From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Veteran science writer Pearce (Turning Up the Heat) makes a strong—and scary—case that a worldwide water shortage is the most fearful looming environmental crisis. With a drumbeat of facts both horrific (thousands of wells in India and Bangladesh are poisoned by fluoride and arsenic) and fascinating (it takes 20 tons of water to make one pound of coffee), the former New Scientist news editor documents a "kind of cataclysm" already affecting many of the world's great rivers. The Rio Grande is drying up before it reaches the Gulf of Mexico; the Nile has been dammed to a trickle; reservoirs behind ill-conceived dams sacrifice millions of gallons of water to evaporation, while wetlands and floodplains downriver dry up as water flow dwindles. In India, villagers lacking access to clean water for irrigation and drinking are sinking tube wells hundreds of feet down, plundering underground supplies far faster than rainfall can replace them—the same fate facing the Ogallala aquifer of the American Midwest. The news, recounted with a scientist's relentless accumulation of observable fact, is grim. Maps. (Mar.)
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*Starred Review* From the Amazon to the Nile, the Congo to the Colorado, the rivers of the world are running dry. Forget oil: nations have gone to war over water rights and access in the past, and may be forced to do so again as the availability and purity of this vital resource continues to decline. Unlike fossil fuels, water is considered a renewable resource, an erroneous belief that has contributed to its abuse and misuse by superpowers and Third World countries alike. Yet as aquifers are tapped to extinction, rivers dammed to depletion, and wetlands converted to deserts, societies continue to employ the profligate water management techniques that created the current dire situations. Former New Science news editor Pearce cogently presents the alarming ways in which this ecological emergency is affecting population centers, human health, food production, wildlife habitats, and species viability. Having crisscrossed the globe to research the economic, scientific, cultural, and political causes and ramifications of this underpublicized tragedy, Pearce's powerful imagery, penetrating analyses, and passionate advocacy make this required reading for environmental proponents and civic leaders everywhere. Carol Haggas
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