Water Always Wins

Thriving in an Age of Drought and Deluge

Available for pre-order now

“Slow Water”

Trouble with water – extreme floods and droughts — is one of the first obvious signs of climate change, and today we are witnessing these events more often. At the same time, our built environment — urban sprawl, industrial agricultural and the engineered way we manage water — is making things worse. As our control systems fail, we are forced to reckon afresh with an eternal truth: water always wins.

Told as a detective storyErica Gies’ upcoming book, Water Always Wins: Thriving in an age of drought and deluge, follows water experts as they search for clues to water’s past, using close observation, historical research, ancient animal and human practices, and cutting-edge science. Their epiphanies are changing our understanding of what water wants and why our efforts to control it are failing.

Most modern humans have forgotten that water’s true nature is to flex with the rhythms of the earth, expanding and retreating in an eternal dance upon the land. These slow phases are where the magic happens to soften floods, save water for droughts, and keep natural systems healthy. Yet many human attempts to control water speed it up and move it off the land. The key to greater resilience, say the water detectives, is a kind of un-engineering that allows water to stall on the land – what Erica is calling a “Slow Water” ethic.

Slow Water finds commonality with Slow Food, a movement that draws people’s attention to where their food comes from and how its production affects people and the environment. Slow Water is also in the spirit of many Indigenous traditions and in Aldo Leopold’s land ethic. The 20th century forester-turned-conservationist called for us to treat soils, waters, plants and animals with respect and to strengthen our relationship with them. It’s care and need entwined: for nature to hold us up, we must also support it.

With this ethos, the water detectives are relearning how to live with water, to collaborate with it rather than try to control it. The book will take readers on a journey through time and around the world, introducing them to the wonder of water and to people who are innovating Slow Water approaches to help us adapt to climate change and to begin to heal our water bodies.

Erica is represented by The Martell Agency in New York, and the book is available through the University of Chicago Press in North America and by Head of Zeus in the United Kingdom.


“No force of nature has more powerfully shaped the human adventure than water, for the obvious reason that we can’t live without it. Much of what we call civilization has entailed civilizing this substance—mostly by hemming it in. In this sparkling, flowing, world-spanning narrative, Gies compellingly shows why water will always win in the end, particularly in an urbanizing world facing disruptive climate change. She also reveals, through guides ranging from China’s ‘sponge city’ designers to beavers, how liberating water can liberate us, in turn.”

Andrew Revkin, coauthor of The Human Planet and former New York Times climate reporter


Water Always Wins reveals the mysteries of water’s journey from source to sea, and shows how working with nature can help save us from the ravages of climate change. Through fascinating stories and detailed research, Gies challenges modern societies to relinquish some control, and let water go where it wants to go. This eye-opening book is filled with brilliant insights, creativity, inspiration, and honest hope.”

Sandra Postel, author of Replenish and winner of the 2021 Stockholm Water Prize


“We’ve tried, in every way we know, to control and contain water on this planet. But there are limits to our power, which become clearer as escalating cycles of flooding and drought increasingly make a mockery of our efforts. As Gies ably demonstrates, the time has come to learn some lessons from liquid, and to start trying to live gracefully in our wonderfully aqueous world.”

Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature


“From California’s agricultural lands to the marshes of Iraq, from beavers to microinvertebrates, from early water cultures in India and Peru to today’s water crises and the challenges of climate change, Gies uses her formidable reporting skills and personal experiences to weave together beautiful stories about water, its impact on our lives, and how it’s long past time to repair our relationship with this most precious resource.”

Peter Gleick, founder of Pacific Institute


“In a world awash with water stress, Gies and the many people featured in her pages are leading the way to a future where people might live in a sustainable relationship with the element that sustains us all. It is entertaining, engaging, and applicable nearly everywhere in the world—every reader will find connections to their home communities here.”

Peter K. Brewitt, Wofford College


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