For centuries, we have disrupted the natural water cycle in an effort to control water for our own prosperity.
Every year, recovery from droughts and floods costs billions of dollars, and we spend billions more on irrigation, dams, sanitation plants, and other feats of engineering, We have reached a tipping point: massive engineering is not only hurting the environment, but unraveling social and political stability.
What if the answer was not control of the water cycle, but 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, keeping it clear of the black sludge that raged down riverbeds in the aftermath of the Las Conchas Fire.
Along the Mississippi River, farmers are planting cover crops to reduce polluted runoff while improving their yields.
In China, "sponge cities" are capturing rainwater to curb urban flooding and boost water supplies. Postel argues that efforts like these will be essential for the security of our food, communities, and economies in the coming decades. 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, endangering ourselves and the planet, 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?