hesitant because we want to know more first. So what we’re seeing here is we’re seeing, I think phased implementation, we’re seeing green infrastructure, you know, one project at a time going to help to reduce, say storm water inputs to an urban river, but we’re going slower about it. And I think that that is a way to satisfy that need to have a better technical grasp because, you know, we want to protect people and help people participate in the process, more democratically because people want to have their input too, you know, and that’s, that’s, I think one difference.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

So the governmental structure controls how rapidly it might be implemented. And also think about the nature of different places. You know, for example, New York city, not every city is going to get torn down and rebuilt or rebuilt in a new way. Places that are heavily urbanized might just be better thought of is say, you know, sacrifices. You know, we’re not going to have more nature there. We will have central park, but we’re not going to have this fully restored naturalistic, urban hydrology. We’re just going to let that be. And that’s okay. But in other cities and I’ll, I’ll put in a plug for my own hometown in places like Detroit, you know, Buffalo and Detroit are ideal laboratories for experimenting with green and blue infrastructure. Now, why is that? Because in a lot of the old American industrial cities, we have these hollowed out urban cores.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

You know, a lot of the population shifted from the urban core to the suburbs, you know, between 1950 in the 1980s. So what that means is there’s a lot of land area left in these cities that sort of semi abandoned and what that creates is a great opportunity to try innovative green and blue infrastructure solutions. So, you know, you couple that with the known benefits of, you know, great lakes restoration and restoring watercourses along the great lakes, we’ve got a perfect storm for in water infrastructure in America’s old industrial cities. So, you know, I guess I’ll recap there, you know, there is the, get it done type approach that’s China let’s do it. And then there’s of course, you know, you leave Singapore, which is saying, we need water. This is how we’re going to do it. Yes, let’s get it done. So there’s that approach, get it done. Then there’s the, let’s take our time and see where it works. And we see that in parts of the USA and maybe parts of Europe also. And then there is this sort of subset of that, which is we’ll look here are these cities, there’s all this space available. What can we do because it’s not being used for anything else right now. And we want more people to live here, right? So those are three different kinds of approaches.

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20 chapters featuring 19 experts, each one addressing a specific chunk of the water industry cake

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Antoine Walter:

All these approaches, probably not to get it done approach, but the two other approaches, they have to draw on a certain level of water awareness. If people don’t realize the value there is it’s going to get hard to get their approval and to get them to understand and to support the initiative. So I think that’s why it’s important to tell what you said early on, which is like, you know, there, this impressive numbers, when you say that to every dollar, you invest, you, you get $4 back on return on investment because it’s seen, you know if not as a waste okay, it’s good for nature, but yeah. Nature who cares about nature? I’m really being extreme here, but, but that’s important. This awareness is really something which is, which is gold. I think it’s a topic I’ve mentioned quite a lot on that microphone already, but for many people, water appears at the tap and disappears when you flush and everything that happens beside that is not really important.

Antoine Walter:

And you know, there’s this almost urban legend, but I’ve heard it a lot from, from my father-in-law. So I’m going to give him credit that probably had happened. And he was mentioning that once when he was working with children and he asked them to draw a fish, and one of those just draw a fish in a square because for him, a fish was a, you know, Filet of fish from McDonald’s and it doesn’t have really a natural body or in any kind of natural shape of a fish. So I don’t know if this story is true or not, but to me that the water is a bit, same. If you never see it within your natural habitat, if you don’t see it in the city, if you don’t see it because you don’t have the occasion to go out there and to see a river, how it really should look like, then it it’s just, you know, a canal or a fountain or something like that. And that’s not a river. So how can we build this awareness?

