Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Hide and Seek with Water

Water, the liquid of Life, is a topic of discussion; within the UN, inside plush boardrooms, and always with the most impoverished amongst us. The darned H2O keeps playing hide and seek from where Nature poured it and sometimes turns up where People are saying too much water in so many soaked places around our globe. Most critical, is everyone having enough fresh clean water when needed and why that happens in some places and not in others, is the subject of two fascinating books about Water; the clear Nectar of the wealthy.

Insightful Books on the Topic with my Reviews

Thirst is a documentary that first garnered attention on PBS. The authors/producers, (Alan Snitnow, Deborah Kaufman with Michael Fox), updated the film's message to shine a brighter spotlight on the stories of grassroots activists - willing and accidental, corporations and their sense of entitlement with oft times befuddled or greedy politicians as partners. The dirty business of water is in the book Thirst: Fighting the Corporate Theft of Our Water. (Emphasis by the Authors)

Thirst is a story about water told through people who run the sewage to those elected, though in some cases they are the same product. Water and its infrastructure in the US have caught the attention of international conglomerates because of the potential profits. For the most part, Americans pay some attention to their own town or city's water, but don't yet see the national pattern. The squeeze of Public Private Partnerships in the water business have led to courtroom high-powered squirt pistol duels over eminent domain and local control. Thirst is the book that ties similar stories together, yet shows an array of outcomes as ordinary citizens learn hard water lessons at the hands of elected officials, egos and corporate players sent to live amongst the public.

The authors name names and trace the corporate feeding trough as they sell off and reorganize seeking bigger juicier markets. A must read if you want to know why water bills are going up, services are declining while the infrastructure delivering your water is increasingly in deplorable condition. Is your town next? This book is an eye opening prep for what lies ahead for the unwary and the thirsty.

When the Rivers Run Dry: Water-The Defining Crisis of the Twenty-First Century by Fred Pearce is now in paperback. Vignettes of rivers and regions tells stories of feast and famine depending on the river and Man's attempts to control them. Catastrophic effects of dammed, dry or diverted rivers, erosion and evaporation are escalating to crisis proportions. It is a book of details and despair from Pearce as he recaps the devastation and at the same time delivers a compelling travelogue.

Pearce lists the disturbing effects of using some aquifers at increasing rates that are causing wells to be dug deeper and deeper as more people mine the water to win the race for available funds. More water is pumped in locales - like the desert, for crops that take immense amounts of water. People are displaced as dams divert water for other purposes. In China, the Three Gorges Dam was to produce a certain amount of electricity after displacing millions of indigenous people with no other skills. It didn't. The story of Libya's Great Manmade River and the billions of dollars going to Halliburton via a subsidiary for tepid results is instructive. The writing is evocative and factual, teeming with explanations and first hand accounts for the general reader.

Frustration arises from me at Pearce because while there is an index in the hardbound edition, there are no endnotes for factual material in the book. It makes me nuts to see a quote for how much virtual water is used in exports, but nary a footnote in sight. There's a certain ironic symmetry of the rivers being dry while seeking a rich vein of original source notes. (I have to hurl a deserved lemon at that missed opportunity.) This is a compelling read for seekers of knowledge outlining why wars over water are looming. There is info on sewage issues that swamp fresh vegetables to understanding the lack of long range planning while corporations are developing booming water businesses with negligible results for the public good. Great source of knowledge and of various nations and kingdoms' water issues.

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