Photograph by Virginia Smith
Name: Sandra L. Postel
Place of Birth: New York
Current City: Los Lunas, New Mexico
Occupation: Environmental Researcher, Writer, Lecturer
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Exactly what I'm doing now.
How did you get started in your field of work?
After I finished graduate school at Duke, I landed a job with a small natural resources consulting company in California. My first assignment was to help write a handbook for communities across the country to use in designing water conservation programs. I worked with a civil engineer who knew all about urban water and wastewater systems. It was perfect. Three years later, I joined the Worldwatch Institute, where I happily occupied the global water niche. It all unfolded from there.
What inspires you to dedicate your life to freshwater?
I love nature—and water is the source of it all. I care about the mussels and fish and frogs that depend on water. The extinction of life pains me. I just want to do my part to be sure we humans conserve water and share it with all of life.
What’s a normal day like for you?
Hours of reading, thinking, writing. Quite often a plane ride to give a talk somewhere. Exercise—a walk or run, maybe some tennis. Depending on the season, some work in the vegetable garden or carrying in wood. Then back to reading, thinking, and writing.
Do you have a hero?
Marjorie Spock. She's not well known. She took the federal government to court in 1958 to stop the aerial spraying of DDT across Long Island. She became a good friend of Rachel Carson's. I met Marjorie when I was researching that spraying. She was 101 and sharp as a tack. She was still holding weekly philosophy discussion groups at her home in Maine. She had a rare blend of wisdom and humility. I corresponded with her occasionally until she died in 2008 at 103. Marjorie Spock is but a footnote of history but she helped change the world.
If you could have people do one thing to help save freshwater, what would it be?
Landscape with native plants, grasses and shrubs, and avoid planting thirsty lawns in dry places.
More About Freshwater
Flash floods following mountain fires pose increasing threats to drinking water supplies—and add impetus for forest thinning and watershed rehabilitation in the western United States.
Every winter an amazing sandhill cranes migration takes place in the West. The birds journey long distances from their breeding grounds in the northern Rockies to their wintering grounds near the middle stretch of the Rio Grande. National Geographic Freshwater Fellow Sandra Postel writes about the spectacle.
Using innovative satellite technology, a new study finds that over a six-and-a-half year period groundwater supplies in the Central Valley of California, the nation’s fruit and vegetable bowl, dwindled by a volume of water equivalent to 63 percent of the capacity of Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States.
Each American uses 2,000 gallons of water per day—mostly for food. How can we provide a nutritious diet with less water?
Read National Geographic's Freshwater Fellow and Director of the Global Water Policy Project, Sandra Postel's essay on the essential role water plays in our world.
Help Save the Colorado River
You can help restore freshwater ecosystems by pledging to cut your water footprint. For every pledge, Change the Course will restore 1,000 gallons back to the Colorado River.
Sandra is a leading authority on international freshwater issues and is spearheading our global freshwater efforts.
He's paddled the Colorado River from its headwaters to the delta, in an effort to bring awareness to this mighty river at risk.
For more than 15 years, Osvel Hinojosa Huerta has been resurrecting Mexico's Colorado River Delta wetlands.
Change the Course Infographic
Check out this infographic and learn how you can conserve water and save the Colorado River, as well as other freshwater ecosystems.
Water Currents, by Sandra Postel and Others
Arizona's Verde River gets a boost from an innovative partnership.
Farmers in the Verde River Basin employ new technology to benefit a desert environment.
Funny new viral video series hopes to get people thinking about the importance of water.