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Okay. Yeah, that’s a good point. And I appreciate you bringing that, that went up, Anthony. So the idea behind this is cognitive connectivity. So the connection of our lived experience our mind to water around us right now, I gotta be honest. Like we don’t really see water in our lives. I mean, I’m a sailor. I raised yachts out of the Buffalo yacht club and I I’m a swimmer and I grew up in water. So for me being part of the water is just life. But for a lot of people, it isn’t and disconnection from water is sort of a subset of nature deficit disorder. So we’ve lost this connection because we’re living in boxes ourselves. And I mentioned earlier that know part of, you know, my, my PhD work had a strong philosophical component. Well, let’s talk about Heidegger for a second. There’s this, this concept called [inaudible] the idea of in framing and just like you mentioned efficiency a square, why is that fish square?

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

It’s because it’s literally been in framed by the industrial process of, you know, fish, hunting, fishing, and that child only sees fish in this way as a finished product. So how do we change that? And why do we change it? Well, we change it because it’s worth it as we’ve talked about earlier, but how do we change it for people? It’s about cultural change. Remember it begins with culture, it begins with communication and culture. And this was a thing that came up somewhere on LinkedIn. Oh God, what was it? Patrick? Decker of Xylem said something about how do we reconnect people to water? And it had something to do with one of Alex ethic, Alex Pacino’s posts, and there’s this sort of negative reconnection, which is, Oh, what if the taps run dry? That’s scary though. You know, that’s the negative. That doesn’t seem like a lot of fun.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Like I don’t, I don’t want to live in a world where there’s crew, there’s no water and it’s a parched landscape and we’re all dying. That sounds terrible, but there’s a fun way to do it too. And the fun way to do it is to have fun with water. So the way to do that is to bring people in connection with water, through say their devices, how do we present fun water scenes? Hey, you’re a person you want to go have a good time. We’re doing this thing by the water or on the water. We’re going to have a big party. And I know that there’s water festivals in very, in various parts of the world, you know, world water day is, is, you know, on the spring Equinox, the Vernal Equinox in the North. And why are we having event? It’s still cold? Why don’t we have water day in the North?

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20 chapters featuring 19 experts, each one addressing a specific chunk of the water industry cake

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Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

You know, in the middle of summer when it’s hot, when everyone’s taking a vacation and use that sort of cultural mechanism to say, remember, if you want to hang out on these hot days, this is where you do it. And it’s a good time. And you had a great time with people. So how can we advocate for water through cultural narratives, remember stories, shape belief, dictating action. Our stories. Tell us how to live. Just like Songlines in Australia. So what are our Songlines for water? And how can we tell new stories? How can we tell new and positive stories that will reconnect us to water? Because that’s where it begins. And it begins with children and it begins with fun because between the carrot and the stick, the stick being, Oh, there’s no more water coming out of the taps. And the carrot saying water is sweet.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

The carrots a lot sweeter. I think that fun is a great motivator for change. Having a good time because it’s positive and people become invested. Now, people follow fund, and if we make water fun and we make it relevant to people’s lives through helping people to reconnect through all of their various social media, through all of their digital devices, through all of our action activities. And we tell stories where people can see themselves in the water, they can see themselves as part of a water landscape. And as somebody who cares about the water, then we will see a sea change, you know, no pun intended, but we’ll see a sea change in water because water will become relevant again, to people’s lives in a positive and meaningful way. And then from there we get major change. I suspect just one idea.

Antoine Walter:

What’s you role in that story?

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

I’m working on it. So I’ll tell you. So I realized when I completed my, my PhD, when I finished my doctorate, I defended my dissertation. I realized that my goal is to do something about this, right? Because I’ve seen too much sickness and too much sadness in this world. And I’ve seen too much dirty water and unhappy people and just cities falling apart. And so what I’ve been working on lately, as I’m working out a number of ideas to kind of create a, you know, a water incubator, not your classic water technology incubator, but you know, an incubator that focuses on solving water problems in the city of Buffalo, how do we help our local sewer and water supply systems? How do we help them make cleaner water? You know, how do we, and then how do we provide the arguments and the data and the reasoning and the fun of course, to say, let’s all get into this together.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

So that’s, that’s what I’m working on right now. I actually wrote up, I put this idea out there called water 31, and I’ll be honest, you know, water 31 is a really rough idea. It’s a really rough idea. And it’s probably not going to keep being called water 31 because you know, it needs a better name. It needs something that’s more, more fun and more functional. But the basic idea is that we’re not solving water problems just for making money. We’re solving them for social reasons and for environmental reasons. And we can prove that over time. Another thing I’m working on is a project that I am tentatively calling the waterways project, and this is all stuff that’s going on, kind of behind the scenes of my own life. But waterways project is really about telling the story of water through the story of people, because how do you connect people in water?

