Nearly every human endeavor on the planet was conceived and constructed with a relatively stable climate in mind. But as new climate disasters remind us every day, our world is not stable – and it is changing in ways that expose the deep dysfunction of our relationship with water. Increasingly severe and frequent floods and droughts inevitably spur calls for higher levees, bigger drains, and longer aqueducts. But as we grapple with extreme weather, a hard truth is emerging: our development, including concrete infrastructure designed to control water, is actually exacerbating our problems. Because sooner or later, water always wins.
In this quietly radical book, science journalist Erica Gies introduces us to innovators in what she calls the Slow Water movement who start by asking a revolutionary question: What does water want? Using close observation, historical research, and cutting-edge science, these experts in hydrology, restoration ecology, engineering, and urban planning are already transforming our relationship with water.
Modern civilizations tend to speed water away, erasing its slow phases on the land. Gies reminds us that water's true nature is to flex with the rhythms of the earth: the slow phases absorb floods, store water for droughts, and feed natural systems. Figuring out what water wants – and accommodating its desires within our human landscapes – is now a crucial survival strategy. By putting these new approaches to the test, innovators in the Slow Water movement are reshaping the future.
Erica Gies is an award-winning journalist and National Geographic Explorer based in Victoria, British Columbia and San Francisco. She writes about water, climate change, plants and critters for the New York Times, Atlantic, Guardian, Economist, Scientific American, New Scientist, Wired, and other publications.