Cover image for Water : the fate of our most precious resource
Water : the fate of our most precious resource
De Villiers, Marq.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
Physical Description:
xvi, 352 pages : map ; 22 cm
Format :


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Material Type
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TD345 .D473 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
TD345 .D473 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
TD345 .D473 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
TD345 .D473 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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WATER is an eloquent and thought-provoking look at our most precious resource, the source of all life and its nurturer. The presence of water has permitted the development of many great civilizations; its absence (sometimes its shockingly sudden absence) has meant the death of many others. From ancient times, when humans huddled close to water sources, to the present, when we use water resources recklessly and profligately (for instance, luxuriously watering golf courses in the Nevada desert), water has been as vital as air. But now the global supply is running up against the ever-increasing demands made by burgeoning populations, the uses and misuses of water are becoming the subject of urgent study, and the potential for conflict is growing as nations reach the limits of their resources.
We can no longer take water for granted. Wherever we look, its assured supply -- and its purity -- is at risk. We live at a time when almost none of the water in the world's major rivers is still fit to drink and when more than a billion people do not have the basic access to safe water enjoyed by the ancient Romans. All over the planet, aquifer

Author Notes

Marq De Milliers is the author of six books on travel, exploration, history, & contemporary politics, including "Into Africa: A Journey Through the Ancient Empires" & "White Tribe Dreaming", his award-winning memoir of growing up in South Africa. He lives in Nova Scotia.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

A child dies every eight seconds from drinking contaminated water. More than half of the world's rivers are now so polluted that they pose serious health risks. One-third of Africa's people already endure conditions of water scarcity, and water supplies are in jeopardy in China, India, Japan, Spain, southern France, Australia, the southwestern U.S. and many other parts of Asia and Europe. Winner of the Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction in Canada, de Villiers's important, compelling, highly readable report on the looming global water crisis sounds a wake-up call for concerned citizens, environmentalists, policymakers and water-drinkers everywhere. In water matters, he finds the U.S. "both profligate and caring, rapacious and thrifty," and he cites studies that warn that the Ogallala Aquifer lying beneath six Great Plains states will run dry before 2020, imperiling U.S. agriculture as well as grain exports and posing the risk of a global food crisis. For sheer travelogue pleasure, his informal survey hops from the Sea of Galilee to Victoria Falls to a Russian boat ride down the Volga, as he delves into the science, ecology, folklore, history and politics of water. The news he brings back is ominous: rapidly growing populations, ever-increasing pollution, desertification and falling water tables endanger a fragile, finite resource. Avoiding a gloom-and-doom outlook, his spirited report remains determinedly optimistic, calling for a bold combination of solutions: conservation, technological innovation, desalination of sea water, demand-reducing devices like low-flow faucets and toilets, public policy to reduce water wastefulness and international cooperation to resolve transnational disputes over water. Rights sold in seven countries; documentary rights sold. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. viii
Prefacep. xiii
Part I The Where, What, and How Much of the Water World
1 Water in Perilp. 3
Is the crisis looming, or has it already loomed?
2 The Natural Dispensationp. 27
Who has how much, and who's running out?
3 Water in Historyp. 46
Some things never change: how humans have always discovered, diverted, accumulated, regulated, hoarded, and misused water
Part II Remaking the Water World
4 Climate, Weather, and Waterp. 67
Are we changing the first, and will changes to the other two necessarily follow?
5 Unnatural Selectionp. 85
Contamination, degradation, pollution, and other human gifts to the hydrosphere
6 The Aral Seap. 105
An object lesson in the principle of unforeseen consequences
7 To Give a Damp. 117
Dams are clean, safe, and store water for use in bad years, so why have they suddenly become anathema?
8 The Problem with Irrigationp. 136
Irrigated lands are shrinking, and irrigation is joining dams on an ecologist's hit list. Why?
9 Shrinking Aquifersp. 146
If water mines ever run out, what then?
10 The Reengineered Riverp. 166
If you turn a river into a sewer, you can turn it back into a river again
Part III The Politics of Water
11 The Middle Eastp. 185
If the water burden really is a zero-sum game, how do we get past the arithmetic?
12 The Tigris-Euphrates Systemp. 204
Shoot an arrow of peace into the air, and get a quiverful of suspicions and paranoias in return
13 The Nilep. 216
With Egypt adding another million people every nine months, demand is already in critical conflict with supply. Another zero-sum game?
14 The United States and Its Neighborsp. 231
In the menage a trois of Canada, Mexico, and the United States, who is the seducer and who the seducee?
15 The Chinese Dilemmap. 263
China is not running out of water, except in places where water is needed most
Part IV What Is to Be Done?
16 Solutions and Manifestosp. 275
If you're short of water, the choices are stark: conservation, technological invention, or the politics of violence
Notesp. 317
Bibliographyp. 331
Indexp. 339