Providing Food And Water Sustainably

The Molecule That Made Us

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PBS is bringing viewers on a journey to explore the relationship between water and life on Earth.

In slow motion, a close-up of a water droplet running down a leaf. © Filmsupply

A story worth telling.

H₂O, The Molecule That Made Us is a landmark, three-part series from PBS and WGBH that tells the human story through our relationship to water. Water has been at the heart of the human story since the very beginning, and now, we face a crisis of unprecedented proportions: we can no longer take water for granted.

The Nature Conservancy is partnering to broaden the impact of the science and solutions displayed in H₂O, The Molecule That Made Us. Here, you will find each episode of the show paired with TNC stories that tackle water challenges. We hope you'll be inspired to help rewrite the next chapter in our water story. After all, nature is incredibly resilient, if we give it a chance…

Watch episodes of PBS’s H₂O: The Molecule That Made Us

The three-part series explores just how important water is to our existence.

Full Episodes Stream full episodes here of the series H2O: The Molecule That Made Us.
chum salmon swim in alaska stream in tongass national forest
Chum Salmon in Alaska Salmon in a stream near Hydaburg, Alaska. Communities here rely on Tongass’ rivers and streams, with each resident consuming an average of 75 pounds of salmon a year. © Chris Crisman

Water is everywhere. It is the lifeblood of nature. It is where we came from. 

Episode 1: Pulse: Where did water come from? Why is it on Earth? How does it shape nature? How did it shape us? Water is the molecule that makes Earth unique. This episode explores some of these fundamental questions.

TNC works hard to protect spectacular water systems around the world, from the mighty Colorado River to the Okavango River in Africa to the Amazon. Explore our work in protecting the natural systems that sustain Earth’s pulse for all of us.  

 

Protect where the water comes from By protecting water sources like rivers and aquifers, says TNC's Daniel Shemie, we're not only improving our communities' water supply systems, we also investing in natural habitat for endangered flora and fauna.


Our Stories and Solutions

See how TNC is protecting water:

herd of elephants walking through tall grass wetlands
Herd in Okavango A herd of Elephants cross a small spillway in Selinda Reserve in Botswana's Okavango Delta. © BEVERLY JOUBERT/National Geographic Image Collection
grand canyon north rim golden hour sunset with colorado
Grand Canyon North Rim Toroweap Point above the Colorado River on the Grand Canyon's North Rim. © Stephen Alvarez/National Geographic Image Collection
herd of elephants walking through tall grass wetlands
Herd in Okavango A herd of Elephants cross a small spillway in Selinda Reserve in Botswana's Okavango Delta. © BEVERLY JOUBERT/National Geographic Image Collection

Pulse of Water

Okavango Basin: Protecting Africa’s Seasonal Oasis

The Kalahari's annual flood supports Africa's largest population of elephants & other wildlife. Angolans, Namibians & Botswanans need water too. TNC is helping set the right balance during a critical window to help secure the Okavango basin.

grand canyon north rim golden hour sunset with colorado
Grand Canyon North Rim Toroweap Point above the Colorado River on the Grand Canyon's North Rim. © Stephen Alvarez/National Geographic Image Collection

Pulse of Water

Celebrating the Colorado River Basin

The Colorado River is one of the hardest working rivers in the West. The Nature Conservancy is working hard across the entire Colorado River Basin to protect this amazing river and resource.

Drops of Knowledge

  • Leaf icon

    260

    gallons that a Brazil nut tree in the Amazon rainforest can transfer from the soil to the air in one day. The Amazon regulates its climate with this flying river.

  • Seed germination icon

    32,000

    years old of a seed that was successfully germinated after being found in ice in Siberia. The seed responded to liquid water to become the oldest regenerated plant.

  • DNA icon

    73%

    of your brain and heart are made up of water. Adults are roughly 60% water yet newborns are around 78% water. Water makes up much of our blood and even some of our bones.

  • Water droplet icon

    0.006%

    of the world’s freshwater flows through rivers. Only 3% of Earth's water is fresh and of that, 68% is locked up in ice and glaciers and 30% is underground.

By protecting a water source, we not only improve the water security and resilience of our water supply systems, we also invest in a charismatic landscape that’s a natural habitat to endangered flora and fauna.

