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The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water Paperback – February 14, 2012

139 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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"A timely warning about the dwindling global water supply." ---Kirkus --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 402 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (February 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439102082
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439102084
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (139 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,050 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Glenn Ostle on April 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover
As an editor in the pulp and paper industry, I'm aware of what our own industry is doing to use less water and recycle and reuse the water that it does use. But this book has given me a much broader view of the water issue thanks to Mr. Fishman's clever writing, excellent research, and fascinating stories drawn from his global travels. He has achieved the seemingly impossible by writing an entire book about the single topic of water, and making it fascinating reading. I'll never look at or think about water the same way again, and I've already found myself looking for little ways in which I can reduce my use of this precious resource.
This should be required reading for everyone.

Glenn Ostle
Editorial Director/Associate Publisher
Paper360 magazine
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Allison Adams on April 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A whole book about water? Really?

We all know water is precious and important in our lives, but like most U.S. citizens, I used to take safe, clean water for granted.

Never again after reading "The Big Thirst." The book is compelling and fun to read, serious and hopeful.

Charles Fishman is a great storyteller and writer. With humor and facts, he identifies and explores vital issues as he travels to Las Vegas, Australia, India, UAE and beyond. He presents ideas, information and critical issues in a thoughtful and calm manner.

This important and book changed the way I think about water, and has lessons for individuals, communities and policy makers.

I no longer feel numbed by water worries; I even feel hopeful. And I keep thinking about my relationship with water, including why a body of water makes me so happy, and why some fountains are amazing and others are just annoying (you know the type). This book will keep me (and others) thinking and talking about water for a long time to come.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By locomote on December 25, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
Never have I read a book so useful, so essential, but yet so terribly written. You can't afford not to read it, but as the author repeats himself over and over and over again (in exactly the same words even sometimes), you find yourself wishing there were a Cliff's Notes version where you could take in the information without all the useless wordiness. It's a tiresome drudgery of a book, but again...one you really can't afford not to read. It's essential, but boring; useful, but tedious; necessary, but somnambulistic. If you can get through this review without wanting to wring my neck...you might be ok.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jijnasu Forever VINE VOICE on May 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover
In this well-researched and engaging book, reminiscent of his story-telling abilities in the Walmart Effect, Fishman makes a key assertion that we have "ignored" water and its supplies and more importantly, its economic value. Intertwining stories from IBM's effort in ultra-pure water management for chip manufacturing, Las Vegas's battle on creating an "oasis in desert", deep-rooted cultural and political issues in Australia and India, Fishman clearly highlights the growing challenges and the need for re-framing our discussion on the use of this resource. In terms of understanding our relation with water, this book expands our understanding and sharpens the urgency that was communicated by another thought provoking book - a few years ago - Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It. Sadly, both these two books haven't necessarily gotten the attention they deserve.

(For more details on the chapters, please refer my blog post via my profile page)

Fishman starts off with a pithy chapter positing that our attitude towards water is "filled with contradictions" and hypothesizes that the "invisibility" of the supply system and prevalent philosophies on water being free (of cost) are its biggest vulnerabilities. He follows up with a chapter that explains water's origin, geological concepts on "watery rocks", "Earth ocean" and water cycles. Reading about inter-galactic water formation is in itself a treat. He then discusses different issues regarding water supplies, philosophies on its usage, socio-political-economic implications - using different stories.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Mark Belmont on May 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Truly entertaining stories that accomplish what few books of this type do: provides a stern warning without attempting to frighten. The book takes a hard look at some very dire situations but also provides some specific examples of places around the globe that have figured out an answer. Charles Fishman has crafted an impressionist painting that can be seen as a business book, a political book, a human drama, or a primer on the science and economics of water. The book takes the reader on a worldwide tour, from the splashy hotels on the Vegas strip to the poorest slums of India and lots of places in between.

No matter your expectations, this book will exceed them.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Flora Fauna on April 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Big Thirst is a wonderful read.

Too often, I find books about major global issues to be pretty grim. Fishman (great name for a water writer) uses a light touch, as he takes you to places where water crises have dominated people's lives -- from Mumbai to Las Vegas to Toowoomba. From these far-flung locales, he reports on not only the staggering challenges people face, but also their solutions. He shows how determined people have successfully tackled problems of filthy or scare water, sometimes by thinking outside the box, and sometimes by taking matters into their own hands.

Nothing short of inspiring.
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