National Geographic : 1993 Nov 30
mismanagement that we report on here are reasons for alarm. But we cannot stiply call the condition of this continent's fresh water a crisis. We are so familiar with proclamations of environmental despair that this would be just another shout in what has become an almost meaningless chorus. This is no tidy emergency that can be fixed overnighthby an enlightened Con gress. What we saw is more profound. The story of water is complex. In our year on the water beat we covered a suc cession of disasters, cuiosities, changes, conflicts, innovations, and unknowns. Each of those issues was, in the way of water, large. But though some spanned entire regions, and some were even international, all were specific to a place or a type of environment. While the concerns of Seat tle, Toronto, and New York might be simi lar, they are not the same as those of Mexico City, or Alaska, or Baton Rouge. Nor was the picture uniformly bleak: There are reports of triumph here too. These many scenes, as you add them up, begin to tell a single story. They tell us that a change is coming-a fundamental change in the way we use, see, and think about water. And though it may be pro found, it is a change that all of us, through our own actions, will influence. Whether we like it or not, it is already happening. As I stood by the Skeena River that day, chilled by the rain, watching the flood, I knew at least the first part of that change: Itisno longer possible to ignore fresh water. The story begins, as it must, in the clouds.