We have come from the earliest indigenous people living off a huge expanse of our continent centuries ago to a copious network of cities, farms and ranches that leave little land unscathed by today’s society.
Today’s twenty first century water needs place a greater weight on society getting it right on the first try. This is probably because the needs of a world population have never been as high as today. Compounding a growing population is a climate that is changing in such a way that old water infrastructure strategies no longer meet today’s water demand. Water that does exist across our landscape or beneath our feet is only partially available for use due to its degraded water quality from anthropogenic or naturally occurring contaminants. Even our water supply backup plan, underground aquifers, is now recognized in many regions as not sustainable at the current rate of use.
Scientific approaches and technology have helped but we still find ourselves grappling with balancing environmental stewardship while building certainty in our water supply systems. On this Thanksgiving, let us begin expanding our conversation with the Indigenous societies that have a history of successful stewardship in the natural environment. Looking through the lens of scientific and indigenous disciplines would be a marriage of old and new, a discovery of empirical applications that expand scientific knowledge and understanding. The best part is the cultural healing that is attributed to simply sitting down and listening to each other’s stories, recognizing the wisdom that surface and the friendships that result.