Sandra Postel is living her childhood dream.
Postel, the director of the Global Water Policy Project, has dedicated her life to educating and enlightening people about the issues that impact the global water supply.
A prolific writer — she has published at least 100 articles, 20 op-eds, and two books about water — Postel also gives lectures; is the Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society and advisor to the U.S. National Research Council’s Division on Earth & Life Studies; and lends her commentary to CNN, ABC, and NPR.
“The extinction of life pains me,” Postel told National Geographic, for whom she writes the blog on freshwater, Water Currents. “I just want to do my part to be sure we humans conserve water and share it with all of life.”
A worthwhile goal, especially since it’s estimated that 1.8 billion people will live in areas plagued by water scarcity by 2025. World Water Week, the week-long conference in Stockholm that concludes today, aims to tackle the theme “Water Cooperation – Building Partnerships.” Postel has been doing just that, collaborating with various news outlets and organizations for the sustainable use of freshwater for over 20 years. Her approach has been lauded as “inspiring, innovative and practical.” Case in point: her top recommendation for saving freshwater.
“Landscape with native plants, grasses and shrubs, and avoid planting thirsty lawns in dry places,” she told National Geographic. Practical, efficient, and very doable.
Postel got her start in the world of water working on a handbook to help communities design water conservation programs, after earning an M.E.M. with emphasis on resource economics and policy at Duke University.
“I worked with a civil engineer who knew all about urban water and wastewater systems. It was perfect,” she said of her first gig in California.
From there, she moved to the Worldwatch Institute in 1988, and worked her way up to serve as vice president of research. In 2000, she was Mount Holyoke College’s visiting senior lecturer in Environmental Studies, and directed the school’s Center for the Environment, which hosts events, lectures, and more sustainable models for the college and the community at large. Her book Last Oasis: Facing Water Scarcity also inspired a PBS documentary, and her body of work earned her a spot as one of Scientific American’s 50, an award that highlights major contributors to science and technology.
Luckily, Postel shows no signs of slowing down her crusade for the world’s water supply.
“At this moment, we as a society are like the frog that chooses to stay in a warming pot of water as the heat is gradually turned up—unable to grasp the dire consequences of incremental change,” Postel writes on her organization’s website. “…The trends are not good. …We pretend not to know. Denial, as has been said, is not just a river in Egypt. It flows in every one of us.”