As a New Year Dawns, A Reflection on Water

Amethyst Brook flows through Amherst, Massachusetts, in the Connecticut River watershed. photo by Sandra Postel
Amethyst Brook flows through Amherst, Massachusetts, in the Connecticut River watershed. photo by Sandra Postel

Some months ago, I was asked to contribute to an anthology focused on a basic question about our planet’s future.

The question was this:  “Do you think that humanity can find a way past the current global environmental and social crises? Will we be able to create the conditions necessary for our own survival, as well as that of other species on the planet? What would these conditions look like? In summary, then, and in the plainest of terms, do we have hope, and can we do it?”

My charge was to respond with no more than 250 words; of course, I chose to write about water.

As 2014 begins, I thought I’d share these words.  They reflect, I hope, the profound shift in consciousness that is needed if we are to ensure that enough water is provided for all living things long into the future.

In a world divided by race, tribe, gender, religion and so much more, it is water that connects us all.

The molecules of H2O that comprise sixty percent of each of us have circulated across space and time throughout the ages.  They move through the air, the trees, the birds and bees, and through you and me – and may have quenched a dinosaur’s thirst so very long ago.

So, yes, there is hope.  It is that we will know the soft rain and flowing water as the undeserved but precious gifts of life that they are – gifts to be shared among all living things.  And that this knowing will unite us to humbly take our place in the planet’s great cycles with respect for all that is, has ever been, and will ever be.

If we let it, this knowing changes everything.

As I reach to buy a cotton shirt, I think of the plants and insects whose existence might have been sustained by the seven hundred gallons of water consumed to make the shirt, and I retract my arm, go home filled with gratitude, and enjoy the evening birdsong with new depths of pleasure.

— Sandra Postel, invited contribution to the Global Chorus, Rocky Mountain Books, expected release in Fall 2014.


Sandra Postel is director of the Global Water Policy Project, Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society, and author of several books and numerous articles on global water issues.  She is co-creator of Change the Course, the national freshwater conservation and restoration campaign being piloted in the Colorado River Basin.


  1. Jim marr
    Lincolnshire, England, UK
    April 16, 2016, 7:42 am

    We can’t look at our use of water until we examine our consumption of food, including how we feed our animals. Following closely behind the use of food is food waste. There is more than enough resource on this planet to sustain our future population, it is only humanities ability to share that is lacking in sufficient quantity to cause droughts and suffering.

  2. Tyler Pillage
    Edson, Alberta
    August 21, 2014, 11:52 am

    Use only what we need to live life
    but everyday tankers and tankers are lined up at the local Town filling station we even pull from rivers creeks pounds and gravel pits.
    Extracting petroleum how much metal can we place in the ground. but we need jobs but do we give it always.

  3. Paul Lauenstein
    Sharon, MA
    January 12, 2014, 9:32 am

    Sandra Postel’s poetic prose resonates like the gurgling of Amethyst Brook. We must each take personal responsibility for protecting and preserving our finite and vital water resources. See: and

  4. Mark River Peoples
    January 5, 2014, 3:09 pm

    The one thing that stuck in my head is”water connects us all.” Let’s treat it as such. Great , thoughtful post! Protect all the rivers for generations to come. Go to and and plan a trip on the mighty Mississippi River!

  5. Mark River Peoples
    January 4, 2014, 10:30 pm

    Beautiful, thoughtful post. As a steward of the Mississippii River, I deal with water conservation on a daily basis. The Mississippi River supplies 18 million people with water daily, but is misused by pollution and outdated farming techniques daily. Once we educate the youth on how important our freahwater supplies are, we will never be able to move humanity forward towards systemic health and sustainability.