GCC Distinguished Lecture Series

Brian Richter, Global Water Program, The Nature Conservancy

Chasing Water in a Rapidly Changing World

View the full lecture here

Brian Richter (Photo credit: © Erika Nortemann/TNC)

Brian Richter, the chief scientist for the Global Water Program of The Nature Conservancy, visited Virginia Tech on April 7, 2017. He gave a 4 p.m. distinguished lecture entitled “Chasing Water in a Rapidly Changing World” at the Lyric Theatre, followed by a question and answer period and book signing.

The event, coordinated by the Global Change Center at Virginia Tech and the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, was free and open to the public.

Richter has been a global leader in water science and conservation for more than 25 years. In his role at The Nature Conservancy, he promotes sustainable water use and management with governments, corporations, and local communities.

Richter is also the president of Sustainable Waters, a global water education organization. He has consulted on more than 150 water projects worldwide.

He serves as a water advisor to some of the world’s largest corporations, investment banks, and the United Nations, and has testified before the U.S. Congress on multiple occasions. A Virginia resident, Richter also teaches a course on Water Sustainability at the University of Virginia.

Richter has developed numerous scientific tools and methods to support river protection and restoration efforts, including the Indicators of Hydrologic Alteration software that is being used by water managers and scientists worldwide.

Richter was featured in a BBC documentary with David Attenborough on “How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth?” He has published many scientific papers on the importance of ecologically sustainable water management in international science journals, and co-authored a book with Sandra Postel entitled “Rivers for Life: Managing Water for People and Nature” (Island Press, 2003). His latest book, “Chasing Water: A Guide for Moving from Scarcity to Sustainability,” was published in 2014.

“Water shortages are now affecting half the world’s population, disrupting food and energy security as well as urban water supplies in many cities,” said Richter. “The overuse of water and associated drying of rivers, lakes, and aquifers has become a leading cause of freshwater species imperilment. Climate change forecasts foretell even greater challenges in many water-scarce regions. These threats to our water future can be ameliorated, but it will require bold and concerted action on the part of governments, city leaders, and farmers. My presentation will highlight the key solutions that must be implemented to address these water problems.”

Richter’s visit represents the fourth in a public Distinguished Lecture Series sponsored by the Global Change Center at Virginia Tech. The lecture series brings some of the world’s leading scholars to the Blacksburg community to discuss critical environmental and societal issues in an open forum.

“Water is one of our most important natural resources, affecting virtually every aspect of life including human health, coastal infrastructure, agricultural systems, national security, basic human rights, and conservation of critical biodiversity,” said Bill Hopkins, director of the Global Change Center and a professor in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation in the College of Natural Resources and Environment. “Virginia Tech has emerged as a global leader in comprehensive sociological, scientific, and engineering studies of water resources, and is continuing to build capacity in water across the disciplines.  We are thrilled to host one of the nation’s most respected water experts to discuss pressing water issues that affect the environment and society.”

“Water is life and is an irreplaceable natural resource,” said Stephen Schoenholtz, director of the Virginia Water Resources Research Center and a professor in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation in the College of Natural Resources and Environment. “There are few people with the wealth of national and international experience in water sustainability as Brian Richter. He has also been extremely supportive of Virginia Tech’s efforts to provide unique water educational opportunities for our students through our new interdisciplinary undergraduate water degree program. The Virginia Water Resources Research Center was pleased to help host Brian’s visit to Virginia Tech, which provided him with opportunities to share his perspectives on water issues and solutions with our faculty and students.