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Water: A Natural History Paperback – September 27, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; a edition (September 27, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465037801
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465037803
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 4.7 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,777 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

What happens when you flush your toilet? Environmental engineer and writer Alice Outwater knows, and she guides the reader through the technical ins and outs of such delicate matters as water treatment and sewage handling--subjects she writes about with considerable charm. Here you will learn how "raw sludge brew" is separated, how methane from sewage is converted to a source of power, and how aqueducts past and present really work. Outwater also describes in lay terms the complex ecology of rivers, making a strong case for the preservation of free-flowing streams in the place of dammed waterways. Her book is somewhat more narrowly focused than the title suggests, but it is highly interesting and instructive nonetheless. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

A generation after the Clean Water Act was passed, one third of our waters are still polluted, according to the author, and only 6% of contamination is caused by industry. Environmental engineer Outwater, who managed scum and sludge removal in the Boston Harbor cleanup, reaches back into our history to chart the changes in our waters. Once, a tenth of the total land area was beaver-built wetland; the beaver's decline caused the first major shift in the nation's water cycle. The depressions buffalo made on the ground and the holes dug by prairie dogs collected rain and runoff that seeped down to the water table; our waterways have been transformed by the loss of these keystone species. Outwater looks at grasslands and forests, artificial waterways, agriculture, aqueducts and toilet bowls, sewers and sludge (she gives a guided tour of a waste-treatment plant). She makes a strong case for restoring natural systems to public lands?repopulating beaver, bison and prairie dogs. This book is a valuable addition to environmental literature and to our understanding of water.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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It gives an indepth understanding of one of the natural systems that impact every person's life.
W. Allen
As a public health/environmental protection professional, I highly recommend this book for the environmentally aware public.
bhowd@aol.com (Bob Howd)
It was well documented and interesting, covering a lot of information in a small, easily read book.
V. Barritt

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a superlative book; I recommend anyone living in the USA to read it. It is short, but each sentence is informative, there are no wasted words, no fat. It is scientifically and historically acurate to the smallest detail, but never dry. Outwater's writing style is flowing and musical, and each sentence takes you further and deeper into an Alice-in-Wonderland journey of the magic and marvel of each of the ecosytems she describes. She uses water as the vehicle for each journey, from molecules to the ocean. She describes the balances of Nature and how humans have fit in, or destroyed, these balances. I am a longtime outdoorsman, photographer, and conservationist, and had thought I was reasonably observant. But reading this book was like having a film removed from my eyes and being fitted with ultra-acute vision and hightened understanding and appreciation of our history and environment.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By abycats on August 19, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Many of the books on the increasingly common water shortages spend a great deal of their time listing mind numbing statistics. This author is authoritative but has the sense to pick a few key reasons why our entire US water infrastructure needs the help of nature. Beavers and prairie dogs may be what we need, at least in this country, to improve the percolating powers of the earth to clean what science alone cannot remove from our water. This is one of the few books in this area that is readable by anyone over mid-teens. I highly recommend this book for a history of why the Clean Water Act is not enough.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 18, 1999
Format: Paperback
This wonderful book is not about the molecule or its chemistry. It is the natural history of life's most basic building material as it has been used and abused on the North American continent over the past five hundred years or so. It would be reasonable to call this engaging book a short history of the ecology of America's water only, as vital as it is, water is not alive. The author traces the interactions of living systems with the natural water cycle to support the thesis that nature had water quality and quantity problems well sorted out before we humans came on the scene. She indicates that restoration of natural systems of porus grasslands, free-flowing streams,fresh-water mussels, beaver ponds, and mature woodlands may very well be the "best practise" for water quality management if this country is serious about making every river, lake and stream fishable and swimable. As I read this well crafted history it occurred to me that this book belongs in the same league as "A Sand County Almanac". I am sure Aldo leopold would agree.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Clara Levi on September 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
I think one of the best features of this book is the excelent job that Alice Outwater does when she describes the courses water takes underground, and the way living animals and plants help refill the water table. Technical terms she uses are easily understood through context, and the concrete examples she gives concerning specific areas in the United States, exemplify processes which can take place in other countries as well.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 31, 1999
Format: Paperback
Yes, a book about water that makes sense. She begins with the beaver and the demand for its pelt in Europe and threads her way west through the exploitation of North America and on ... and brings us back to end her story in my local sewer plant. I very much enjoyed her subject and her style of writing. She makes her point clearly. She knows how water flows.
I finished her book with a greater respect for water, for its sacradness and the inter-connectedness of all things. How "western civilization" believes it has the "right" to make the world in its image at any cost. Water: A Natural History affirms my belief that American has yet to realize the devastating affects its taming of the west will cost.
Now I have another standard to use when considering my choice of actions with water use and my relationships with the world I live in together with you.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By lisa rosen on June 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book opens one's eyes about water, the way the water cycle was before the continent was despoiled, little things like water percolating through leaves and big things like the beaver dams constructed by 200 million beavers...now, there are 200 million people! We are ordering extra copies to give away, to inform and to intrigue people in all walks of life.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 11, 1999
Format: Paperback
If you have read the other reviews and this subject matter interests you, then by all means get this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it! Among many other interesting things Outwater writes about, I was surprised at the effect buffalos can have on groundwater, and my admiration for prairie dogs has increased even more. This book is a wonderful reminder of how man can act so foolishly without a clue to the consequences and also inspiring in its descriptions of the remedies man tries to correct these mistakes. My favorite chapter is "The Voyage of Rainfall."
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By V. Barritt on April 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is a must read for everyone. It was well documented and interesting, covering a lot of information in a small, easily read book. It's the type of book that should be used in classrooms as required reading, for it promotes a greater understanding of our world.
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