DURHAM, N.C. – Sandra Postel, founding director of the Global Water Policy Project and a 1980 Master of Environmental Management (MEM) alumna of Duke University, has been named the 2021 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate.
The Stockholm Prize is among the highest honors awarded in the fields of water science and policy. Presented by the Stockholm International Water Institute and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, it is sometimes referred to as the Nobel Prize of water.
Postel, who earned her MEM in resource economics and policy, was selected for the high honor in recognition of her groundbreaking work to develop new approaches for helping the world address problems such as water scarcity and the loss of freshwater biodiversity due to climate change.
In naming her as its 2021 Laureate, the Stockholm Water Prize nominating committee noted that “no one has exhibited more commitment, capacity, courage, and perseverance to address far-ranging and critical water issues that affect both human and natural ecosystems. Her work has been instrumental in shifting both public and professional awareness about the water crisis.”
For more than 25 years, Postel has lectured, taught and written prolifically on the geography of water stress and its implications for agriculture, rivers, wetlands, and regional peace and security.
She first became a well-known name in policy and conservation circles in 1992 when she published the book “Last Oasis: Facing Water Scarcity,” which revolutionized many people’s understanding of water as a finite resource. The book, which was printed in eight languages and made into a TV documentary in the United States, was one of the first to warn about a global water crisis in the making and to call for conservation of water-based ecosystems.
From 2010 to 2015, she served as Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society, and prior to that was vice president of research at the Worldwatch Institute.
She is the co-creator of Change the Course, the national water stewardship initiative awarded the 2017 U.S. Water Prize for restoring billions of gallons of water to depleted rivers and wetlands.
In addition to “Last Oasis,” she is the author of two other widely respected books, “Replenish: The Virtuous Cycle of Water and Prosperity,” and “Pillar of Sand: Can the Irrigation Miracle Last?” She has written more than 100 articles and 20 guest editorials for popular and scholarly publications, including Science, The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Postel has been awarded four honorary doctoral degrees as well as a Distinguished Alumni Award from Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.
She will officially receive her Stockholm Water Prize from King Carl XVI Gustov of Sweden in a royal ceremony on August 25, during International Water Week.