Reviews for Big Thirst : The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water


Booklist Reviews 2011 March #1
*Starred Review* Fishman, author of the best-selling The Wal-Mart Effect (2006), bring his gifts for statistics and storytelling to this 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 and that our "golden age" of "abundant, safe, and cheap" water may soon end, thanks to deteriorating infrastructure (7 billion gallons leak out of our water systems every day), rising urban populations, and climate change. Both "water complacency" and "water poverty" are rampant. A typical American uses about 100 gallons a day (5.7 billion gallons of drinking water are flushed down toilets daily), while approximately 5,000 children die worldwide every day from thirst or tainted water. Among his many case studies are Las Vegas' water extravaganzas and India's lack of 24/7 water even in its booming cities, which keeps millions of girls out of school to collect and carry each day's water supply--an effort the intrepid Fishman attempts and finds arduous. Fishman praises tap water, observes that water consciousness is "infectious," and declares that "most water problems are, in fact, solvable." Fishman's engrossing water survey establishes the base for a much-needed "water-use revolution." Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

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Choice Reviews 2012 May
Fishman (business journalist) details how access to clean, adequate water supplies (water security) affects almost everyone. Recognizing that all water problems are local, the author relates the difficulties encountered when water security is lacking and the bold steps that some regions have taken to ensure water security. He cites contrasting examples, writing in an engaging, personal style that focuses as much on the people involved as on the problems themselves. For example, population growth and a desert climate primed Las Vegas for dramatic changes in water usage. The casual visitor views the fountains and pools as extravagant waste, but behind the scenes water policy changes have significantly reduced the per capita water usage. In comparison, Atlanta's burgeoning population forced the city to rely more heavily on the Chattahoochee River and Lake Lanier--despite the fact that two other states and several endangered species depend on that water. Most households pay much less for a reliable supply of drinking water than they do for a cell phone plan. Water itself is typically given little or no value (water bills simply pay for water infrastructure), although people will spend significant amounts on bottled water. Overall, a well-written account of an important environmental issue. Summing Up: Recommended. All students and general readers. General Readers; Lower-division Undergraduates; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Two-year Technical Program Students. T. J. Kroeger Bemidji State University Copyright 2012 American Library Association.

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Kirkus Reviews 2011 February #1

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.

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 February #3

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.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC

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