6 x 9
6 x 9
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?
"Eschewing mere hand-wringing about climate change, this clear-eyed treatise hops around the world outlining real-world solutions that are already being implemented to affect change on the ground...Postel makes her case eloquently...Such inspirational examples, supplemented by an efficient overview of water-conservation ideas...give cause to celebrate small pockets of hope in our fight to save the planet's precious and vulnerable freshwater."
Booklist, Starred Review
"An informative, purposeful argument about why we must accept the moral as well as practical responsibility of water stewardship."
"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
This post originally appeared on National Geographic's Water Currents blog and is reposted here with permission.
We have many lessons to learn from the tragedies wrought by Hurricane Harvey, but among the most important is that a broken water cycle increases risks to our communities and economies.
Floodplains, tributaries, wetlands, lakes, ponds, rivers and groundwater form an interconnected whole that helps ensure clean, safe, reliable water supplies. A well-functioning water cycle naturally moderates both floods and droughts, reducing societal risks from both.
The Trump administration’s proposal to rescind the Obama-era Clean Water Rule would further break the natural water cycle just at the time we need to double-down on repairing it.
The motivation for the Clean Water Rule arose from Supreme Court decisions, in particular the 2006 case of Rapanos v. United States, that sowed consideration confusion about which waters came under the jurisdiction of the federal Clean Water Act, and which did not.
Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) were spending considerable time and tax dollars determining whether or not a particular stream or wetland was protected under the Act. Just between 2008 and 2015, the agencies had to make some 100,000 case-by-case determinations, causing backlogs and delays.
The 2015 rule, also known as the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, clarified the definition and expanded protection to headwater streams and some 20 million acres (8 million hectares) of wetlands. An EPA-Corps economic analysis of the rule published in May of that year found that while the additional water protections would have negative economic impacts on certain industries and farm enterprises, the benefits to society from cleaner and more secure water supplies exceeded those costs.
In June 2017, as the Trump administration moved to rescind the rule, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt ordered agency staff to redo the economic analysis and omit the half billion dollars of benefits associated with wetland protection, according to reporting by the New York Times.
Scientists are speaking out against the repeal of the 2015 Clean Water Rule.
A letter already signed by more than 320 scientists (including me) from academia, state agencies, nonprofits, and the private sector notes that more than 1,200 peer-reviewed publications clearly establish “the vital importance” of wetlands and headwater streams “to clean water and the health of the nation’s rivers.”
In an amicus curiae (literally, friend of the court) brief to the Supreme Court in the Rapanos case, ten scientists (including me) argued that “when it comes to the connection of tributaries, streams, and wetlands to navigable waters and interstate commerce, there is no ecological ambiguity….[I]f the Clean Water Act does not protect these resources, then it does not protect navigable waters from pollution, and it cannot achieve its goals.”
But the Trump administration is once again pushing sound science aside in its attempt to roll back regulations.
Continue reading the full post here.
Sandra Postel is director of the Global Water Policy Project and co-creator of Change the Course, the national water stewardship initiative awarded the 2017 US Water Prize for restoring billions of gallons of water to depleted rivers and wetlands. From 2009-2015, she served as Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society. Postel is author of Pillar of Sand: Can the Irrigation Miracle Last? and Last Oasis: Facing Water Scarcity, the basis for a PBS documentary.