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Water Always Wins

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I recently received a book recommendation from a friend in Boston titled Water Always Wins by science journalist Erica Gies.  It brings home to me the truth of climate change effecting those on coasts, like my friend in Boston, as well as those living alongside rivers, like me.

The author asks. “How do we survive in an age of drought and deluge?”  In her examination of these issues, she offers hopeful and innovative solutions that are happening around the world to address disruptive climate change.

Examples she offers are being made in the US, Canada, Iraq, UK, India, Peru, China, the Netherlands, Kenya and Vietnam. Every coast or river’s edge is different, but all face common challenges. She offers ancient lessons from Peru for supplying water in the dry season, as well as the long term negative effects in controlling water such as building seawalls and mega-dams. 

Gies advocates for alternative solutions to let water flex and be its true nature. We are inclined to build seawalls to protect, but that requires constant and costly maintenance; natural coastal ecosystems such as tidal marshes, barrier islands, coral reefs and wetlands can sustain themselves.

In China, after years of significant flooding, landscape architect, Yu Kongjian has led several projects with his firm Turenscape that aim to slow water. Following his lead, China’s leaders have adopted a “Sponge City Revolution’ to make room for water in cities.

Similarly, the Netherlands, a global leader in water management, has created an Agenda of International Water Affairs to share their expertise with governments around the world. The Dutch have a long history of building dikes or levees to protect low lying land and are experts at understanding the consequences and need for changing approaches. In the mid-1990’s, they adopted a Room for the River program to remove or lower dikes to reconnect some stretches with their floodplains.

There is much more in this book to understand regarding planning urban waterfronts. Learn about additional measures for combating climate change at the Upper Mississippi River Conference, October 19-20, at Stoney Creek Conference Center, in Moline. Go to riveraction.org/UMRC to register.