How A Sexy Thriller Could Get People To Care About Their Water

On the first page of Iowa author Jennifer Wilson’s new novel, Water, reporter Freja Folsom is assigned a story about a man who is illegally pumping his own water from a city aquifer. Freja is incredulous.

“Water is free. Stories about nature are boring. And I fell asleep for a second when you said the word ‘aquifer,'” Folsom says.

Many people, even in our post-Flint world, can probably relate. Water quality isn’t typically the stuff of go-to conversational fare. So that’s why Wilson, a former investigative journalist, has set her depiction of one state’s struggle for safe water against the backdrop of a “sexy romp.” Consider it Erin Brockovich meets Fifty Shades.

Sex scenes aside, the fictionalized struggle has roots that are very real. Last month, the Des Moines water utility announced that it will cease dumping the nitrates it removes from the area’s drinking water back into a local river. The utility is also in the middle of a controversial lawsuit that has targeted upstream farmland communities as responsible for the buildup of nitrates in the first place.

The problem isn’t limited to Des Moines either. Some 60 Iowa cities and towns have dealt with excessive levels of nitrates in their water in recent years, a problem that has been linked to health issues such as “blue-baby syndrome” among infants in particular.

So, can a sexy thriller help turn more readers onto water activism? The Huffington Post recently spoke with Wilson.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

This is an unusual approach to a subject that can get pretty wonky. Given the seriousness of this issue, what do you say to folks who might say it’s a bit silly?

I think you have to read the book to see that fictionalizing the —> Read More