Going the Distance An Interview with Live Earth CEO Kevin Wall

Unsafe drinking water kills more people each year than wars and violent conflicts, and it is estimated that by 2025, nearly two-thirds of the world population will be affected by water-stressed conditions Unlikely partners Live Earth—the eco-consciousness raising concert—and Dow—the chemical company—have teamed up to create the worldwide Dow Live Earth Run for Water on April 18th. The event will consist of a series of 6 km run/walks (the average distance many women and children walk every day to secure water) along with concerts and activities to raise awareness and support towards solving the global water crisis. E spoke with Emmy Award-winning producer and activist Kevin Wall, the founder and CEO of Live Earth, to talk more about the world’s water issues.

E Magazine: Tell us about the creation of the Run for Water event.

Kevin Wall of Live EarthKevin Wall: We thought about what breast cancer walks and runs do and we thought if we did that on a larger scale, in 60-80 countries, all in the same day, that it would be getting people out committed to something, talking about something, and ultimately, making changes in their own lives. So it is the beginning of what we hope will continue, in some [places], as a yearly event.

E: So many Americans have easy access to potable water, many don’t even realize that clean water access is such a problem.

K.W.: I think we need to connect with people here about basic water conservation. We also need to get them thinking about what it means when we say an average person—primarily women—in places in Africa, walk 6 km every day for five gallons of basic drinking water. So we’re going to really work both on our television special and on the runs themselves to connect those dots.

E: There’s a common assumption that water scarcity is an issue that only affects developing countries. What would you say to that?

K.W.: Because developing countries have never had the infrastructure or the sophisticated management that European and American cities have had, it is true that they’re affected earlier, and they’re being affected the most right now. [But] looking 20-25 years out, there will be disasters in other places. [California Governor Arnold] Schwarzenegger has said if there’s ever a disaster with our aqueduct systems, southern California’s screwed. So it really is a major crisis just around the corner, and it’s important that as we expand as a population from six billion people to nine billion people that we start to get better about our management, our conservation and our redeployment of these precious water resources.

E: What are some of the main impediments to safe drinking water access across the world?

K.W.: Some are about mismanagement; some are about climate crisis and relocation of resources. Some are just about infrastructure not being there to provide safe water that’s been sheltered.

E: How solvable is the overall problem?

K.W.: There are real challenges in weather-related water areas, but [many of] the challenges are solvable today just like mosquito nets make malaria a manageable issue. But we’re going in the wrong direction. We need to educate [and] we need to continue to provide funding for infrastructure.