Deputy Managing Director, Water Funds, The Nature Conservancy
new york city manhattan skyline over east river with dock poles and bulkheads
Skyline over East River A sunset in shades of mauve over Lower Manhattan as seen from across the East River in Brooklyn Bridge Park, DUMBO, New York City. © Gallogly/TandemStock

Water is power. It is the basis for civilization, for the economy, and for our own survival.

Episode 2: Civilizations: From the cradle of humanity to the great River Valley civilizations, our societies have evolved alongside water. This episode shows that our ability to harness water has enabled us to produce food, support cities and grow economies.

TNC works with farmers, city planners and energy producers to make sure that we create a society in which people and nature thrive together. From protecting watersheds to ensure cities have clean water, to helping protect rivers from unmitigated dam development, TNC works around the world to protect the nature we need.

Nature is the root of the city LaTresse Snead, Director of TNC’s Building Healthy Cities strategy, discusses the importance of a stable supply of water to cities, and how solutions to water security in cities often start with nearby forests.


Our Stories and Solutions

See how TNC is protecting water:

man with tablet in cornfield center pivot irrigation
GPS irrigation mapping Mike Svboda, of Svboda farms in Nebraska, controls his irrigation pivot from the GPS software on his iPad. © Robert Clark
Fly fisher on rock on misty penobscot river in maine
Fishing on the Penobscot Fly fishing in early morning mist on a ledge near the famous rafting spot called "crib works" on the East Branch of the Penobscot River just upriver of Mount Katahdin, Maine. © Bridget Besaw
boat ferries people across river with ripples at sunset
Crossing the Magdalena Local residents cross the Magdalena river using a ferry boat near the town of Pinto in the Mompox Depression, where the Magdalena river meets the Cauca River. © Juan Arredondo
man with tablet in cornfield center pivot irrigation
GPS irrigation mapping Mike Svboda, of Svboda farms in Nebraska, controls his irrigation pivot from the GPS software on his iPad. © Robert Clark

Our Civilization

Smart Growth

Water is a farmer's most precious resource. Farmers and scientists are working together to grow more food while minimizing demands on land and water.

Fly fisher on rock on misty penobscot river in maine
Fishing on the Penobscot Fly fishing in early morning mist on a ledge near the famous rafting spot called "crib works" on the East Branch of the Penobscot River just upriver of Mount Katahdin, Maine. © Bridget Besaw

Our Civilization

Unleashing Rivers

More than 14,000 dams dot the New England landscape. Relics of the Industrial Revolution, these dams were used for power and milling. Removing them allows waterways to make a comeback.

boat ferries people across river with ripples at sunset
Crossing the Magdalena Local residents cross the Magdalena river using a ferry boat near the town of Pinto in the Mompox Depression, where the Magdalena river meets the Cauca River. © Juan Arredondo

Our Civilization

Protecting Water at the Source

As Colombia’s population grows and becomes increasingly urbanized, more water is consumed daily. More farms and ranching mean less of the pristine forests, paramos and rivers that naturally clean and filter the water. The Nature Conservancy is protecting water at these upstream sources, guaranteeing cleaner water once it reaches users.

Drops of Knowledge

  • Crops and water icon

    5 ft

    high that the Nile seasonally flooded across its wide floodplain in ancient times. Ancient Egyptians depended on the floods for rich sediment that sustained their crops.

  • River dam icon

    2/3

    of rivers worldwide have lost their connection from their headwaters to the ocean. This is due to the hundreds of thousands of dams built across the world.

  • Rotating globe icon

    6

    nanoseconds per year that Earth's rotation is slowing down due to inertia from the mass of water behind China’s Three Gorges Dam, which, at capacity, is 42 billion tons.

  • Produce icon

    80

    gallons it takes to produce one ounce of almonds. This is a product's "virtual water." One cup of milk takes 48 gallons. A quarter pound hamburger takes over 600 gallons.

When you walk down the street you may see infrastructure and concrete, but really the foundation and the root of a city is nature.

