News Feature | January 14, 2016

'50 Shades of Grey' For The Water Industry

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

In her new novel Water, Jennifer Wilson sets a tale of romantic intrigue in an unusual location: a water utility, where a water manager is at the center of a spicy love triangle.

It’s all part of an effort to educate locals about the heated water quality debate in Iowa.

The novel follows a Des Moines Tribune reporter covering water pollution in the state, where farm runoff and water quality are polarizing issues. The character has a romantic relationship with her main source: the director of Des Moines Water Works.

The novel centers on “pollution, politics and power,” The Des Moines Register recently reported. “While the novel is fictional, Wilson’s goal is to teach Midwesterners about real water quality issues by offering a story they would actually want to read.”

The target audience is members of the public who might hesitate before picking up a book about nitrates. As The Des Moines Register recently asked: “Have you been meaning to educate yourself about Iowa’s bitter water quality fight, but find there’s just not enough sex involved to keep your attention?”

Wilson knows that outside the water industry, nitrates and runoff are not always intriguing issues. “By putting it in the backdrop of a really great love story with some sex scenes, it makes it a hell of a lot easier to learn a science lesson,” she said.

Wilson says the water quality debate in her state is of pivotal importance. “I really do believe this is a battle for the soul of the state,” she said. “I want people to understand the topic in a way that is well-rounded, and I want everybody to push for a progressive solution for Iowa.”

Here’s how the book is summed up on its cover, per the Register: “Wish ‘50 Shades of Grey’ had more science? Well this sexy romp filters nitrates and water politics though the soil of lust and lost ideals.”

In the real water quality debate, much of the action has centered on courtrooms rather than bedrooms this past year.

“Des Moines Water Works filed suit in March, claiming the boards of supervisors of Buena Vista, Sac and Calhoun counties, serving as trustees of the drainage districts within their borders, are violating the federal Clean Water Act by not doing enough to reduce the amount of nitrates in water that runs into the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers and their tributaries, the primary source of water for Des Moines,” the Sioux City Journal reported.

Nitrate levels are up in Des Moines. “An agribusiness group said [in November] that data from more than half of 45 water monitoring sites on the Raccoon River show the highest average nitrate levels in 10 years of data collections,” The Des Moines Register reported.

For the most innovative ideas for communicating water issues with consumers, visit Water Online’s Consumer Outreach Solutions Center.