For the past 100 years, the developed world has enjoyed a cheap, safe, and abundant water supply, but Fishman (The Wal-Mart Effect) warns that everything about water is about to change—how we use it, how we share it, and how we value it. In an engrossing, globe-trotting narrative, he introduces the reader to people already grappling with water shortages—Patricia Mulroy, Las Vegas's no-nonsense water czar known as the best water manager in the country; the inhabitants of a neighborhood in Delhi who line up twice a day for water they must carry home. Since water cannot be created or destroyed, the challenge we face is not so much about water scarcity but rather how we can use it more equitably and protect it—the meaning of "clean" has a wholly new connotation in an era when we can pollute water in new ways with residues of medicine and plastics. Fishman notes that some of the most innovative ways of conserving water are coming from big businesses, including IBM, which has cut the water use in its microchip production 27% in the past eight years. A comprehensive, remarkably readable panorama of our dependence on—and responsibilities to—a priceless resource. (Apr.)
A wide-ranging look at that most precious of goods, water, and a world in which it is a subject of constant crisis.
Most of us in the First World don't think about the source of our drinking water, for the simple reason that we have engineered our way around the problems of attainability that plagued our ancestors. Indeed, writes Fast Company journalist Fishman (The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World's Most Powerful Company Really Works—and How It's Transforming the American Economy, 2006), "our very success with water has allowed us to become water illiterate." That is not so elsewhere in the world. By the author's reckoning, four in ten people on the planet don't have easy access to water, and many of them have to walk in order to obtain it—a fact that comes with a host of problems, usually borne by women and girls, who do most of the water hauling at the expense of more rewarding work or attending school. What's worse, the numbers of water-poor people aren't declining. Traveling to India, Fishman observes that just about every household has a well-developed water-storage system not just because so much of the subcontinent is arid, but also because municipal governments in even the largest cities—Mumbai, Delhi—do not reliably deliver water to residents, at least beyond a couple of hours per day. Americans, the author argues, have gotten good at doing more with less water. He quotes statistics indicating that our absolute usage has fallen by 10 percent since 1980, even as our population has grown by 70 million people; he does not allow that this has something to do with the offshoring of so much of our thirsty agriculture. Even so, he observes, Americans are still thirsty—and even now trying to figure out ways to engineer around looming crises such as the disappearance of Lake Mead and the Colorado River.
A timely warning about the dwindling global water supply. Drink up.
From the Publisher
"A timely warning about the dwindling global water supply." Kirkus
Booklist (starred review)
"[A] lively and invaluable assessment of the current politics, economics, and culture of water. Lyrical in his descriptions of the beauty and wonder of water, Fishman is rigorous when explaining that the water we have now is all the water we will ever have."