Water Surfaces as a Story Only When It Floods

Dehmer, Dagmar
March 2005
Nieman Reports;Spring2005, Vol. 59 Issue 1, p58
This article focuses on the lack of attention given to news coverage concerning water issues as of March 2005. The mere mention of water issues can cause experts in international conflict management to wrinkle their foreheads. And it can bring politicians into serious discussions of future armed conflicts. But what it seldom does is create excitement within a newsroom about a story for tomorrow's newspaper. In Europe, journalists don't have a lot of chances to write about the problems of water management involving the continent's many river systems. The only time water stories seem to be wanted--and then everyone wants them immediately--is when a river overflows in some spectacular manner, as it happened in 2002 with the Elbe River as it moved through Germany on its way toward the North Sea. Some 20 years ago this situation was very different. After a huge accident on the Rhine River, when a fire occurred at one of the Basel chemical factories of Sandoz (now Novartis) and thousands of liters of poisoned water flew into the river, water coverage was a priority. With a huge number of fish dying after this accident, years of recovery were needed. And what was involved in that changed a lot about European water management.


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