Thursday, April 19, 2012
Water Books: Soak Up Some Knowledge for World Water Day
If you’ve read about World Water Day in today’s headlines and on your favorite blogs, and are thirsty for more stories and data on the planet’s H20 problems, check out the following books, all published within the last year or so:
The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water By Charles Fishman
An award-winning business journalist, Fishman takes readers on a journey from outer space to the Detroit airport to illustrate the history and relevance of water.
He travels to drought-stricken regions of Australia to talk about the promise of and political obstacles to recycled water, and to the Yamuna River in India to explore the legacy and complications of dams, industrial development, and population growth.
From Vermont and California to China and Barcelona, Fishman discusses how water is managed and valued, suggesting that some of the world’s water woes could be alleviated if we put the “right” price on this seemingly invaluable resource.
For more of Fishman’s reflections on water, check out his National Geographic Water Currents blog posts.
The End of Abundance: Economic Solutions to Water Scarcity By David Zetland
For a purely economic perspective, The End of Abundance delivers analysis interspersed with fascinating insights into human behavior.
A water economist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, Zetland lays out a plan for using economic incentives and decentralized decision-making to manage water in an era of overall scarcity.
He argues that existing institutions and models have failed because they have relied on an assumption of abundance.
Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis By Cynthia Barnett
And for more on the U.S.’s struggle to balance politics, economics, and the environment in the context of water management, read Barnett’s Blue Revolution.
As a Florida-based environmental journalist, she focuses her reporting on investigating solutions for scarcity and pollution; and as a concerned citizen, she proposes a roadmap for a new national water ethic in which Americans reduce consumption and “live within their water means.”
Elixir: A History of Water and Humankind By Brian Fagan
Fagan, an anthropology professor at the University of California-Santa Barbara, makes five millennia of water history interesting.
From the beginnings of agricultural irrigation in the Middle East and the implosion of Khmer and Hohokam societies in modern-day Cambodia and Phoenix, Arizona, to the construction of New York City’s aqueduct system and Hoover Dam, Elixir forces the reader to relate the evolution of humanity and quality of life to the availability of freshwater.
The connections Fagan draws from the past to the present make it easier to swallow his warning that we must stop taking this sometimes-mercurial resource for granted.
The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Freshwater in the Twenty-First Century By Alex Prud’homme
Coming from the world of nonfiction crime writing, Prud’homme starts his book with a murder scene. A hyrdochemist working at the Passaic Valley Water Commission has been found dead at the bottom of a concrete water tank.
He goes on to tackle water quality, droughts and flooding, dams and levees, privatization, conflict, and innovation. Think of it as a slightly dramatic primer for getting to know twenty-first-century water issues.