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Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What To Do About It [Kindle Edition]

Robert Glennon
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In the middle of the Mojave Desert, Las Vegas casinos use billions of gallons of water for fountains, pirate lagoons, wave machines, and indoor canals. Meanwhile, the town of Orme, Tennessee, must truck in water from Alabama because it has literally run out.
Robert Glennon captures the irony—and tragedy—of America’s water crisis in a book that is both frightening and wickedly comical. From manufactured snow for tourists in Atlanta to trillions of gallons of water flushed down the toilet each year, Unquenchable reveals the heady extravagances and everyday inefficiencies that are sucking the nation dry.
The looming catastrophe remains hidden as government diverts supplies from one area to another to keep water flowing from the tap. But sooner rather than later, the shell game has to end. And when it does, shortages will threaten not only the environment, but every aspect of American life: we face shuttered power plants and jobless workers, decimated fi sheries and contaminated drinking water.
We can’t engineer our way out of the problem, either with traditional fixes or zany schemes to tow icebergs from Alaska. In fact, new demands for water, particularly the enormous supply needed for ethanol and energy production, will only worsen the crisis. America must make hard choices—and Glennon’s answers are fittingly provocative. He proposes market-based solutions that value water as both a commodity and a fundamental human right.
One truth runs throughout Unquenchable: only when we recognize water’s worth will we begin to conserve it.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

America faces a water-supply crisis. Profligate consumption of water for agriculture, power generation, industry, and homes has led to reduction of groundwater, threats to rivers, and mortal danger to many of the nation’s lakes. Much of the blame for this state of affairs lies with uncontrolled growth in the nation’s South and Southwest. Desert cities such as Las Vegas use fountains as decorations. Phoenix households draw down the finite resources of ever-shrinking Lake Mead. In great detail, Glennon documents present and future water crises in Georgia, California, and even seemingly water-rich Michigan, noting that states generally end up competing with one another over water allocation and that international conflict follows in short order. Desalination offers little immediate hope because of economic and ecological barriers. Glennon submits a list of possible reforms to decrease water consumption. Some, such as waterless toilets, are technological innovations. Others, such as restructuring sewer systems, require governmental intervention. --Mark Knoblauch


"Robert Glennon makes immediate and specific the most urgent point of crisis threatening the health and welfare of the American environment. The wells of the American dream stand a good chance of running dry, and to read Glennon's necessary book is to know that without water there will be no wine, no roses, nothing over Dorothy's rainbow except a pillar of salt."
(Lewis Lapham editor, Lapham's Quarterly)

"Robert Glennon is a leading-edge legal scholar and passionate water advocate whose thinking is central to an intense debate on the path forward to a water-secure world. I heartily recommend his provocative, information-packed, and highly readable new book Unquenchable."
(Maude Barlow)

"Unquenchable is a worthy successor to Cadillac Desert that ably demonstrates how our most valuable resource is being squandered, ignored, and flushed away. Although it reminds us that water is indeed finite, Unquenchable clearly shows us the solutions to the greatest threat of the 21st century are limited only by politics and greed."
(Terry Tamminen Cullman Senior Fellow, New America Foundation and former secretary, CA EPA)

"Glennon brings home the global problem of availability of drinking water...interesting and timely...recommended."

"Glennon illustrates the depth and complexity of our country's water problems."

"Top Ten Environmental Book of 2009"
(Mother Nature Network)

"If you use water, you need to read this book. It's akin to Cadillac Desert"
(Water Wired)

"Several books have been published recently addressing the global water crisis, but none has offered such in-depth analysis."
(New York Review of Ideas)

"Thought-provoking and insightful book that offers and informed and articulate review of the enormous water issues facing Arizona, and the United States as a whole. It should be on the bookshelves of attorneys, environmentalists, public policy managers, and others interested in natural resources."
(Journal of Arizona History)

"In Unquenchable, Glennon offers a parade of anecdotes to argue that we need urgent, fundamental changes in the way we use water in the United States."

"Author Robert Glennon connects the dots between our water woes and climate change, energy, growth, the environment, and agriculture. He makes a compelling case that we need to re-think how we use this prized resource and provides a number of thought-provoking solutions. Informative, insightful, and very interesting."
(U.S. Senator Mark Udall Colorado)

Product Details

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well researched, balanced book on important topic September 22, 2009
There are no shortage of crisis situations facing our world, yet nothing seems so elemental as water. It is such an integral part of our daily existence that it can be hard to understand how deep our dependence on water really is. That we need to drink water is understandable, but that it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef will make you look at that quarter pounder a bit differently.

Of course, concern about water is as ancient as life itself. In the United States water disputes have influenced settlements and governance, as any good Western movie will show you. More recently we've dealt with acid rain, but with the plethora of water bottles showing up on store shelves, do we really have a water crisis?

Robert Glennon's well laid out argument first establishes that there is a crisis and then offers suggestions on how to address it. The argument that there is a water crisis is becoming easier to make, in no small part thanks to Glennon's ongoing work in this area. Major media outlets are also now pointing out that the concern for water is not just an issue for other parts of the world, but the United States as well.

