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Why Storing Water for the Future Means Looking Underground

Conventional dams and reservoirs work against nature. It’s time to work with it.
A resident walks with a dog across the drying bottom of the Paraibuna dam, part of the Cantareira water system that provides greater Sao Paulo with most of its water.
A resident walks with a dog across the drying bottom of the Paraibuna dam, part of the Cantareira water system that provides greater Sao Paulo with most of its water.REUTERS/Roosevelt Cassio

Whatever the conclusion of COP21, adapting to climate change will only become more urgent, as its impacts become harsher. These impacts are, and will be, felt primarily through water: rising sea-levels, dwindling snowpack, droughts, and floods.

As countries all over the world grapple with these challenges, there’s been a lot of talk about innovative water-saving approaches, such as desalination, recycling, novel irrigation systems for farmers, and conservation tools for homes. But there’s another variable in the equation when its comes to adapting water use to climate change, and that’s storage—how we hold onto water when it’s available, so that supplies meet demand in unsteady times.