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March 11, 2008

About the cover story

LEO planned this week’s cover package before the Associated Press report detailing the growing incidence of pharmaceuticals in our water supply. We were motivated by the approach of World Water Day, on March 22, and a general sense that water, more now than ever, is an increasingly urgent — and controversial — topic.You saw it in Atlanta last year — a major metropolitan area terrified it would run out. You see it out west, where governments fight over rivers that run through multiple states. You see it in efforts to privatize water supplies, and in the growing number of stories about tainted water.In some sense, we are damned by our own success. We turn on a tap and water comes out. If we lived in the Third World, where you have to seek out water and haul it while worrying whether it will kill you, well, our perspective would change.I always chuckle over the dialogue in the film “Dr. Strangelove,” where a paranoid general is convinced that fluoridization of the water supply is actually a communist plot to steal our precious essence. Google “our precious essence” and it returns endless stories about water.One of the best things I’ve seen on the topic is “Cadillac Dessert,” a book and public TV miniseries about dam-building in the American west during the 20th century. It’s a classic case of trying to control the uncontrollable, and just because we get away with it for a while doesn’t mean we always will. (The book, written by the late journalist Marc Reisner, is still in print, but the TV series has not been reissued on DVD. I’m hoping.)I encourage you to read our cover package, and perhaps find the book. Get informed. —Cary Stemle