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Well, you connect people in water in stories because again, you know, stories, stories, shape belief, dictating action. So the waterways project is related to themes such as social justice and freedom. So there’s a, there’s an underground railroad. You know, the underground railroad was a path by which enslaved people found freedom in the United, in the United States. They would go from the South, through the North, into Canada, where they had freedom. And you know, I’m a free Mason too. So I’m all about, you know, we are human beings. We are one people and we live for freedom and free will. So the story that connects water to people through the underground railroad and freedom is about the Niagara river at Niagara falls, because remember just like the Ryan between France and Germany, the Niagara river was literally the last crossing to freedom for enslaved people, seeking freedom.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

And as soon as you got across that river, you were in Canada. And so the water becomes a context and it showcases just how important, how important water is in our history and in the struggle for freedom and justice in our world. That’s something that I plan to work on more in may and that one’s called the waterways project and it gets to some of that positivity in water. And it creates that context for people to become aware of water. Because if you put water in people’s faces and say, here, look at water, look at water. They’re going to say, why should I look at water? And I’ll say, well, look at this story about people and see what water did with it on the outskirts. You know, don’t be direct about it, create a context, the contextual value of water. So that’s what I’m up to my goal is to drive transformational change in the water world over time. I want to solve water.

Antoine Walter:

That’s an awesome mission. I’m really interested in, into your, your concept of, of Water 31 hour, of course, the waterways project as well. But you mentioned that that’s coming later, so I’d have to stay awake to see it happening, but you, you mentioned water incubator and I liked you to just, you can just elaborate a bit more about that one, because that’s really intriguing to me. How does that translate in practical steps?

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Well, in practical steps, you know, the first step is to develop the idea into a, an operational idea, an idea that could be done. So we’re to, so how do we do that? Do you have, I D you know, I don’t really have a concrete example, but you know, maybe I can have a parallel example. So here’s another way of thinking of it. Where did Silicon Valley come from? Did it just come out of nowhere overnight? No. Back in, I think the 1960s and, you know, I don’t have all the names, correct. This is a story I heard from a gentleman named Tom Khaleel from Schmidt futures years ago. I have my, my boss sent me to San Francisco to attend a meeting with you know, citizen schools when I was doing education work. And he told this great story about how, how do you do development?

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20 chapters featuring 19 experts, each one addressing a specific chunk of the water industry cake

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Book Cover: Don't Waste Water Podcast, Season 1 in a nutshell

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Where did tech come from? And so Silicon Valley was built by concentrating people, people, money, and ideas. So that’s the first real step. You got to take people who have ideas and time and put them together in proximity. And in this case, you know, I would be focusing on water and then you’ve got to give them problems to solve and the creative energy and the support to get it done. So that’s how incubation works. You walk in the door and say, I’ve got a water idea. And then we say, all right, let’s figure out what problem we’re solving with it. Is it a problem that is a problem that has economic value? Is it a problem that has economic and social value? Does it have environmental value? And then how do we create the right kind of organizational structure? You know, what kind of structure is going to get the job done?

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Is it a corporation that’s for-profit, is it a w you know, in the United States, we have these things called benefit corporations, I think called certified B corporations. You know, I’m not expert in this area, but I’m learning, of course, is that a company that isn’t trying to make a ton of money, but you know, wants to be solvent charged for its services or for its products, or is it going to be, you know, a nonprofit organization? So those are the three vehicles that we have, you know, I got a water idea. I’ve walked in the door. All right, well, what problem are we solving? Okay, we’ve defined a problem. We declared definition for the problem. Then what’s our vehicle. Is it going to be for profit, maybe some profit, like, you know, B corporation, or is it going to be non-for-profit and how are we going to do that?

