Cover image for Rivers for life : managing water for people and nature
Rivers for life : managing water for people and nature
Postel, Sandra.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Washington : Island Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
253 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Where have all the rivers gone? -- How much water does a river need? -- The policy toolbox -- Down to the river -- Building blocks for better river governance -- Epilogue : can we save Earth's rivers?
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QH75 .P67 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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The conventional approach to river protection has focused on water quality and maintaining some ""minimum"" flow that was thought necessary to ensure the viability of a river. In recent years, however, scientific research has underscored the idea that the ecological health of a river system depends not on a minimum amount of water at any one time but on the naturally variable quantity and timing of flows throughout the year.

In Rivers for Life , leading water experts Sandra Postel and Brian Richter explain why restoring and preserving more natural river flows are key to sustaining freshwater biodiversity and healthy river systems, and describe innovative policies, scientific approaches, and management reforms for achieving those goals. Sandra Postel and Brian Richter: explain the value of healthy rivers to human and ecosystem health; describe the ecological processes that support river ecosystems and how they have been disrupted by dams, diversions, and other alterations; consider the scientific basis for determining how much water a river needs; examine new management paradigms focused on restoring flow patterns and sustaining ecological health; assess the policy options available for managing rivers and other freshwater systems; explore building blocks for better river governance

Sandra Postel and Brian Richter offer case studies of river management from the United States (the San Pedro, Green, and Missouri), Australia (the Brisbane), and South Africa (the Sabie), along with numerous examples of new and innovative policy approaches that are being implemented in those and other countries.

Rivers for Life presents a global perspective on the challenges of managing water for people and nature, with a concise yet comprehensive overview of the relevant science, policy, and management issues. It presents exciting and inspirational information for anyone concerned with water policy, planning and management, river conservation, freshwater biodiversity, or related topics.

Author Notes

Sandra Postel is director of the Global Water Policy Project in Amherst, Massachusetts. In November 2002, she was named one of the "Scientific American 50" by Scientific American magazine, a new award recognizing contributions to science and technology
Brian Richter is director of the Freshwater Initiative of The Nature Conservancy and is based in Charlottesville, Virginia. In his 16 years with the Conservancy he has provided technical support and strategic advice to more than 80 river conservation projects around the world

Reviews 1

Choice Review

As a result of decades of dam building and levee construction, only two percent of US rivers and streams remain free-flowing today. Although some efforts have been directed to river restoration and protection, most have focused on water quality and minimum flows during dry periods. Postel and Richter effectively describe the need to redirect the restoration focus to one that re-creates the natural river flow patterns that drive many important ecological processes. Connecting rivers with their wetlands and floodplains, depositing sediment in deltas, bringing nutrients to freshwater and coastal fisheries, and establishing annual peak and low flows are natural rhythms of the hydrologic cycle that need to be restored. The authors describe promising approaches in river management and policy practices that offer optimism for river health rehabilitation. Case histories from the US, Australia, and South Africa illustrate that a wide range of interests can reach agreement and make progress in reversing past riverine degradation. This book is very well written, scientifically sound, and compelling in its message. A must read for all readers, but especially for those involved in water resources, hydrology, and ecosystem management. ^BSumming Up: Essential. All levels. M. J. Zwolinski University of Arizona

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Chapter 1 Where Have All the Rivers Gone?p. 1
Why We Need Healthy Riversp. 5
The Disruption of Natural Flowsp. 13
Freshwater Life at Riskp. 26
A Conceptual View for Balancing Human and Ecosystem Water Needsp. 36
Chapter 2 How Much Water Does a River Need?p. 42
The Evolution of a New River Management Paradigmp. 45
Flow Prescriptions Aimed at Ecological Healthp. 51
Setting Ecological Goalsp. 59
Learning by Doingp. 63
Rebuilding a River's Natural Flow Patternsp. 67
Lessons from the Colorado Pikeminnowp. 74
Chapter 3 The Policy Toolboxp. 79
Allocating Water for Ecosystem Supportp. 80
South Africa Pioneers the Water "Reserve"p. 84
Australia Overhauls Water Policy and Tries a "Cap"p. 86
U.S. Policy Lacks Focus on Ecological Healthp. 92
Economic Tools for Securing River Flowsp. 112
Ethics in River Policyp. 117
Chapter 4 Down to the Riverp. 120
A Comeback Chance for the Missouri?p. 123
Restoring the Brisbane River of Australia's Gold Coastp. 132
Groundwater Pumping and the Future of the San Pedrop. 139
Flows for Shrimp in the Tropical Rio Espiritu Santop. 146
Reducing Impacts of Federal Dams on Kentucky's Green Riverp. 151
Sharing the Waters of South Africa's Sabie Riverp. 157
Chapter 5 Building Blocks for Better River Governancep. 167
Capturing the Value of Ecosystem Servicesp. 169
Lessons from the World Commission on Damsp. 177
Bottom-Up Governance Gets a Tryp. 182
River Basin Commissions Work "Outside the Box"p. 186
Sparks of Leadershipp. 195
Chapter 6 Epilogue: Can We Save Earth's Rivers?p. 199
Notesp. 205
Bibliographyp. 227
About the Authorsp. 241
Indexp. 243