Running out of water


Running out of water: the looming crisis and solutions to conserve our most precious resource. Peter Rogers and Susan Leal (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).

Here’s another great book for all you current and former civil engineering geeks out there. We know that water is a finite resource which is essential to life, and the world’s increasing population is using more and more of it, while climate change is altering its distribution. Unlike most books on this topic which either focus on persuading us that there is a problem, or focus on individual conservation efforts (like low-flow toilets), this book takes a large-scale approach. They talk about solutions to water shortages and sewer management issues that encompass entire cities and river basins. It was interesting to hear about marketing strategies being successfully applied to getting taxpayers to fund repairs to aging sewer systems. I didn’t realize that communities in California are already recycling their wastewater into drinking water, cities in Brazil are using “sweat equity” to build low-cost sewer systems, or farmers in Nebraska are using technology to monitor (and change) water usage on crops electronically. It’s not all positive though – they come down pretty hard on Americans’ reliance on bottled water as a waste of both fossil fuels and water, and sound discouraged about the chances of river basins in Africa and Asia that cross national boundaries ever being managed fairly.


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