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The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and…

The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water (edition 2012)

by Charles Fishman

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1841091,466 (4.08)2
Title:The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water
Authors:Charles Fishman
Info:Free Press (2012), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 416 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:drought, sustainability

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The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water by Charles Fishman



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The most profound statement made in the book: We do not have a water shortage. After reading this book, I understand that statement fully. While water is not created nor destroyed on this planet (that we know of), the public tends to define the water crisis as a lack of water. The amount of water is constant. Each locale, as the book examples the independence of water communities, must immediately and, in some cases, drastically rethink the way water is used and sourced. Water can remain with people; people cannot remain with water. ( )
  Sovranty | Jul 24, 2014 |
The Big Thirst is a mostly-fascinating outline of the way water is taken for granted in the west, and how that lackadaisical attitude - and the readily available fresh water it's premised on - cannot last. It does get a little repetitive and bogged down in places, but regularly picks back up with interesting tidbits and case studies.

My favourite part of the book was unfortunately the shortest - the beginning, where Fishman details just what water _is_ exactly, where it comes from, and why it's here on Earth. I felt like every paragraph sparked a new revelation - water is amazing! - and I could have read a whole book like that.

However, it's just a framing device; the bulk of the novel is built around case studies of urban water use and misuse ranging from Pennsylvania to rural India. Three main areas make up the case studies: Australia, arid Las Vegas, and the large cities of India. All of whom grapple with different, in some cases very interesting, challenges with water.

This section was mostly hit but there were some misses - and an unmistakeable sense of padding. Fishman has a tendency to repeat himself a little with the case studies, and his attempts at "I am there" journalism (not a favourite of mine) favour atmospherics over facts. This was especially apparent in the pages devoted to framing Toowoomba's water debate; a very slight and boring recap of Galveston's hurricane challenges; and summarising the previous career of Las Vegas Water's head honcho.

But don't let these sections put you off - for every weak case study, there's several fascinating ones. Especially interesting to me was the section on India. I knew nothing about municipal water arrangements in India, and the challenges - and solutions - were really engaging. It helps that there was not much padding in it as well.

Indeed, for a large book, I was left feeling... thirsty for more information about water and the myriad ways we treat it. Fishman's journey elides Africa and Europe entirely, where I'm sure there would be equally intriguing stories. You could read that as a criticism, but really it's a compliment - Fishman succeeded in making me invested in the topic. ( )
  patrickgarson | Mar 14, 2014 |
It just was not a book's worth of material. I found the constant repetitions of flowery equivalents to 'water is cool, and important' to be tedious reading. ( )
  jaygheiser | Oct 30, 2013 |
Everything about water – the history, science, and the future. Focuses on successful water managers and what they have done and the challenges ahead for all of us. Fascinating! ( )
1 vote St.CroixSue | May 14, 2013 |
Very thorough and impressive book about the truly stupendous amount of uses of water, and how it may be conserved and reused more efficiently in our lives. Invariably one of the most important topics of humanity's future. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 29, 2013 |
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"The water coming out of your kitchen tap is four billion years old and might well have been sipped by a Tyrannosaurus rex. Rather than only three states of water--liquid, ice, and vapor--there is a fourth, 'molecular water,' fused into rock 400 miles deep in the Earth, and that's where most of the planet's water is found. Unlike most precious resources, water cannot be used up; it can always be made clean enough again to drink--indeed, water can be made so clean that it's toxic. Water is the most vital substance in our lives but also more amazing and mysterious than we appreciate. As Charles Fishman brings vibrantly to life in this surprising and mind-changing narrative, water runs our world in a host of awe-inspiring ways, yet we take it completely for granted. But the era of easy water is over. Bringing readers on a lively and fascinating journey--from the wet moons of Saturn to the water-obsessed hotels of Las Vegas, where dolphins swim in the desert, and from a rice farm in the parched Australian outback to a high-tech IBM plant that makes an exotic breed of pure water found nowhere in nature--Fishman vividly shows that we've already left behind a century-long golden age when water was thoughtlessly abundant, free, and safe and entered a new era of high-stakes water. In 2008, Atlanta came within ninety days of running entirely out of clean water. California is in a desperate battle to hold off a water catastrophe. And in the last five years Australia nearly ran out of water--and had to scramble to reinvent the country's entire water system. But as dramatic as the challenges are, the deeper truth Fishman reveals is that there is no good reason for us to be overtaken by a global water crisis. We have more than enough water. We just don't think about it, or use it, smartly. The big thirst brilliantly explores our strange and complex relationship to water. We delight in watching waves roll in from the ocean; we take great comfort from sliding into a hot bath; and we will pay a thousand times the price of tap water to drink our preferred brand of the bottled version. We love water--but at the moment, we don't appreciate it or respect it. Just as we've begun to reimagine our relationship to food, a change that is driving the growth of the organic and local food movements, we must also rethink how we approach and use water. The good news is that we can. As Fishman shows, a host of advances are under way, from the simplicity of harvesting rainwater to the brilliant innovations devised by companies such as IBM, GE, and Royal Caribbean that are making impressive breakthroughs in water productivity. Knowing what to do is not the problem. Ultimately, the hardest part is changing our water consciousness"--Publisher's website.… (more)

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