World Water Day And Water Crisis In California

San Francisco

San Francisco

Today is World Water day and naturally there are lots of stories, photo essays and interviews about water and how millions of people around the world have no access to water. The hashtag #worldwaterday is trending on social media and is helping create awareness about water right from paucity of water to how to solve the problem of water.

For folks in California we are consumed with our own water crisis. California is entering its fourth year of drought. A lot has been written and discussed about California’s drought that you can read here, here and here.

Is the state going to run out of water? That was the headline that dominated the news a few days ago when Jay Famiglietti wrote an op-ed in Los Angeles Times (LA Times) about California’s water crisis. He wrote:

Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.

Familglietti  is a hydrologist senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech and a professor of Earth system science at UC Irvine. He is working on a book about the disappearance of ground water all over the world.

Apparently that comment of Famiglietti was misunderstood as this Los Angeles Times article explains.

Famiglietti said it gave some the false impression that California is at risk of exhausting its water supplies. The satellite data he cited, which measure a wide variety of water resources, show “we are way worse off this year than last year,” he said. “But we’re not going to run out of water in 2016,” because decades worth of groundwater remain.

So, California is not going to run out of water but that there is a water problem in the state. Governor Jerry Brown recently announced a $1 billion relief package,  then there is the restriction on watering your lawns. Some folks have been talking about rationing water, but the question is how do you effectively implement and monitor such a solution?

While policy makers are figuring out how to handle the water crisis there are innovators, technologists and entrepreneurs, who are focussed on finding solutions to handle this on-going water crisis. For instance there is Dean Kamen’s “Slighshot” that can take any kind of water and produce potable water.  Here is a video interview I did with filmmaker Paul Lazarus about Kamen’s invention.


Video: Paul Lazarus on Dean Kamen and Slinghsot

Filmmaker Paul Lazarus has a new documentary Dean Kamena prolific, enterprising innovator and inventor. Kamen created the Segway. But, that is just one of his inventions, he has many more inventions in the medical and other field. All Kamen does day in and day out is dream of new inventions, prototype, tweak, tweak, tweak and then introduce them to the world. While this process may seem easy, it requires a lot of dedication, patience and hard work and above all laser-sharp focus. And that is the Kamen we see in this new documentary “Slingshot” by Lazarus. You can put any kind of water from any source and Slingshot will filter all the impurities and gunk and give you clean, potable water adds Lazarus.

In “Slingshot” we see how Kamen struggles with an idea to create an economical and efficient water filtering system to be used in Africa and Asia. Potable water is a distant pipe dream to millions of people in many countries around the world. And water, points out Kamen is the main source of many of the diseases in the world. By providing clean drinking water you can reduce the instances of various diseases and let people lead a healthier and normal life and that is the goal that Kamen is trying to get to through his invention – Slingshot.

Entrepreneurship is often seen through a sexy lens of doing what you want, raising money, going IPO or staying private and making boatloads of money. But is that what an entrepreneur’s life is about?  Entrepreneurship is a “messy” process as Kamen points out in the film. It is interesting to see that even a successful and proven entrepreneur like Kamen has to struggle to find traction with investors for this new water filtering system. He finally succeeds by working with Coca-Cola. By partnering with Coco-Cola Kamen and his team take Slingshot, an economical and efficient water filtering system to different parts of Africa.

We caught up with Lazarus at the 2014 Cinequest Film Festival to talk about what got him interested in making this film and about Kamen’s single-minded dedication to his work. Apparently Kamen has visited a grocery store just a couple of times in his lifetime. Now, how is that for single-minded focus and dedication?

Here is our extended interview with Lazarus.


Video: Paul Lazarus on Dean Kamen

Filmmaker Paul Lazarus’s new documentary “Slingshot” made its global premier at this year’s Cinequest Film Festival.  The film was a clear success with the audience judging from the standing ovation it received. I caught up with Lazarus to find out how and why he made this film and why water? How does Kamen do what he does with that astonishing focus? How doe he keep at it every day of the week? Would you not like to know that? Innovation is a messy business points out Kamen, and yet he is at it everyday. And how does Kamen get to lead his childhood dream? Many of us dream about it, but very few get to lead that childhood dream and Kamen is one of them. You can watch the highlights of the interview with Lazarus, and we have a longer, in-depth interview coming up.

“Slingshot” is an in-depth profile of Dean Kamen and his quest to invent and introduce an economical and efficient water filter system. Water, a fundamental requirement for every human being, is still not easily available to millions of people around the world. Millions of peoples still can’t turn a tap on to get a glass of potable water. They have to travel to a nearby well, pump or spring to get their pot of potable water. Why do people have to travel to get water. How can water be made available in an accessible way is the question that Kamen thought about and came up with a solution. By finding a solution to the water problem you minimize the cause of major diseases in the world points out Kamen in the film.

After years of diligent work Kamen and his team succeeded in creating a water filter that can take any kind of water and turn it into clean, potable water. “Slingshot” traces that difficult and arduous journey of Kamen, a successful and prolific inventor and entrepreneur. Being successful did not easily translate into traction for the product as we discover in the film. He and his team go through many iterations before they they find the right solution. You would think that such a solution would be easy to distribute and install. But, that is not the case. Kamen struggles and eventually ends up teaming up with Coco-Cola, who have a well-established global distribution channel.