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Sandra Postel directs the independent Global Water Policy Project and lectures, writes, and consults on international water issues. She is also Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society, and serves as lead water expert for the Society's freshwater initiative. Sandra is the author of several acclaimed books, including the award-winning Last Oasis, the basis for a PBS documentary. Her essay "Troubled Waters" was selected for Best American Science and Nature Writing. Sandra is a Pew Scholar in Conservation and the Environment, and has been named one of the "Scientific American 50" for her contributions to water policy.

Water Risks are Growing; Here’s a Tool to Help Us Prepare

Earlier this month, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, released its annual risk assessment, which looks across the spectrum of threats to society and ranks them. This year, it declared water crises to be the top global risk to society over the next decade. Just behind water crises were the failure to adapt to…

Dam on Ethiopia’s Omo River Causing Hunger and Conflict

In the lower Omo River Valley of southern Ethiopia, a spreading humanitarian emergency that threatens to spawn conflicts in the region is largely being met with silence from both the Ethiopian government and the international community. The filling of the reservoir behind Gibe III Dam on the Omo River is holding back the flows needed…

Dam Ideology

When it comes to water, concrete trumps common sense. That was the take-home message Wednesday evening from Daniel P. Beard, former commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, who spoke at Old Town Farm in Albuquerque on his swing through New Mexico to promote his book, Deadbeat Dams. Our political leaders “appear to be ostriches…

Groundbreaking State Law Tested in Colorado Headwaters Stream

Sandra Postel and Todd Reeve The infamous use-it-or lose-it rule is arguably the biggest barrier to water conservation and river-flow restoration in the western United States. It basically says that if anyone holding water rights does not put them to full use, the unused portion can be taken away and allocated to serve the needs…

As the Gold King Spill Reminds Us, We All Live Downstream

Around this time last year, I was walking the banks of the Animas River in Durango, the southwestern Colorado town blindsided last week when the river turned a sickly yellow-orange from a colossal spill of toxic mine drainage upstream near Silverton. It’s hard to imagine a river more central to a town than the Animas…

Solar Desalination Could be a Game Changer for California Farms

Let’s be clear from the outset: I’m no fan of conventional desalination. The idea of using climate-altering fossil fuels to drive an energy-intensive de-salting process that threatens coastal environments in order to produce drinking water that, in most cases, could be secured more cheaply through conservation and efficiency improvements, simply fails to pass the bar…

With One-Third of Largest Aquifers Highly Stressed, It’s Time to Explore and Assess the Planet’s Groundwater

Imagine if your bank statement arrived each month and told you how much money you had withdrawn and deposited, but told you nothing about how much money you had at the beginning or end of the month. You’d know whether your balance had grown or shrunk, but you’d have no idea whether you could afford…

The “Sixth Extinction” Adds Urgency to Habitat and Climate Protection

It’s now unequivocal: the sixth great spasm of species extinctions has begun.   We – homo sapiens – are its cause. And only we can slow it down. Over the last century, the average rate of loss of vertebrate species — fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals – has been up to 100 times higher than…

Solar Electricity Buybacks May Reduce Groundwater Depletion in India

It’s hard to find solutions that confront water depletion, climate change and rural poverty all at once, but an innovative scheme being piloted in the Indian state of Gujarat does just that. The idea is to enable farmers using solar-powered irrigation pumps to sell excess electricity back to the grid. That gives them an incentive…

New U.S. Water Rule is Crucial for Clean Drinking Water and Resilience to Droughts and Floods

It took nearly a decade, but finally the waters left terribly muddied by two U.S. Supreme Court cases have gotten a good bit clearer. This week, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers issued a new rule clarifying which of the nation’s streams and wetlands come under the protections of the federal…

A Day to Celebrate the Diversity of Life

Today is the International Day for Biological Diversity, a day to celebrate the amazing richness of life that shares this planet with us. Though we rarely think about it, it’s the behind-the-scenes work of bugs and birds, fish and frogs, flowers and trees, and micro-organisms of every stripe that keep earth humming and the landscape…

Food and Beverage Companies Wake Up to Water Risks

Last week, Starbucks announced that it would stop sourcing and producing its bottled water brand, Ethos Water, in California and shift production from the Golden State to Pennsylvania. In explaining its decision, the beverage maker cited “the serious drought conditions and necessary water conservation efforts.” With California in its fourth year of a historic drought,…

One Colorado Town’s Answer to a Catch-22 of Water Conservation

A few years ago, the town of Westminster, Colorado, just north of Denver, came eye-to-eye with an issue many water-conserving cities face when a resident posed this question at a public meeting, “Why do you ask me to conserve, and then raise my rates?” With droughts dotting the country and a growing number of areas…

The Silver Lining in the California Drought

Denial, it’s been said, is not just a river in Egypt. It runs, of course, through each of us. But Californians have displayed quite a dose of it as a record-breaking drought rolls through its fourth year. It was just last week, propelled by the lowest snowpack in the Sierra Nevada in recorded history, that…

Let’s Change our Water Story

Our human story has always been a water story. The earliest civilizations developed and grew along rivers – from the Tigris and Euphrates in the Middle East, to the Nile in Egypt, to the Yellow River in China. Rivers have been the lifelines for the growth and evolution of societies, providing the essentials of food,…