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  October 9, 2000

World Water Expert to Discuss Global
Water Resources in Next Teale Lecture

Will the world have enough water in the 21st century?

Sandra Postel, director of the Global Water Policy Project, will address this critical question in a presentation titled "Dividing the Waters: The Challenge of Sustaining People and Ecosystems in a New Era of Scarcity," on Oct. 11 at 4 p.m. in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

The lecture is this year's Geib Distinguished Lecture in Environmental Engineering and the second in Edwin Way Teale Lecture Series on Nature and the Environment.

Postel will describe global water trends and the consequences of unsustainable water use in the world today. Fresh water is a finite resource but is consumed in some countries, including the United States, as though it is limitless.

"Sandra Postel is one of the world's experts on water problems," says Gregory Anderson, department head of ecology and evolutionary biology.

"Drinking water uses a relatively small percentage of the world's fresh water, yet more than one billion people on earth don't have clean water to drink," says Postel. "Major rivers, including the Colorado, run dry before reaching the sea, owing to overconsumption for irrigation, urban activities, and industry, and pollution destroys major sources of water. Farmers often lose supplies to cities and industries as water becomes more scarce, resulting in the adage: 'water runs uphill towards money.'

"Depleted natural sources are rarely restored," she says. "Expanding populations consume more water. Jobs, food, lives, and the aquatic environment are at stake."

Postel will make the case for doubling water productivity, show how to get twice as much service from each unit of water extracted from natural resources, and discuss what it will take to achieve this goal.

She will also explore water policy reforms that can promote more sustainable use and management of fresh water, thereby helping to protect freshwater ecosystems while also meeting human needs.

Postel is a Pew Fellow in conservation and the environment, and a visiting senior lecturer in environmental studies at Mount Holyoke College. She is also a senior fellow with the Worldwatch Institute, where she previously served as vice president for research, co-directing its annual State of the World report. She is author of Last Oasis: Facing Water Scarcity, a book that has been translated into eight languages and was the basis for one segment of Cadillac Desert, a 1997 PBS documentary. Her Pew Fellowship culminated in the book: Pillar of Sand: Can the Irrigation Miracle Last?

She has addressed the European Parliament on environmental issues, and has served as a consultant to the World Bank, the United Nations and various government agencies. She also has served on the World Commission on Water for the 21st Century, the World Water Council, the Forum for the Future, and other organizations.

Postel graduated summa cum laude in geology and political science from Wittenberg University. She earned her master's of environmental management in resource economics and policy from Duke University.

Carol Davidge