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The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Fresh Water in the Twenty-First Century Hardcover – June 7, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (June 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781416535454
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416535454
  • ASIN: 1416535454
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #572,128 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Both drought and flood are on the rise, and Alex Prud'homme, in this fine new account, helps you understand why. We've taken the planet's hydrology for granted for the 10,000 years of human civilization; that's a luxury we can no longer afford." —Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature and Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

"By illuminating the central issues—water quality, water quantity, ownership, waste, infrastructure—through the tales of individuals who wrestle with them, Alex Prud'homme makes a vast and desperately serious topic flow beautifully through the rocks and hard places that our planet is caught between."—John Seabrook, New Yorker staff writer and author of Flash of Genius

“The problem of water quantity, quality and use are upon us. Alex Prud’homme’s book identifies some of the culprits, including us inattentative citizens and the combination of regulations and markets needed to make clean water usable and available in the twenty-first century. This book should wake you up.”—William D. Ruckelshaus, former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency

“An essential work about a topic too-often ignored.”—Kirkus (starred review)

About the Author

Alex Prud’homme was born in New York City. A graduate of Middlebury College, he has worked as a fisherman in Australia, an English teacher in Japan, and a janitor in Paris. His other books include Forewarned (with Michael Cherkasky) about terrorism and security, and the New York Times bestseller My Life in France. He lives with his family in Brooklyn, New York. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Highly recommended for anyone concerned or interested in all things water.
D. Klug
The quality and quantity of water supply pose real and serious problems, and deserve an informed and reliable treatment.
Water is scarce and the human population exploding the need for natural resources is important... excellent book.
james eby

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Sal Nudo VINE VOICE on January 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Author Alex Prud `Homme claims "The Ripple Effect" is not an "encyclopedic" read, but at times if feels that way. That's not to say I wouldn't recommend this book; after all, the many troublesome issues over available, clean freshwater for citizens worldwide are crucial to know about and getting increasingly urgent by the year.

Prud `Homme cannot be accused of forgoing research or skimping on facts. He transitions nicely from one troubled region to the next, giving proper weight to the severity of the problems but not sensationalizing, and offering advice by experts throughout. I came away thinking super-arid Arizona, remote Las Vegas, sprawling California and weather-troubled Georgia are in for some rough times, presently and in the future. The Midwest, where environmentally destructive farming methods and flooding are common, also has its share of water-related predicaments. Prud `Homme drives the point home that people all over the world -- from seasoned hydrologists to the average man and woman -- will need to rethink every aspect of water. As populations explode, drinkable H2O is dwindling -- something's got to give in this equation. Additionally, outdated, unregulated laws and a worrisome inclination by politicians and their constituents during the last decade or so to pay less attention to "the fate of freshwater in the twenty-first century" have exacerbated the problems.

Admittedly, my eyes and thoughts glazed over at times as Prud `Homme intricately covered numerous judicial cases and technical details to supplement the themes. But numerous things stuck with me.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Garry W. Owens on September 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Ripple Effect provides a very basic review of the condition of freshwater around the world. The data is very useful and the commentary provides a variety of viewpoints about the global water crisis from a layperson's point of view. It is a body of work that should be read and used to determine a course of action that is intended to have significant impacts particularly in the under and undeveloped places on the globe. I highly recommend it to all water justice activists present and future.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Marty on September 22, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not done reading this book. Some books you just can't gallop through, they must be digested incrementally, and this is one of them. I have felt for some time that water, being indispensable to all life, will inevitably and finally be the one thing that either pits humans against each other or ultimately forces us to cooperate. Let's hope it is the latter.
We have done such a whole lot of damage to this planet that I hold slight hope of it (and us) holding on a whole lot longer. Yes, I sound like a nut, but how long could you hold out without water? -- Maybe 3 days. So many people walk many miles each day to obtain water -- and really cruddy water at that. We're still lucky in the US to have fresh water -- just turn on the tap, there it is -- but we're using it up faster than we should. Agriculture and fracking and industry etc etc use billions of gallons per day. I sure don't know what the answer is, and I'm betting that by the end of the book the answer will still not be clear.
This is an important issue that should have TRUE cooperation nationally and internationally, it's above politics. It's about the survival of life on planet earth. And we can't survive without water.
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51 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Ellis Burruss on September 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The thesis of the book appears to be that we waste and pollute a vitally important resource because we don't value it enough. Unfortunately, those points are not made because the book is riddled with factual errors, ignorance of scientific terminology, misleading and/or alarmist statements, and bad editing.
As examples: methane is not toxic nor is iron a poison as Mr. Prud'homme claims they are. Those are just two of the erroneous statements that serve to undermine the credibility of the book. But, more on them later.

Factual errors
On page 41 there is a reference to an abandoned copper mine "...the thirty-nine-thousand-foot-deep pit..."
39,000 feet is equal to 7.4 miles. The deepest mine shaft in the world is the TauTona gold mine in the Witwatersrand region of South Africa, which is currently working at depths of 12,800 feet. Such a vast, deep pit that Prud'homme reports just does not exist.
On page 142 he states "While national water fees average about $458 per residence a year, some of Denver's expanding suburbs.... The town of Louisville charges $20,000 per house, and Broomfield charges $24,424 per house per year."
A simple email inquiry to the Broomfield water department elicited this response from the Billing & Accounts Administrator, City and County of Broomfield:
"Yes, I'm sure they are talking about the one time water impact fee. However, ours is currently $22,454.00. I don't know where the extra $1,970 comes from. Our average bill (water usage and water flat charge, no sewer) is approximately $485 per year. As for Louisville, I just looked online and their water impact fee is $24,140.
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