Glennon's strengths in this book are many. First, he lays out the arguments by telling stories and backing them up with facts. We not only see numbers, but more importantly we see the people impacted by the numbers. Glennon understands that this is not simply an environmental issue, but a human issue. Plus, he is not interested in browbeating naysayers into submission; he clearly wants to attract people to his way of thinking. While he does not suffer fools kindly, he assumes the reader is an intelligent person with an interest in understanding the issue at hand.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and informative read May 6, 2009
By Graves
Glennon gives a very clear and thorough description of the state of freshwater in the U.S. Written extremely well, with illuminating and thought-provoking stories explaining what is happening in Las Vegas, Atlanta, and across the country. Glennon tells a great nonfiction story which explains the complexities of what is happening in the country, and why people who aren't yet worried about freshwater should be.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shorter showers won't save enough August 30, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Before reading this book, I had some familiarity with America's water crisis, but I was still surprised by its extent and urgency as presented by Robert Glennon. He covers all parts of the country, and all sectors of activity from residential to agricultural to a variety of industries. He also enlightens us on the sorry state of aquifers, water distribution, and water treatment. And he does all of this with an appreciation for the cross-cutting effects of water problems on a range of societal needs and individual behaviors.
Glennon discusses an assortment of near-term and long-term solutions. The urgency of the problem leads him, in my opinion, to underemphasize some long-term efforts, particularly a dramatic expansion of desalination. Nonetheless, it's refreshing that the author presents some thoughtful solutions rather than just wringing his hands about the problems.
Glennon's writing is well-researched, and numerous photos and maps help clarify the text. His style is enjoyable, which helps the reader get through the rather depressing message. A must-read for those who care about finding solutions to problems of national scope.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than a desert issue May 13, 2009
By Brent
This was an excellent follow-up to Water Follies. From droughts in the "wet" East to the excessive use of the Southwest, the author gives a good wake up call that water issues are everywhere. Glennon emphasizes the important ways of avoiding an American water crisis, such as finding new sources and conservation. I especially liked to see a chapter devoted to rainwater harvesting. I recommend that you read this book, but more importantly that you tell others about their water. The word needs to be spread to the public so that they know more about water beyond the tap.
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38 of 47 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Important Topic, but Disjointed Approach June 27, 2009
Glennon begins by reporting that Las Vegas has exhausted its rights to Colorado River water. The city's per capita water consumption (350 gallons/day) is 2x that of New York City, which also gets 10X the rainfall of Las Vegas. Outdoor water use accounts for 70% of Las Vegas' usage. The average household uses 17,000 gallons/summer month, paying only $37 (one cent/5 gallons). Las Vegas has, however, cut water demand by 18 billion gallons/year, even as population grew 330,000.

The Strip uses only 3% of the city's water. Dual plumbing recaptures water from sinks and showers that is then used for its famous outside attractions at some major hotels. Hotel shower aerators save 6,000 gallons water/year, on-demand water heaters, and drip irrigation are also used. The Bellagio (3,9993 rooms) uses less water than the former golf course located at that site.

All interesting material, especially for one familiar with Las Vegas - but it lacks connection to the rest of the book. Similarly, the rest of the book contains a number of interesting tidbits (The new Waveyard in Mesa, AZ. uses 60-100 million gallons/year to replace water lost to evaporation; similarly, man-made lakes are a major unnecessary source of evaporation loss; the Salton Sea is about 214 feet below sea level, with a salinity level about 50% higher than the Pacific Ocean, and rising; eliminating the plastic in bottled water offers the equivalent of taking 100,000 cars off the road). However, these tidbits lead nowhere in terms of creating an overall strategy.

Readers do learn, however, that farming is the major use of water in the U.S., while providing much less contribution to GDP. (The latter is misleading because without farming, there would be no GDP.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars a fantastic way to understand the problem with suggestions for how we...
I read the Audible version of this book supplemented by the Kindle version where I put highlights and notes. Read more
Published 1 month ago by douglasuke
3.0 out of 5 stars navy showers then?
I was looking for a book that could help me become a part of a water-saving movement from the ground up, so to speak. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mr. Michael R. Morris
5.0 out of 5 stars This is an easy to read excellent book on the water crisis in ...
This is an easy to read excellent book on the water crisis in the US. I was astounded by the attitude expressed by Las Vegas in justifying their ridiculous consumption of water to... Read more
Published 4 months ago by patricia gadbaw
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
very good
Published 7 months ago by Juan De Dios Villarreal
5.0 out of 5 stars Great timing.
I am working on this authors house in Maine and needed it quick so he could autograph it for me. Very good service. It came in just in time.
Published 8 months ago by Paul Banda
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative and provacative, yet omits major player in this looming...
Enjoyed this book, wonderful, engaging, conversational style with just enough facts. Unless I missed it while going to the kitchen for a sandwich between chapters, it failed to... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Lee DeGraw Jr.
4.0 out of 5 stars Okay.
I enjoyed this book. It's easy to follow. The author not only states the problem but offers possible solutions. I will look into more of his books.
Published 10 months ago by Mark Crowley
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
Very interesting and informative book. Readable and full of great necessary water insights. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in water.
Published 10 months ago by Paula Henson
5.0 out of 5 stars The best single book for understanding the water issues of modern...
This is the first book I recommend to anyone wanting a familiarity with such a profoundly important subject affecting America today.
Published 11 months ago by In the Sticks
2.0 out of 5 stars Book Cover damaged
Upon receipt I wrote by email to Amazon of my concern with regard to how I received the book in question along with a photo sent as well, unfortunatly the book cover had its corner... Read more
Published 14 months ago by David
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