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Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water Hardcover – February 1, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Canadian antiglobalization activist Barlow (Blue Gold) calls for a blue covenant among nations to define the world's fresh water as a human right and a public trust rather than a commercial product. Barlow marshals facts and figures with admirable (if often dry) comprehensiveness, noting that as many as 36 U.S. states could reach a water crisis in five years; that once vast freshwater resources like Lake Chad and the Aral Sea are becoming briny puddles; and a handful of multinational water companies, abetted by World Bank monetary policies and United Nations political timidity, are bidding for the complete commodification of formerly public water resources. Her passionate plea for access-to-water activism is buttressed with some breakthroughs; Uruguay has enshrined public water rights in its constitution (the only nation to do so), and water warriors are fighting back in Bolivia, Argentina and Chile, where activists have forced private water companies to cede control of municipal water systems. There's a noble tilting-at-windmills quality to the author's call for private citizens and nongovernmental organizations to challenge corporate control of water delivery, agitate for equitable access to clean water and confront the reality that freshwater supplies are dwindling. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Activist Barlow has written a follow-up to Blue Gold (2002) that addresses the state of the global water crisis in stark and nearly devastating prose. Her grip on the subject is astonishing and equaled only by an ability to efficiently and effectively pass enormous amounts of information to readers in the most accessible manner. The major focus here is on water privatization and how it has affected countries in Asia, Africa, and beyond. Barlow discusses water forums, community resistance, and deals between governments and corporations, explaining that much of the world is without water or facing extravagant water taxes. Barlow holds the reader’s attention by citing such startling facts as 12 million people in Mexico have no potable water and 25 million more have workable taps for only a few hours weekly. The ongoing drought crisis in the southeastern U.S. makes her arguments that much more prescient and broadens the book’s appeal. Blue Covenant is an intelligent resource for anyone interested in environmental concerns. --Colleen Mondor

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: New Press; 1 edition (February 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595581863
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595581860
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,190,405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John G. Curington on February 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Maude Barlow has written a very readable review of water policy. At first this would not seem like a very exciting topic, but water policy will soon affect all of us as we deplete the supply of accessible clean water.

Ms. Barlow divides her book into five chapters. She starts by explaining the crisis. Basically, with so many humans on the planet, we are managing to deplete or pollute our finite resource of clean water. We are withdrawing water from aquifers at a rate faster than the aquifers can recharge. Through global warming, we are melting the glaciers that provide us with river water. Through carelessness in industry and agriculture, we are polluting the very same water that we drink.

In the second chapter, the author describes how a powerful water industry is forming to control these dwindling resources. She gives multiple examples of how the industry is not developing for the betterment of humanity or for fair distribution of water, but to reap profit from the increasingly scarce resource.

In the third chapter, she describes the problems with technological fixes such as desalination, water nanotechnology, and cloud seeding. She also emphasizes the ethical and practical problems with bottled water.

In the fourth chapter, she discusses some brave activists who are fighting back against the corporate control our water. She does a good job in covering the activities in multiple continents - the Americas, Asia, Australia, Europe, Africa - and giving concrete examples of activists who have pushed back and won against corporate water interests.

Ms. Barlow finishes with a chapter called "The Future of Water." Here she reviews potential sources of conflict over water.
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Format: Paperback
A tremendous warning is the one Maude Marlow makes with this wonderful book... fascinating in essence, it lets us know why we must head towards a different kind of "growth"... simple: we are finishing even water supplies! the degree of detail she describes cannot be interpreted other than a last warning... either we rationalize our economies (world, national and even individual) or we are condemned to a next war: for water!

Referring to water, Ms. Barlow says: "...those areas of life thought to be common heritage of humanity for the benefit of the many, now coming under corporate control for the benefit of the few (rich)" is a phrase that resonates in my head as I drink water from my purchased bottle of water and wake up to conscience of this once simple act and its implications...

Worth reading document, rich (to say the least) in data, research material, etc.

¡Bravo Ms. Barlow!
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Format: Paperback
I came at this book as an academic teacher and researcher (in the field of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Cornell) who is working in the energy area and wanted to get an overview of the current status and challenges with world water issues, since energy and water are related in many ways. (You can learn more about my background from my energy systems book Energy Systems Engineering: Evaluation and Implementation, coauthored with Lou Albright.) I read the book cover to cover. I found the book helpful by and large to get me up to speed, especially the first chapter ('where has all the water gone?'), where Barlow lays out what is going on around the world and identifies certain key geographic hotspots. There were two limitations in my view: 1) too much time spent naming and recounting the interactions between various players in the struggle over water, which did not interest me after a certain point, and 2) more importantly, too much discussion of the problem and not enough time spent outlining a solution at the end. In other words, the book spends a fair amount of time detailing the failures of the privatization of water delivery service to address the need to provide clean and adequate water, but even if there were no privatization movement afoot, would all of our global water problems be solved? I doubt it -- there would still remain the need to modernize the infrastructure, to bring clean water to millions or probably billions who don't yet have it, and to manage it more carefully so that we don't run out overall. Hence 4 out of 5 stars.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I now realize that this book is a sequel to Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World's Water and I will read and review that book next.

First off, am really starting to pay attention to Right Livelihood, the Alternative Nobel that seems to avoid really big mistakes that have characterized the Nobel Peace Prize in recent decades (Kissinger to Obama). I first learned of this award when Herman Daly, conceptualizer of Ecological Economics, spoke at one of my conferences, and now I am going to look into this and post a listing of recipients at Phi Beta Iota, where all my reviews can be easily exploited across 98 distinct categories, something not possible here at Amazon.

Up front I will still say that Marq de Villier's Water: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource is the best book around, along with the The Water Atlas: A Unique Visual Analysis of the World's Most Critical Resource.

This book joins with Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit and its own prequel Blue Gold (now also coming out as a DVD along with another DVD, For Love of Water) to make the case for water as a human right. The book ends with a Blue Covenent in three parts.

Two points in this book hit me hard:

1) We have to deal with sewage first, globally, deeply, and reliably BEFORE we can address the clean fresh water challenge.
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