Trend Magazine

Stewarding the Earth’s Water

Notes from the President

In this Issue:

  • Spring 2019
  • The Future of Water
  • Stewarding the Earth’s Water
  • Crunch: What Is a Water Footprint?
  • The Rediscovery of Water
  • A Map of the Future of Water
  • The Water Cycle is Broken But We Can Fix It
  • Groundwater: Unseen But Increasingly Needed
  • America's Water Infrastructure
  • Sometimes Water Should Be Left Where It Is
  • Five Questions: Bringing Water to Those in Need
  • Voices: When You Can't Take Water for Granted
  • View All Other Issues
Stewarding the Earth’s Water

“Water,” Leonardo da Vinci said, “is the driving force of all nature.” And anyone who has seen the power and beauty of rushing water in its natural state would likely agree. But over time, people and industry became the driving force of water. Dams have turned rivers into lakes for energy, reservoirs for drinking, and canals for shipping. Wetlands have been drained for houses, hotels, and crops. Flood-prone rivers have been tamed. And just in the last half-century, modern drilling and pumping technology has allowed groundwater to be tapped on an industrial scale for agriculture and personal uses.

In this fourth issue of Trend, Charles Fishman describes the last 100 years as “a golden age of water” that helped increase life expectancy, cut infant mortality, and control waterborne illnesses in the United States. Now this golden age of plentiful, free, reliably safe, and mostly taken-for-granted water has given way to a new era that requires careful stewardship of our water resources, a policy imperative that we explore in this edition.

As hydrologist Jay Famiglietti explains, wet regions of the globe are getting wetter and dry regions are getting drier. The effects can include severe flooding, extreme drought, longer fire seasons, and water-driven conflict. And the challenges we face don’t end with the water we can see. In some parts of the world, water below the ground is being taken out of aquifers at unsustainable rates, water tables are dropping, and reserves are shrinking. As a result, some food-producing areas are threatened and the natural cycle of replenishment is disrupted.

Policymakers, business leaders, and individuals all have a role to play in managing our interconnected water supply. The good news is that some progress is being made.

Hydrogeology professor Graham E. Fogg points out that new advancements “now allow us to monitor groundwater levels across a groundwater basin in real time nearly as easily as we can a surface reservoir.” And 1995 Pew fellow in conservation and the environment Sandra Postel offers examples of innovations in the U.S. and abroad to better use, manage, and value water—from drip irrigation in Arizona and projects in Philadelphia designed to prevent runoff, to more efficient appliances and healthier soils that can store more moisture.

In the 21st century, we can no longer assume we’ll always have enough clean water. Instead, we must learn to manage, protect, and replenish our water supply. So read along and learn more about the history and future of water—and the policy changes we need to consider to preserve nature’s life-sustaining resource.

What Is a Water Footprint? The Future of Water
Composite image of modern city network communication concept

Learn the Basics of Broadband from Our Limited Series

Sign up for our four-week email course on Broadband Basics

Quick View

How does broadband internet reach our homes, phones, and tablets? What kind of infrastructure connects us all together? What are the major barriers to broadband access for American communities?

What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

Sign up for our four-week email series The Race Against Resistance.

Quick View

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.