This spring, OAEC and the WATER Institute were honored to welcome world renowned water conservationist Dr. Rajendra Singh to OAEC for a weekend of skill sharing and inspiration. Dr Rajendra was in the US attending the UN Water Conference and we were fortunate to be included in his west coast visit. Many thanks to Zachary Weiss of Water Stories for connecting us with Dr Singh and helping to make this inspirational weekend possible!
On Friday, March 31st we gathered in the OAEC meeting hall to discuss how to revitalize and heal landscapes through community-driven decentralized water retention. The evening included a screening of the award winning film “Reviving Rivers” followed by a presentation and brief panel discussion with Dr. Rajendra Singh (Tarun Bharat Sangh), Brock Dolman (The Water Institute), Zachary Weiss (Elemental Ecosystems), Ethan Hirsch-Tauber (The Water Folk), and questions from the audience.
“If you do something for water, water will do everything for you.” Known as “Jal Parush” or Water Man of India, Dr Rajendra Singh is a champion of indigenous ways of stewarding water and aims to build a “water literate” world. At the film screening event, Dr Singh expressed his disappointment in the UN Water Conference in the way that it promoted the interests of corporations and mega-projects that tend to exacerbate water inequality rather than empowering communities to use traditional, time-tested water tending methods at a local scale. Water is for “community not commodity.”
Dr Singh’s approach to rejuvenating local waters starts with building awareness of the sacredness of water and the interconnected concepts of the basic water cycle. He invited everyone in the audience to take the World Pledge to Rejuvenate the Water Cycle, starting with the phrase “I am water.” Dr Singh explained in simple terms a concept also known as the “biotic-pump” – how desertification (red heat) compounds the effects of drought, whereas vegetation (green heat) helps clouds to coalesce through evapotranspiration and pull down the rain, ultimately helping to reverse the spiraling trends of climate change.
The following day on Saturday April 1st, Dr. Rajendra Singh lead a day-long workshop on how the land can be reshaped to facilitate healing and abundance. Using OAEC’s 80-acre Conservation Hydrology demonstration site as a classroom, participants discovered practical solutions and techniques that have been successfully implemented around the world to help promote watershed recovery, groundwater recharge, reforestation, as well as the positive ecological and social change that results from healthy watersheds. On Sunday, workshop attendees had the chance to see another application of these techniques in Healdsburg. Dr. Singh shared his real-world success stories for bringing water and life back to landscapes and suggested how these practices could be applied to reverse the trend of desertification and heal California’s depleted groundwater stores.
About Dr. Rajendra Singh
In the driest region of India, Dr. Rajendra Singh has helped bring water back to 250,000 wells, revive 13 rivers, increase the number of harvests possible in a year, and decreased the temperature in the region by 2 degrees.
Trained as a doctor, Rajendra found himself in Rajasthan, India at the aid of sick, elderly patients. In this region, people had to walk many miles a day to retrieve their water. Women and girls weren’t able to go to school, as it took many hands and many hours to carry the water needed for their family’s daily life. Sickness and hunger were commonplace. The young people had all migrated to the cities, in search of a better life. More than medicine, his patients needed water.
One of these elderly patients showed Rajendra a more powerful way to help the community – by storing the seasonal monsoon rain in the earth using traditional water tending techniques. Through simple, low-tech methods of creating earthen water bodies called Johads in strategic places, rivers in the driest part of India were revived, wells were recharged, and economically viable agriculture was restored to the region. For over 35 years, Dr Rajendra’s organization Tarun Bharat Sangh has brought water back to thousands of villages throughout Rajasthan. This was done through the process of Community Driven, Decentralized Water Management.
If there has ever been a time for this approach to spread, it is now – and if there has ever been a place that needs it, it’s California.
Dr Rajendra Singh at OAEC with Brock Dolman Co-Director of the WATER Institute.