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

That follows the typical model of say technology incubators. Then after that comes the really hard work, which is just figuring out how are you going to get the idea funded? Where’s the funding going to come from? Do you go to venture capital? Because venture capital, from what I know typically wants, you know, they want growth, they want massive growth. They want to make profit. That’s okay. You know, that’s part of the deal. We were all in the world together, or is it something that’s more innovative? You know, are we going to use something like crowdsourcing? Are we going to, you know, provide crowdsource investors, if that’s the right word for it, are we gonna provide them with, you know, just feel good? You know, I’m going to put some money in because I want to see this work. So that’s sort of like a, I guess, a passionate investment that there’s equity investors, you know, people who put money in who want a stake in the company that there’s people who are putting in for profit, you know, they’re, I think they’re I forgot what they’re called, but there’s similar to venture capital, but on a smaller scale.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

So there’s that, you know, we have our for-profit model with venture capital. We have say a hybrid model, which involves some, some degree of crowdsource funding. And then of course, there’s the, you know, the other end of it, which is sort of this government funding, that’s called push the idea of push investment is that we’ve decided that it’s the right thing to do. We know that it’s worth it, or we, we agree that it’s worth it. And we’re going to put money into that. And so money for that push investment can come from government sources. It can come from private foundations and other things like that. So we’ve gone from the idea to the problem, to the vehicle, and then the types of funding mechanisms to get the vehicle, the vehicle off the ground. And then after that, we just have time and trial and error, because the only way to successfully solve water is going to be to go into the field and see if it works, you know, and why do it in a place like Buffalo, New York, because there’s opportunity here because it’s inexpensive to live here and we’re sitting the great lakes are 20% of the Earth’s fresh water, and they could use a hand being cleaned up and taken care of because there’s a lot of value there.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

So that’s kind of how I’m approaching it. Hopefully that makes some sense.

Antoine Walter:

That makes a lot of sense, too. That, that gets me really curious about the next step. So whenever you hit your, your next milestone, I’d be really, really happy to take that as a, as a deep dive, because that sounds really fascinating. I’m working on it, seeing the birth of something, you know, it’s really interesting.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Think of it like this. Elon Musk wants to take us to Mars, right? Get us to Mars. Well, when we go to Mars, I want to build a home there for us, and if we could figure out how to take care of our water on earth, remember water means life. Water means food. Water means functioning ecosystems. This is the big, crazy, this is the craziest idea. And actually this is the totally crazy pie in the sky idea. If we can figure out water on earth, how to manage it with nature, like nature, using whatever technologies and tools we can discover and create, we might have the beginnings of a way to not just restore our fresh water resources, like the RLC and the great lakes on earth. We might have the beginnings of a way to Terraform parts of Mars from the ground up. Remember terraforming. Isn’t just huge geoengineering projects. It’s little stuff too. Like how do we create a small watershed? So that’s the big, crazy goal. Elon Musk wants to take us to Mars. I want to give us a home. We get there. That’s crazy. But

Antoine Walter:

Think of it, because right now all the inspiration about Maurice is to find water and Morrison were looking for water and Morrison. We don’t really care about water on earth, which is kind of ironic when you think of it. But I like your positive way to look at things, which is okay, we’re looking for water on Mars and you’re looking at ways to make something positive out of it. So, yeah, I think that makes an awesome conclusion to this deep dive. If it’s fine with you, I propose you to switch to the rapid fire questions.

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Oh yeah, of course. I would love to. Thank you so much.

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17+ hours of tips, technical advice, business hints, entrepreneurial inspiration, and market insights condensed in a MASSIVE 94 PAGES INFOGRAPHIC

20 chapters featuring 19 experts, each one addressing a specific chunk of the water industry cake

An evergreen source of Water Expertise at your fingertips to support you through 2021 and the years to come

Book Cover: Don't Waste Water Podcast, Season 1 in a nutshell

Rapid fire questions.

