by James Madeiros
Sometimes having easy access to clean water hampers the ability to imagine what it is like for the nearly 1 billion people who have no such access or the 3.5 million who die each year from a water-related disease.
The terrible truth is that at some point these huge numbers can cause the more fortunate among the world’s population – the people most capable of creating change – to shutter their ears against pleas for activism and more water conservation.
Information is one tool that can help break through the cacophony of depressing statistics and there is a growing body of work that details the world water crisis in ways that can humanize the problem and spur people to action.
The five books here are a great place to start to learn more about the water crisis, water conservation methods, and ways to help those in need.
Water economist, author and blogger David Zetland’s discusses the ways contemporary water economics has failed to effectively address water scarcity and offers solutions on how to best utilize the world’s most vital natural resource.
Zetland is a firm believer in using economic tools and ideas to address water scarcity, based in part on his research into the history of water management in California. Even so, his approach is decidedly non-academic and very accessible to everyday conservationist searching for new ways to think about water scarcity.
Charles Fishman takes readers on an incredible journey that retraces the history of water from both scientific and sociological perspectives, at once explaining civilization’s relationship with water over the centuries while giving readers a deeper understanding of water’s origins and various forms.
Water is the main character in a book that attempts to raise readers’ water consciousness by demonstrating that it is not logistically impossible to solve the planet’s water problems – it is one of attitude and behavior that stems from ideas buried deep in the psyches of the world’s water wealthy.
As the title suggests, author Brian Fagan treats readers to a history of water as seen through the eyes of civilizations past, present and future. Fagan’s narrative helps readers reconnect with water by charting the evolution of human use and reliance on it through the millennia.
The thrust of the work is not historical, however; the story of the past is provided in part as a tool to help formulate solutions on how to proceed in the future as humanity’s relationship with water prepares to change yet again as the world population explodes and human and industrial demands for water skyrocket.
Cynthia Barnett stabs at the heart of water waste in the United States by taking an unflinching look at the ways Americans use and abuse water with abandon. Watering lawns that don’t need it and leaving taps open to run with no thought about the consequences are crimes Barnett is convinced the country can no longer afford to allow.
The author advocates a water-ethic movement akin to the “green” revolution that starts easily enough: by knowing and appreciating water sources beyond the tap, keeping track of water use and leaving behind old wasteful habits that have little to do with actual need.
As the age of water abundance shifts to one of water scarcity, it is becoming more apparent that water will likely evolve into a commodity not unlike oil as need grows while the resource dwindles. Author Steven Solomon examines water from this perspective – as a life-giving resource the control of which has created and destroyed empires.
Written as a historical narrative, Solomon gives readers insight into water’s future by better defining what it really means to the success of human civilization. Again, it is wakeup call for generations of readers that have grown up with an endless supply of water just waiting to come pouring out of a spigot.
James Madeiros writes for Seametrics, a manufacturer of water flow meter technology that helps farmers and companies to measure and conserve the world’s water resources.
Water cascade photo via Shutterstock