Not a Drop To Drink

Two titles examine the United States' fresh-water crisis.

Annin, Peter. Purified: How Recycled Sewage Is Transforming Our Water. Island Pr. Nov. 2023. 256p. ISBN 9781642832815. pap. $28. SCI

Environmental journalist Annin (The Great Lakes Water Wars) presents a geographical and political overview of the fresh water shortage and proposed solutions throughout the U.S. The book covers the failure of San Diego’s efforts to turn waste water into drinkable water in the 1990s, credited in part to the terrible tagline “From toilet to tap”; the successful Water Factory 21 project in Orange County, CA; coastline dangers in Norfolk, VA; Texas’s attempts at potable programs in Big Spring and Wichita Falls; Tampa’s ongoing issues; Los Angeles’s recent big proposals; and the continuous disappearance of the Colorado River. The science is as interesting as the politics in this book. Each chapter reveals that the imperative for clean water isn’t universally accepted in each community. Maps at the beginning of each chapter aid in the understanding of the geography, and numerous charts explain the science of purification, including the differences in East Coast and West Coast systems. There are water success stories in Wisconsin and New England, but the threat of mega droughts and aridification never abates. VERDICT A concise, imperative primer on the science and politics of the United States’ fresh-water crisis.—Tina Panik

Thompson Jr., Barton H. Liquid Asset: How Business and Government Can Partner To Solve the Freshwater Crisis. Stanford Univ. Nov. 2023. 320p. ISBN 9781503632417. $30. SCI

By now, mainstream society is aware that it’s facing a water crisis, both in the United States and globally. Thompson (natural-resources law and behavioral sciences, Stanford Univ.; coauthor, Environmental Law and Policy, 5th Ed.), a senior fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment, utilizes his expertise and background to come at the water issue from a business perspective, exploring how private companies can collaborate with public entities to solve the crisis and create a sustainable water future. Divided into four sections, the book gives an overview of the tension between the public and private sectors in water management; explains the controversy of private-sector involvement; offers potential solutions and technological innovations; and issues a call for public-private collaborations to implement changes in water management. This title covers both history and hope for the future, and Thompson makes a persuasive case for the greater involvement of the private sector in this sensitive public issue. VERDICT Written with clarity and focus, this book tackles the water crisis from the novel perspective of private industry. A highly recommended addition to collections focused on business and the environment.—Marjorie Mann

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