LaTresse Snead, Director, Building Healthy Cities, TNC
High water from mississippi river flooding a road with double yellow line in louisiana
Mississippi Overflow The flooded overflow banks from the Mississippi River in St. Francisville, Louisiana. © David Y. Lee

Only by reconciling our needs with those of nature will we succeed in sustaining the power of the water molecule.

Episode 3: Crisis: This episode explores the deep roots that connect water security with conflict around the world. Water is being “mined” from aquifers faster than it can be replaced. Increased economic inequality heightens the dangers of water scarcity around the world. And yet there is hope.

Explore how TNC is working with communities around the world to solve profound water security issues, from helping Cape Town avert ”Day Zero” to helping the western United States solve its water crisis.

Give nature a chance to solve water challenges Many of the solutions to water security come from nature, explains TNC's Giulio Boccaletti explains, and we all have a role to play in ensuring nature's protection around the world.

Through Submerged Portraits, photographer Gideon Mendel reveals a Drowning World.

Episode 3: Civilizations will take you into Mendel’s world. In these portraits, floods are a leveling factor between some of the poorest and wealthiest communities on Earth.



Our Stories and Solutions

See how TNC is protecting water:

woman carries bucket of water in cape town south africa
Fetching water Thobeka Mbashe fetches water from a communal tap in an informal settlement in Cape Town, South Africa. Her family lives in a one bedroom shack without running water. © Roshni Lodhia
dinner table family style sustainable healthy meal
Sustainable Food A table is set with foods grown or produced by some of the TNC partners who are working to make food more sustainable, New York City. © Robert Clark
big gun center pivot irrigation in colorado cornfield
Colorado River Delta An aerial view of salt flats and hydromorphological formations of the Colorado River Delta in Mexico. © Nick Hall
woman carries bucket of water in cape town south africa
Fetching water Thobeka Mbashe fetches water from a communal tap in an informal settlement in Cape Town, South Africa. Her family lives in a one bedroom shack without running water. © Roshni Lodhia

Solutions

Nature-Based Solutions for Cape Town's Water

In 2018, Cape Town drew dangerously close to “Day Zero”—the day when the citizens’ water taps would run dry. Nature-based solutions, like removing water-intensive invasive species, could help ensure the city has the water it needs for its citizens, businesses and the economically important agricultural sector.

dinner table family style sustainable healthy meal
Sustainable Food A table is set with foods grown or produced by some of the TNC partners who are working to make food more sustainable, New York City. © Robert Clark

Solutions

Tech Startups Feeding Our Growing Population

Addressing water security and other conservation challenges will require rapid innovation and investment in developing new technologies. We need more entrepreneurs and technologists focusing their talents and resources on solving problems that matter.

big gun center pivot irrigation in colorado cornfield
Colorado River Delta An aerial view of salt flats and hydromorphological formations of the Colorado River Delta in Mexico. © Nick Hall

Solutions

Solutions to Address Water Scarcity in the U.S.

Drought is on the uptick. Water is a limited resource that must be man­aged wisely, particularly in the face of climate change, growing populations and increasing demands across sectors.To meet this challenge, The Nature Conservancy works to reduce demands for water among the biggest users and improve the flexibility of water governance and management.

Drops of Knowledge

  • Water drop icon

    97%

    of water wells in the Gaza Strip are unfit for human consumption due to high salinity and pollution. The 2 million Gazans depend on a coastal aquifer that is overpumped.

  • Skull icon

    40%

    is how much demand for water will outstrip supply in just 10 years, says TNC's Giulio Boccaletti. Water scarcity, according to Boccaletti, is humanity's greatest threat.

  • Water pump icon

    6,000

    years it would take for Oglalla Aquifer in the central U.S. to naturally recover from the past 40-50 years of groundwater pumping for agricultural irrigation.

  • Thundercloud icon

    10%

    increase in rain drops is found in big storms today versus big storms 25 years ago. As the planet warms, air can hold more water, leading to swings of drought and flood.

Water security is the foundation of a functioning society and we all have to do our part to make sure that nature is there to provide it for us.

Chief Strategy Officer, The Nature Conservancy

Resources for Students

Teachers, students and families can explore the world of water in their classrooms or living rooms through a host of instructional material, including videos, interactive and lesson plans tailored for different grade levels.