Sandra L. Postel


Sandra L. Postel
Sandra Postel
Global Water Policy Project
434 W. Highway 6
City, State, ZIP
Los Lunas, New Mexico 87031
[email protected]
Award year


Project Details

Sandra Postel applied her Fellowship to promoting more sustainable use of the world's water resources through four general initiatives: (1) research and writing for both popular and scholarly audiences; (2) public speaking and outreach to a diverse set of groups and institutions; (3) direct policy work and (4) media interviews for wide dissemination of information. She published many articles and reports in professional journals and the popular press. She has also delivered many presentations around the world, discussed water policy development with senior heads of state and corporate leaders in several countries, and conducted more than 45 interviews with journalists from print, radio, television and Internet media outlets.

To further increase understanding and concern about water issues, Postel culminated her Pew project with the writing of Pillar of Sand: Can the Irrigation Miracle Last? This book placed irrigation in its historical and cultural context and then looked at current challenges to its sustainability. The analysis focused on the intersection of agriculture, water and environment, and raises concerns about the ability of irrigated agriculture to be as sustaining of the human population in the 21st century as it became during the 20th century.


Sandra Postel, founder and director of the Global Water Policy Project, is recognized as one of the world's most respected authorities on freshwater issues and hailed for her "inspiring, innovative and practical approach" to promoting the preservation and sustainable use of Earth's fresh water. In 2010, Postel was appointed Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society, where she is lead water expert for the Society's freshwater initiative.

For more than 25 years, Postel has lectured, taught and written prolifically on the geography of water stress and its implications for agriculture, rivers and wetlands, and regional peace and security. Postel is the author of several classic books, including Pillar of Sand: Can the Irrigation Miracle Last? and the award-winning Last Oasis: Facing Water Scarcity, which has been translated into eight languages and served as the basis for a PBS documentary. She is also co-author, with Brian Richter, of Rivers for Life: Managing Water for People and Nature, which now appears in five languages.

The author of scores of articles for popular and scholarly publications—from Science and Ecological Applications to Foreign Policy and Natural History—Postel is a frequent conference speaker and lecturer. She has served as a commentator on CNN's "Futurewatch," addressed the European Parliament on environmental issues, appeared on all major U.S. television networks and on National Public Radio, as well as in numerous documentaries, including the BBC's Planet Earth and Leonardo DiCaprio's The 11th Hour.

From 2000-2008, Postel was visiting senior lecturer in Environmental Studies at Mount Holyoke College and during the latter part of that term directed the College's Center for the Environment. She has served as consultant to The Nature Conservancy, the World Bank, and the U.S. National Intelligence Council, among other organizations. From 1988 until 1994, she was vice president for research at the Worldwatch Institute. She is a fellow of the Post Carbon Institute and an advisor to American Rivers.

Postel studied geology at Wittenberg University, and resource economics and policy at Duke University. A Pew Scholar in Conservation and the Environment, Postel has received two honorary doctor of science degrees and in 2002 was awarded the "Scientific American 50" for her contributions to water policy.


Worldwatch Biography



Masters of Environmental Management, Duke University
1980: Resource Economics and Policy, North Carolina, USA

Bachelor of Arts, Wittenberg University
Geology and Political Science, Ohio, USA


Environmental Leadership Program
1999-Present: Advisory Board

Water Policy
1998-Present: Editorial Board

1998-Present: Editorial Board

Green Futures
1996-Present: Editorial Board

World Future Society
1995-Present: Board of Directors

Division on Earth and Life Studies, National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences
2001-2002: Advisor

International Water Management Institute
1996-2000: Research Fellow

1997-1999: Editorial Board

International Water Resources Association
1991-1994: Board of Directors

World Commission on Water for the 21st Century
Senior Advisor


Scientific American 50
2002: Scientific American

Honorary Doctor of Science
2001: Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Lifetime Chair
1999: International Water Academy

Marine Fellow
1995: Pew Fellows Program in Conservation and the Environment

Award for Outstanding Academic Book
1993: CHOICE Magazine

Distinguished Alumni Award
1991: Duke University


  • Postel, S. 2005. Worldwatch Paper #170: Liquid Assets: The Critical Need to Safeguard Freshwater Ecosystems. Worldwatch Institute
  • Postel S., and Vickers A. 2004. Boosting Water Productivity. In: State of the World, 2004 (W W Norton and Company eds.), p. 46-65
  • Postel, S. 2003. Hydro Dynamics. Natural History May
  • Postel, S., and Richter, B. 2003. Rivers for Life: Managing Water for People and Nature. Island Press
  • Postel, S. 2001. Growing More Food with Less Water. Scientific American
  • Postel, S. 2001. Troubled Waters. In: Best American Science and Nature Writing 2001 (E.O. Wilson and B. Bilger eds.). Houghton Mifflin
  • Postel, S., and Wolf, A. 2001. Dehydrating Conflict. Foreign Policy
  • Postel, S.L. 1999. Pillar of Sand: Can the Irrigation Miracle Last? W.W. Norton & Company
  • Falkenmark, M., W. Klohn, J. Lundqvist, S. Postel, J. Rockstrom, D. Seckler, H. Shuval and J. Wallace. 1998. Water scarcity as a key factor behind global food insecurity: Round table discussion. Ambio 27(2)
  • Postel, S.L. 1998. Water for food production: Will there be enough in 2025. BioScience
  • Postel, S.L. 1998. Water, food, and population. In: Population and Development Equations (W. Moomaw and B. Baudot eds.). MacMillan Press, London
  • Postel, S.L., J.I. Morrison and P.H. Gleick. 1998. Reallocating fresh water to aquatic ecosystems: The case of the Colorado River Delta. Water International
  • Postel, S.L and S. Carpenter. 1997. Freshwater ecosystem services. In: Nature's Services: Social Dependence on Natural Ecosystems. Island Press, Washington, D.C.
  • Postel, S.L. 1997. Changing the course of transboundary water management. Natural Resources Forum 21(2): 85-90
  • Postel, S.L. 1997. Dividing the Waters. Technology Review
  • Postel, S. L., G.C. Daily and P.R. Ehrlich. 1996. Human appropriation of renewable fresh water. Science 271(5250): 785
  • Postel, S.L. 1996. Dividing the waters: Food security, ecosystem health, and the new politics of scarcity. Worldwatch Institute, Washington, D.C.
  • Postel, S.L. 1992. Last Oasis: Facing Water Scarcity. Worldwatch Institute, Washington, D.C.

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