Water Follies: Groundwater Pumping and the Fate of America's Fresh Waters [NOOK Book]


The Santa Cruz River that once flowed through Tucson, Arizona is today a sad mirage. Except for brief periods following heavy rainfall, it is bone dry. The cottonwood and willow trees that once lined its banks have died, and the profusion of wildlife recorded by early settlers is nowhere to be seen. As Robert Glennon explains in Water Follies, what killed the Santa Cruz River -- and could devastate other surface waters across the United States -- was groundwater pumping. From 1940 to 2000, the volume of water ...
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Water Follies: Groundwater Pumping and the Fate of America's Fresh Waters

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The Santa Cruz River that once flowed through Tucson, Arizona is today a sad mirage. Except for brief periods following heavy rainfall, it is bone dry. The cottonwood and willow trees that once lined its banks have died, and the profusion of wildlife recorded by early settlers is nowhere to be seen. As Robert Glennon explains in Water Follies, what killed the Santa Cruz River -- and could devastate other surface waters across the United States -- was groundwater pumping. From 1940 to 2000, the volume of water drawn annually from underground aquifers in Tucson jumped more than six-fold, from 50,000 to 330,000 acre-feet per year. And Tucson is hardly an exception -- similar increases in groundwater pumping have occurred across the country and around the world. In a striking collection of stories that bring to life the human and natural consequences of our growing national thirst, Robert Glennon provides an occasionally wry and always fascinating account of groundwater pumping and the environmental problems it causes. He sketches the culture of water use in the United States, explaining how and why we are growing increasingly reliant on groundwater. Glennon offers a dozen stories, ranging from Down East Maine to San Antonio's River Walk to Atlanta's burgeoning suburbs that clearly illustrate the array of problems groundwater pumping causes. Each episode poses a conflict of values that reveal the complexity of how and why we use water. These poignant and sometimes perverse tales tell of human foibles such as greed, stubbornness, and the unlimited human capacity to ignore reality. As Robert Glennon explores the folly of our actions and the laws governing them, he suggests common-sense legal and policy reforms that could help avert potentially catastrophic effects. Water Follies, the first book to focus on the environmental impacts of groundwater pumping, brings this widespread but underappreciated problem to the attention communities across America.
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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
Glennon (law, U. of Arizona) tells several stories of how groundwater is being pumped from aquifers to generate huge profits by drying up lakes, rivers, and wetlands. Arizona, Florida, Texas, Massachusetts, California, Maine, Minnesota, and Nevada are among the stops. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
The New York Review of Books

"a lively account of hydrology."

"Water Follies deserves a place alongside the late Marc Reisner's classic Cadillac Desert."
The Globe and Mail

"if you want to scare yourself silly, read Water Follies, by Robert Jerome Glennon. In it you'll learn how America is irrigating itself to death—just like the Sumerians—while sucking its groundwater aquifers dry."
Scientific American

"...a book as rich in detail as it is devastating in its argument."
Conservation in Practice

"Even if you are not working with water issues, you should read this book for a wider awareness of the depth and importance of groundwater impacts, right down to the bottle of water you are probably drinking right now."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597267878
  • Publisher: Island Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2002
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 705,383
  • File size: 5 MB

Meet the Author

Robert Jerome Glennon is Morris K. Udall Professor of Law and Public Policy at the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 The Worth of Water in the United States 13
2 Human Reliance on Groundwater 23
3 How Does a River Go Dry? 35
4 A River at Risk 51
5 Tampa Bay's Avarice 71
6 The Tourist's Mirage 87
7 Suburban Development and Watershed Initiatives 99
8 A Game of Inches for Endangered Chinook Salmon 113
9 Wild Blueberries and Atlantic Salmon 127
10 Size Does Count, at Least for French Fries 143
11 The Black Mesa Coal Slurry Pipeline 155
12 Is Gold or Water More Precious? 169
13 All's Fair in Love and Water 183
14 The Future of Water 195
15 The Tragedy of Law and the Commons 209
Appendix 225
Glossary 237
List of Acronyms 245
Bibliography 247
Acknowledgments 297
Index 301
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 12, 2012

    Great Book on Important Topic

    In Water Follies, by Robert Glennon, groundwater has its moment in the spotlight. Through several real life case studies and historical stories Glennon gives us an overview of what effect humans have had on groundwater around the world. The overarching theme of his narrative is apparent in the title of the book. Follies by humans have brought the state of groundwater in most populous areas to a breaking point. Each case study presented in the book results in a profound impact on some other, more noticeable, facet of life. In some cases, the more recent ones, the impact is only speculated by environmentalists, but without knowledge and thought into the consequences there could be catastrophic effects in many places.

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  • Posted May 13, 2010

    Solid Book

    Groundwater rights have been a controversial issue for many years. Since water pumping began, the rights of the water have been disputed. This disputation has become increasingly important as people begin to realize just how valuable it is. The balance between human and natural need has been shaken, because of uneven distribution and corporate exploitation of communal resources. Robert Glennon does a great job of explaining these relationships in his book, Water Follies. Glennon takes the readers on a trip around America, showing various misuses of our most precious resource. He satirizes the American way of exploitation at the cost of society, and points out ways that our country should change.
    Glennon has many arguments about the mistreatment of our countries' water resources. One argument is that of water companies pumping enormous amounts of water is having a perverse effect on the environment. To understand this, we must understand that all groundwater is tied together. When the groundwater level is high, it adds water to streams, but when groundwater is low, the streams lose water. This water adds to the groundwater. When a water company begins pumping water out of the ground, it lowers the water table, which causes rivers and streams to lose their water. When this happens, the bodies of water change. These different conditions make it difficult for animals to survive because they depend on the water environment for their home. If the changes are too drastic, the animal population threatened will suffer and may be forced to relocate.
    Glennon also rips into the fact that water companies take groundwater, which is basically a public resource, and pumps huge quantities of it. This causes many problems for the population. The same water that city utilities sell for a fraction of a penny per gallon is sold by private water companies for $4.50-$7.50 per gallon. Another problem arises when the huge amount of pumping causes the water table to drop, eventually below the current well depths. This means that private homeowners, who use an incredibly small amount of water compared to the water companies, have to foot the bill to drill a deeper well. Another problem that comes along with the dropping water table is the subsidence of the ground. Without the water to support it, the ground collapses upon itself, causing cracking of buildings, roads, and infrastructure. The government does not have a good way of regulating water use, which makes it very easy for companies to take much more than their fair share and get away with it.
    The author is an advocate of water reform in America. He brings up a lot of very good points and issues that need to be addressed. Glennon does a good job of explaining that everything is interconnected, a concept that a lot of people do not understand. This entire book summarizes many of the problems that we have with water. He places a lot of emphasis on things needing to change, but does it in a way that makes it seem obvious. Glennon also does a good job of adding a hopeful spin to his message, which can come across as a bit ominous. He leaves the reader with some steps that can be taken to help fix this problem that we have. This book was a solid, interesting, down to earth read that everyone should take a good look at.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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