Antoine Walter:

The rules of rapid fire questions are always the same. I try to keep the questions short and it would be awesome if you keep the answers short as well, but don’t worry. I’m not cutting the microphone. If there’s something you want to express, you’re free to do it. So my first question would be what is the most exciting project you’ve been working on and why?

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Oh, the most exciting project is this Seminole water, 31 idea. And why? Because I’m passionate about it and it gets me jazzed. That’s why,

Antoine Walter:

What’s your favorite part of your current job?

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

For part of my current job is that I’m inventing a job for myself. You know, I’ve been looking for work for wow, almost two years now. And I realized that I just have to invent a job for myself. And so that’s what I’m doing. It’s great. It’s scary, but it’s great.

Antoine Walter:

No, some creativity in it. I can get it that it’s scary, but you know I think that’s something I’ve already discussed several times on that microphone. So I’m not going to bore too much everybody about it. But you know, when I was studying, when I did my water studies, to me, it wasn’t an option to create your job. It wasn’t an option to create anything. It was just, you know, you follow what’s what’s existing. And to me, it’s also been refreshing to see people which are actively carving out their path. So yeah admiring all the, the, the people that do that to activities. So I’m admiring you for that. What’s the trends to watch out in this industry. It’s

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Really three things I think that we should be looking at in the water industry in general. A big one is diversity in water. Now that’s important because new people, new ideas, new ways of looking at things, new solutions to bigger and more complex problems. So diversity of water is one. And while lead, Corey has mentioned that before also of course, it’s keep an eye on digital transformation, you know, just keep, keep an eye on what’s happening with the digitization of the water sector. You know, as we see more internet of things, solutions roll out and we see more digital twinning of our water systems, I would expect to see a lot of growth in that area. And beyond that, I would really focus on things like looking at control systems, you know, an optimization of our water systems. And then let’s see, what else was the third one?

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

I was thinking of off hand. I brought, I wrote down some notes beforehand. Oh yeah. Here’s another one. This one’s kind of a fun one, forensic hydrology, you know, looking at the past hydrology of cities. And why would I look at that? Because guess what, as we can do a better job of bringing rivers back to cities, we’ve got to know where those old watercourses were, because guess what, why reinvent the wheel? If we can just open up an old watercourse and rewater it, half the work’s done for us. So the three are diversity in water, digital transformation and forensic hydrology.

Antoine Walter:

Sorry, I have to sidetrack here. Is there a dichotomy between these elements of digital transformation, which brings internet of things which brings, I mean, name it, there’s all this buzz words, machine learning, artificial intelligence, whatever modeling to a certain extent. And does it build for a dichotomy between that and the fact that you want to put the human at the center of everything and to tell stories and to, to see the connection between the human and the water. So somehow we want to, to find back this millennial old contact we had between water and humans and on the other ends, a tool for that is digital transformation. Is there a disconnect or is it something I’m missing here?

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Our tools are only as smart as our people, so they go hand in hand the way for us to reconnect with nature, to reconnect with water is, I guess I’ll use the word paradoxically or ironically again is through those devices. You know, the only way to get there is through reconnecting through the digital, because it helps us to see the bigger picture, which we can’t see in our own limited perception. You know, all we see is the water coming in and out of the tap, but with digital, you know, with digital models, we can see more. So I think over time with that, we will see a greater, a greater set of opportunities to reconnect with water because we work with our tools as one system, you know, think of it like the analogy is human augmentation, you know, using digital devices to enhance our minds, to enhance our memory, to enhance our functioning. Human is the human side of it. And then there’s this other idea of ecological augmentation and water is a big part of ecological augmentation, you know, using drones, digital tools to create. This is another crazy idea, cybernetic ecology, you know, in ecology that is composed of humans, machines and nature, because that’s, that’s the future. We are one system

Get Season 1's Summary!

