That water will be the oil of the 21st century has recently become a well-worn refrain among journalists, pollsters and analysts of all types. But few have examined the value of water as Marq de Villiers has in his Governor General Award-winning book. De Villiers, whose essay on water appears on page 50, tracks the moral, philosophical, scientific, economic and ecological concerns about water from prehistorical times to the present and raises troubling questions about the world's water supplies in this accessible, eloquent and enlightening book.
Anyone who has traveled outside of the U.S., Canada or Western Europe has probably had to think twice about using any local water. Safe at home, we normally do not think too much about our tap water, or if we do, we readily fill up on whatever mineral water strikes our fancy or whatever happens to be on sale. Water makes us face the reality of how precious and dear water is everywhere. It covers the history and social effects of water control, availability and purity from the Danube to our own deserts. Alternately thought provoking and chilling, this is an excellent work. Economics, politics, whole populations and nature itself are so entwined with our use and abuse of water that no one can fail to be brought up short by the arguments of de Villiers. After dealing with the pros and cons of dams, shrinking aquifers, irrigation and re-engineering rivers, de Villiers touches on biotechnology: "What happens though, when farmers can grow more food with less water and with a tenth of the labor?...the complete industrialization of farming. Millions of third world peasants will be out their livelihoods, no longer necessary.... They will be forced into the cities as slum dwellers. . .Is that really what we want? You can look neither at water nor at food in isolation of other systemic problems." (p.272) Former South African, now Canadian, de Villiers shows us that no problem is isolated from our water problems. KLIATT Codes: SARecommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2000, Houghton Mifflin, Mariner, 352p. maps. notes. bibliog. index., $15.00. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Katherine E. Gillen; Libn., Luke AFB Lib., AZ , November 2001 (Vol. 35,No. 6)
The author, whose Boer childhood was spent on the edge of the Thirstland in South Africa, has had a lifelong fascination with water and studied water issues while writing his previous books on exploration, history, politics, and travel. His latest, winner of the Governor General s Literary Award for Nonfiction in Canada, depicts the current extent of world water scarcity, engineering efforts, and national and international water policies and briefly provides guidelines for dealing with the coming world water crisis. Like Paul Simon s Tapped Out: The World Crisis in Water and What We Can Do About It (LJ 1/99), this book pays special attention to Middle Eastern water issues and to those affecting the United States and its neighbors. However, De Villiers s very readable work provides more in-depth treatment of the hydrology, natural history, and available technologies, while Simon provides more detailed and thoughtful recommendations for preventing and dealing with the anticipated water scarcities. De Villiers concludes somewhat cursorily with a chapter on solutions and manifestos. Still, his entertaining yet thought-provoking narrative style will make this book a good choice for serious summer reading. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries. Margaret Aycock, Gulf Coast Environmental Lib., Beaumont, TX Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
This global examination of water, with especial focus on the Aral Sea, The Nile, and the Tigris and Euphrates, includes topics like water in history, desertification, the effect of climate change on rainfall and water tables, the effect of pollution on global water supply, water shortage and social collapse, water wars, the political and ecological consequences of exporting water from one river basin to another, the problem of dams, and the shrinkage of irrigated acreage and underground aquifers. Villiers is the author of six books on travel, exploration, history, and contemporary politics. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The author's argument here is exceptionally persuasive because he does not scold or inveigh but lucidly and readably reports...deVilliers does not despair, and he closes with a chapter on remedies.
A well-researched, fluent summary of the political and biological state of our global water resources, from Canadian author de Villiers (The Heartbreak Grape, 1993, etc.). The problem is not so much that there isn't enough water, explains the author, although growing populations may put that to the test. It is that water isn't where we want it: too much in the north when we need it in the south; too much seawater when we want freshwater; too much locked up in glaciers when we need it in our highballs or our sprinklers. So we go forth and fight for it, or steal it, or finagle it, or hold back what once flowed by. Twain had it right: "Whiskey is for drinkin'; water is for fightin'." Not that we have treated the water we do have access to with any sort of decency. De Villiers brings a sympathetic regard to the troubled waterscape, from the shrunken befouled Aral Sea to the waterway robbery of the Colorado River to cockamamie schemes from the Soviet bureaucracy to divert the great Arctic rivers. He details the downsides (or at least the overbalancing of cons to pros) of dams, irrigation, and tapping into aquifersincluding salinization, siltation, habitat destruction, and microclimate changes. Numerous examples are given up to buttress points that are well-madeof the ripple effects of tinkering with natural systems, for instanceif not earthshaking in their novelty. The value of this book is in giving readers perspective: where mistakes have been made and where thorny water issues are likely to raise their heads in the future. On the other hand, de Villiers's chapter on "solutions" is a blend of wishful thinking(technological answersand population decline) and doomsaying (water wars). Written with grace and an eye for captivating material, making this catalog of water misuses (past, present, and future) all the more poignant.