The Ripple Effect

The Ripple Effect

The Fate of Fresh Water in the Twenty-first Century

Book - 2011
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AS ALEX PRUD'HOMME and his great-aunt Julia Child were completing their collaboration on her memoir, My Life in France , they began to talk about the French obsession with bottled water, which had finally spread to America. From this spark of interest, Prud'homme began what would become an ambitious quest to understand the evolving story of freshwater. What he found was shocking: as the climate warms and world population grows, demand for water has surged, but supplies of freshwater are static or dropping, and new threats to water quality appear every day. The Ripple Effect is Prud'homme's vivid and engaging inquiry into the fate of freshwater in the twenty-first century.

The questions he sought to answer were urgent: Will there be enough water to satisfy demand? What are the threats to its quality? What is the state of our water infrastructure--both the pipes that bring us freshwater and the levees that keep it out? How secure is our water supply from natural disasters and terrorist attacks? Can we create new sources for our water supply through scientific innovation? Is water a right like air or a commodity like oil--and who should control the tap? Will the wars of the twenty-first century be fought over water?

Like Daniel Yergin's classic The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power , Prud'homme's The Ripple Effect is a masterwork of investigation and dramatic narrative. With striking instincts for a revelatory story, Prud'homme introduces readers to an array of colorful, obsessive, brilliant--and sometimes shadowy--characters through whom these issues come alive. Prud'homme traversed the country, and he takes readers into the heart of the daily dramas that will determine the future of this essential resource--from the alleged murder of a water scientist in a New Jersey purification plant, to the epic confrontation between salmon fishermen and copper miners in Alaska, to the poisoning of Wisconsin wells, to the epidemic of intersex fish in the Chesapeake Bay, to the wars over fracking for natural gas. Michael Pollan has changed the way we think about the food we eat; Alex Prud'homme will change the way we think about the water we drink. Informative and provocative, The Ripple Effect is a major achievement.
Publisher: New York : Scribner, 2011
ISBN: 9781416535454
Branch Call Number: 333.91 PRU 2011 22
Characteristics: 435 p

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ghreads
Mar 24, 2013

This book very thoroughly addresses the critically important issues surrounding our water supply – water quality and pollution; waste treatment; the effects of population growth on demand; global warming and climate change and the resulting droughts, floods and conflicts; the intersection of water and power generation; privatization; governance, politics and economics. The book focuses on the United States with only minimal attention paid to the global situation. At more than 360 pages of fairly small print, it is a long read. The quality of the writing is average. Especially in the first half of the book, the author illustrates his points by describing specific situations in great historical detail – to the point of becoming a bit tedious (although that depends on your personal interest). The book would be very valuable for Americans interested in the details of how their systems of water management and flood-control function. However, for a non-American, I suspect there are better sources for a more global perspective on the principles involved. Even so, this book does provide an excellent overview of issues related to water, our most vital and precious resource.

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Drayjayeff
Nov 24, 2011

This is a sobering, but fascinating, excursion into the politics and pitfalls of water policy. Prud'homme has excellent reportorial instincts which make the book vivid and compelling. He's obsessed with the topic, and he visited the majority of the sites he describes. I was impressed by his insistence on the complexity of the issues involved. The scale of the problems, especially in the U.S. is mind-boggling, and there are chilling examples of hubris, blindness and folly throughout. Reading it, I couldn't help but wonder about Canada, in general, and BC in particular. It came to my attention recently that our province has more boil water advisories than any other, and I know that many, if not most, First Nations reserves across the country don't have indoor toilets. Let's hope a Canadian writer of Prud'homme's caliber will be inspired to take up the challenge.

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Indigo_Fox_1
Jul 17, 2012

Indigo_Fox_1 thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

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