17+ hours of tips, technical advice, business hints, entrepreneurial inspiration, and market insights condensed in a MASSIVE 94 PAGES INFOGRAPHIC

20 chapters featuring 19 experts, each one addressing a specific chunk of the water industry cake

An evergreen source of Water Expertise at your fingertips to support you through 2021 and the years to come

Book Cover: Don't Waste Water Podcast, Season 1 in a nutshell

Antoine Walter:

It’s interesting. I can see a trend with my guests to come with very fascinating topic like that one at the very end of of conversations. And then I know that if I, if I embark on that route, then we’re, we’re good for another hour on that same microphone who who came in the rapid fire question with the concept of blockchain within within sustainable development and blockchain with the carbon footprint. And that’s a fascinating topic, but if I enter now your concept of cybernetic, ecology, I mean, it’s never ending. So let me put them on ice and we probably have to follow up at some point with that one. I’d love to, let me bring you back on track with my, my rapid for questions. Do you have sources to recommend to keep up with the water industry and the trends

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

I’ve been really focused on academic reading, but I would say you don’t check out Smartwater magazine. I had a really good experience publishing an article, a Smartwater magazine, and also keep an eye on, at least in the USA, keep an eye on what’s going on with the Biden administration. You know, there there’s been some recent talk of investment in water, and I think it’s going to be a positive thing. So look at those two things. And of course, you know, check the academic journals too, because that’s where all the cutting-edge stuff.

Antoine Walter:

Yeah. Actually $111 billion investments in water infrastructure. I mean, I hope that’s an example of how people want to go out of this, this full COVID period, because probably investment is going to be an important part of it. And if we can leverage the opportunity to invest into our water systems, then probably it’s a win-win. But again, if we enter that route I’m sidetracking you again. Last question. Would you have someone to recommend that we should definitely invite on that same microphone?

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Yes, I do. I I say, is it okay if I give a few different recommendations? Of course. Well, let’s see who comes to mind. Right, right now, if you haven’t already talked with them, [inaudible] is a passionate man for his work in India, dealing with, you know, dealing with wastewater. And so he’s somebody who honestly, he’s gold. He knows the scene and he can talk about it intelligently as an expert from, from the Indian Waterworld. Then of course, there’s there’s two folks in Australia that I can think of. There’s there’s Olin Richards, who is somewhere in the South of Australia. I can’t remember. I think it’s, I think he’s near Melbourne. And then there is a Craig from Perth who dealing with some innovative sort of water for stormwater. And then there’s Denise, Denise, either hall or mall from South Africa then there’s Oh, what’s, what’s his name? Oh, I forgot his name. Oh, he’s an. He’s a guy. I had a conversation with him about blockchain and accountability for water, you know, a few weeks ago. Is it Viro, Sean, you have [inaudible] whose name was last time? I can’t remember who is also from South Africa. Vira Sean would be an excellent followup to Nicola on the whole blockchain water accountability type talk. It sounds like I have a nice schedule for the next week. Awesome.

Antoine Walter:

Well, my last question if people want to follow up with you, where can I redirect them?

Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer:

Well, the best thing to do is just, you know, get ahold of me, get ahold of me on LinkedIn. I took it Easter break, but I, I regularly check LinkedIn or I’ll, I’ll give my email address and people can feel free to email me if they wish, you know, the truth is Anthony. I love to talk with people. I love, I love having conversations about water and all the intersections of water. So please, I encourage people to talk and I always have, I always have the time of day to talk about water. Awesome. That makes for the best conclusion there is. So thanks. Thanks for your time. Thanks for all the valuable inputs that you’ve, you’ve shared this today. And I think we have some follow ups to schedule in the future to follow your ventures and to probe a deep dive into this, this topic of of augmented ecology, whatever you want to call it. But it’s really interesting. Well, I’m honored and humbled that you invited me to this interview and it has been a tremendous pleasure, Anthony. It has been a tremendous pleasure to have this conversation, and I certainly hope that in the near future, we’ll follow up again and we’ll talk further because there’s a lot of work to do you don’t sir.

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