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eNews October 2019

Renowned Water Expert Sandra Postel to Deliver Albert E. Utton Memorial Lecture at this Year’s Annual New Mexico Water Conference

By Mark Sheely, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

Sandra Postel opens her 2017 book, Replenish: The Virtuous Cycle of Water and Prosperity, by arguing that our natural water cycle has been broken by the same human hydraulic feats that have given us so much prosperity. “In some ways it’s hard to imagine our world of 7.5 billion people and $80 trillion in annual goods and services without water engineering—dams to store water, canals to move it around, and vast pumps to tap underground supplies,” Postel writes, “but it’s equally hard to imagine continuing down the same path.” Extreme weather, dwindling groundwater supplies, and overtapped watersheds pose an array of challenges for water managers across the globe.

As this year’s Albert E. Utton Memorial Lecture speaker, Sandra Postel will address the luncheon audience at the 64th Annual New Mexico Water Conference on Friday, November 8th at Buffalo Thunder Resort near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Currently director of the Global Water Policy Project and featured in documentaries such as the BBC series Planet Earth, Postel will demonstrate how farmers, cities, conservationists, and engineers across the US and around the world are showing that we can re-shape 21st century water management through innovation and collaboration to overcome the challenges ahead.

One stop made along the way in Replenish happens to be Santa Clara Canyon, where the 2011 Las Conchas Fire devastated 16,000 acres of forestland within Santa Clara Pueblo. On November 6, 2019, the Pueblo’s forestry staff will present to pre-conference field trip attendees their restoration efforts that have improved the watershed and its water quality.

In Replenish, Postel recounts how the Las Concha Fire also motivated Lauren McCarthy of the New Mexico Office of The Nature Conservancy to lay the groundwork for the Rio Grande Water Fund—a charter organization, now with 83 public and private organization signatories, that aims to restore 600,000 acres of forested watershed over the next 20 years. The fund’s principle is that the costs of forest thinning and other rehabilitation measures will be cheaper in the long run than the costs of fighting fires, dredging fire sediments, and extra water treatment. At the time of publication in 2017, 22,000 acres of forested watersheds had already been restored.

Postel closes Replenish with cautious optimism, stating, “Yes, the water cycle is broken, but one river, one wetland, one city, one farm at a time, we can begin to fix it.”

If you would like to attend this year’s Albert E. Utton Memorial Lecture, please contact Mark Sheely at msheely@nmsu.edu or call 575 646-1195.