Freshwater Expert Sandra Postel to Keynote The FUND's Annual Meeting

Lake George Mirror

Sandra Postel, one of the nation's foremost advocates for clean, wild water and the ecosystems it supports, will be the keynote speaker at The FUND for Lake George's annual meeting, to be held this year on Saturday, July 6, at The Sagamore Resort in Bolton Landing.

Postel, who is the author, most recently, of “Replenish: The Virtuous CIcle of  Water and Prosperity,” has never underestimated the challenges of restoring water quality.

“The problems are big, and we're not moving quickly enough to solve them,” Postel said in a recent interview.

Among those problems: an infrastructure that inures to the benefit of the agricultural industry; nitrogen from wastewater treatment plants and septic systems coursing through the water cycle; urban runoff; and depleted groundwater reserves.

But, Postel added, “I wrote 'Replenish' from the perspective of realistic optimism. However large the problems, when you look out into the world, you can see examples of people and communities working together to solve these problems. Our challenge is to 'scale up' these local solutions.”

Postel said the message she will bring t Lake George is a hopeful one, and that expects to find evidence in this watershed that, as she puts it in “Replenish,” “we can choose to write a new water story.”

Evidence of that sort will not be difficult to find.

In Lake George, a restored wetland is fully operational and doing the work it was designed to do, filtering urban runoff before it reaches the lake. In fact, according to a report released in December 2019, it's doing a better job than originally anticipated.

In Bolton Landing, local officials won a grant to construct wood chip bioreactors, which are underground trenches filled with high-grade woodchips that absorb nitrogen from the wastewater treatment plant's effluent. Bolton's grant is the first ever awarded by New York State for this particular experimental, low-cost technology.

Both projects illustrate Postel's argument that it is possible to restore ecosystems by detoxifying the water that runs through them. Moreover, both projects brought together local governments, nonprofit groups and engineers under one umbrella. And according to Postel, “the most promising solutions involve collaboration; that's what creates innovation and new opportunities to fix the broken water cycle.”

Postel will also find that the research on Lake George into an especially insidious attack on water quality—Harmful Algal Blooms—is progressing rapidly. So rapidly, in fact, that homeowners in the Hamptons, on the east and Long Island, whose efforts to combat Harmful Algal Blooms are documented by Postel, are among those who stand to benefit.

“External loading,” the discharge of nutrients into a water body is, of course, the proximate cause of most algal blooms.