Welcome to the world of water. As National Geographic’s freshwater fellow, I’ll be sharing with you ideas and stories about water in all its facets–from the big global challenges of water scarcity and intensifying droughts and floods to how we as individuals and communities can take part in solving water problems in our own backyards and across the globe.
For more than 25 years now, I’ve never strayed too far from one simple question: Can we human beings use and manage water in ways that not only meet our needs but that allow the rest of life on this planet to thrive too?
I believe we can. But today, things don’t look good. A lot of life is at risk. More than a billion people don’t have access to safe drinking water, and several million die each year as a result. Many species of fish, frogs, insects, and mussels may blink out in our lifetimes. Here in North America, 40 percent of freshwater fish species are at risk of extinction. The fraying of the web of life means our own social fabric is at risk, too. It’s all connected, even if we can’t always see the threads.
On the heels of National Geographic magazine‘s special issue on water, the National Geographic Society is embarking on a large effort to motivate more of us to care about and conserve freshwater. The average American lifestyle takes 1,800 gallons (6,814 liters) of water a day to support–twice the global average.
Fortunately, there are many ways to live well while using less water. We will be offering stories, photos, online tools, lessons from the field, and more to highlight the problems and solutions–and inspire action.
We also plan to work with partner organizations and scientists to help foster preservation of freshwater species by restoring the natural patterns of flow that life within rivers needs to survive.
In National Geographic’s recently released book, Written in Water, I wrote about my search for honest hope that enough water can be provided for all people and living things to thrive. Here’s an excerpt:
As the plane lowered its landing gear, I strained my neck to watch the edge of Lake Mead recede. A few seconds later, a lush green golf course came into view. With late afternoon temperatures pushing 107 degrees, there was scarcely a golfer in sight. Downtown, on the strip, the dice-rolling gamblers had no idea how high the stakes were becoming…. Read the essay.
Water is life. Water is finite. All the water that’s here now is all there ever was–and ever will be. It’s all about sharing it–with nature and each other.
We’re on a critical mission–and we hope you’ll join us.
Sandra Postel is director of the Global Water Policy Project and lead water expert for National Geographic’s Freshwater Initiative. She is the author of several acclaimed books, including the award-winning Last Oasis, a Pew Scholar in Conservation and the Environment, and one of the “Scientific American 50.”
[This post has been reformatted for Water Currents.]