After hiking for seven days in 140-degree weather around Namibia’s Brandberg Mountain, Mark Jenkins wanted a tall, cold glass of water. When he returned to Windhoek, the country’s capital, he downed glass after glass of what the waitress called the “best water in the world.”

Jenkins didn’t know at the time, but Windhoek’s water is entirely recycled — sewage to tap. That may sound feculent, but Namibia’s quality standards are actually much higher than the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Windhoek has been recycling their water for 50 years,” Jenkins said. “They are the world’s leader in water recycling, and that’s because they’ve been dealing with scarcity forever.”

Jenkins had traveled to Namibia on assignment with National Geographic to study the ancient rock paintings on Brandberg. But as he climbed higher on “fire mountain,” Jenkins’ story became a more complex look into water and water scarcity.

“It’s a story about the extraordinary technical ability of these artists and what they could do thousands of years ago. But it’s also a story about why they were up there in the first place, which was to find water.”

Jenkins will share his stories from Namibia for his annual “World to Wyoming” lecture from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the National Museum of Wildlife Art. The lecture is free.

“Wyoming needs to care about these issues,” he said. “We are connected to the world.”

Jenkins grew up in Laramie, and now works as a writer in residence at the University of Wyoming when he’s not traveling around the world to write for National Geographic. For the past 10 years he has brought stories from his travels back to his home state.

“This is one of the points of World to Wyoming — it’s for people to start thinking more globally and to recognize that what we do in this state matters,” he said.

Water, in particular, is a pertinent issue for Wyoming residents. Watershed states like Wyoming and Colorado supply water-scarce states — Arizona, Nevada and California — with enormous amounts of water. Water scarcity may not be an issue for Wyoming now, but as annual snowpack decreases and glacier reservoirs recede, the state will need to come up with solutions, Jenkins said.

“The West has been in a drought for a long time and will continue to be,” he said.

Recycling is one solution. After his trip to Brandberg, Jenkins visited a water recycling plant.

“It’s so thorough and so clean, it’s just unbelievable,” he said. “And it turns out that recycling sewage is much more efficient than actually trying to desalinate water.”

Recycling water uses a third of the energy than desalination and also doesn’t need the infrastructure to transport ocean water to inland communities.

“There are solutions to many of our problems,” he said. “They’re not easy solutions, not simple solutions, but there are solutions.”

World to Wyoming is meant to start conversations, and show how intimately connected we all are — even to a place as far away as Namibia.

After Jenkins’ talk there will be time for a question-and- answer session. 

Contact Julie Kukral via 732-7062,

Scene Editor Billy Arnold covers arts and entertainment. He apprenticed as a sound engineer at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio before making his way to Jackson, where he has become a low-key fan of country music.

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