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We have disrupted the natural water cycle for centuries in an effort to control water for our own prosperity. Yet every year, recovery from droughts and floods costs billions of dollars, and we spend billions more on dams, diversions, levees, and other feats of engineering. These massive projects not only are risky financially and environmentally, they often threaten social and political stability. What if the answer was not further control of the water cycle, but repair and replenishment?
Sandra Postel takes readers around the world to explore water projects that work with, rather than against, nature’s rhythms. In New Mexico, forest rehabilitation is safeguarding drinking water; along the Mississippi River, farmers are planting cover crops to reduce polluted runoff; and in China, “sponge cities” are capturing rainwater to curb urban flooding.
Efforts like these will be essential as climate change disrupts both weather patterns and the models on which we base our infrastructure. We will be forced to adapt. The question is whether we will continue to fight the water cycle or recognize our place in it and take advantage of the inherent services nature offers. Water, Postel writes, is a gift, the source of life itself. How will we use this greatest of gifts?
"Nothing is more important to life than water, and no one knows water better than Sandra Postel. Replenish is a wise, sobering, but ultimately hopeful book."
Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction
"Postel's Replenish is a great book on so many levels, full of detail-rich storytelling, authentic accounts from communities around the globe, and thorough research. Replenish tells a hopeful story about the future of water security that avoids pitting humans against nature. Instead, Postel points to practical, saleable projects where people, governments, businesses, and environments can all benefit."
Mark R. Tercek, President and CEO, The Nature Conservancy and author of Nature's Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive By Investing in Nature
“In Replenish, Sandra Postel has provided an eloquent explanation of the global water cycle’s role in society and ecosystems, an urgent plea for water conservation, and a host of examples of how real people around the world are getting it done. Everybody who wants to understand environmental sustainability and how to achieve it should read this book.”
John P. Holdren, Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, Harvard University, and former Director, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
“For a quarter century, Sandra Postel has made the sensible, principled, indisputable case for a water ethic: Inspiring us to live with water today in ways that don’t harm future generations and ecosystems. Postel’s restorative approach to water has always been the wise course. Her gratifying new book shows why, in the face of climate change, it is time to make it the prevailing one.”
Cynthia Barnett, author of Mirage, Blue Revolution, and Rain: A Natural and Cultural History
“In Replenish, Sandra Postel travels the world to reveal both our biggest water challenges and the new, smart solutions needed for the 21st century. Replenish is not just restorative as its title implies; it is also wonderfully refreshing and deeply satisfying.”
Brad Udall, Senior Water and Climate Scientist/Scholar, Colorado Water Institute, Colorado State University
Chapter 1. Water Everywhere and Nowhere
Chapter 2. Back to Life
Chapter 3. Put Watersheds to Work
Chapter 4. Make Room for Floods
Chapter 5. Bank It for a Dry Day
Chapter 6. Fill the Earth
Chapter 7. Conserve in the City
Chapter 8. Clean It Up
Chapter 9. Close the Loop
Chapter 10. Let It Flow
Chapter 11. Rescue Desert Rivers
Chapter 12. Share