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When the Rivers Run Dry: Water--The Defining Crisis of the Twenty-first Century by Fred Pearce

Cloistered away in America, I have never felt the desperation for clean water than many people feel on a day-to-day basis. I feel inconvenienced when the water comes out of the tap lukewarm and I have to wait for it to cool down, never thinking that many are dying from polluted or nonexistent water. Solutions to this crisis are not easy and often take on a political slant.

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But we must not sit back and do nothing either. Many people's lives depend on it. That was a long review, and if you read the whole thing, then let me know your thoughts. View all 3 comments. May 22, Eliza rated it really liked it Shelves: What I enjoyed about this book was that it was written as a series of case studies around the world that each tackled a different set of water-related issues. Also, it was written by a journalist which made it highly readable and entertaining, while still maintaining a fairly academic feel.

Although I'd heard arguments previously that water was the major issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Pearce argues that it was at the heart of the conflict way back. The Israelis had well-defined goals at the beginning of the 6-day war of which territory they wanted to capture, which gave them control over almost all of the Jordan River, as well as most of the western aquifer under the West Bank.

It would have been nice if he would have quoted his sources better. There's no bibliography, and although much of the work is based off of personal interviews which he names, there is also a bunch of factual research fleshing out the book, which he doesn't always cite, which is disappointing, but makes sense for a book that's aimed at an audience much wider than the scientific community. Jul 29, Camille rated it really liked it. Each chapter looks at a certain type of water crisis, in several areas. To be honest, after a couple chapters, it becomes a monotonous stream of, "John Lockson at the So-and-So Bureau reported that the [Insert Great River Name] once had a flow of million acre-feet, it is now reduced to a fifth of that.

Oct 24, Douglas Gorney rated it really liked it. The next wars won't be about oil. They'll be about water. When the Rivers Run Dry is a litany of abuses to our planet's fresh water systems. Add this to the tectonic shifts that humanity should make—away from a carbon-based, growth economy, for instance—but won't, until nature shifts us, the The next wars won't be about oil.

Add this to the tectonic shifts that humanity should make—away from a carbon-based, growth economy, for instance—but won't, until nature shifts us, the hard way. Pearce is an experienced science writer, and keeps a cool head. That the book is powerful and maddening is due to his letting the facts speak for themselves. Nov 16, Andrew rated it it was ok. It's a subject I like to read about. But, given that the subject matter is so numbers-driven, why no graphs and charts to help better visualize the issues.

Also, no introduction to basic hydrology and aquifers with diagrams. The last section was pretty good but no images or resources links to get more information. A decent book that could have been presented much better.

May 22, Maureen rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: This is a stunning book: Unless we find new ways of dealing with this situation, there could be many more floods and periods of drought in our future. The Southeast US is one of the threatened areas: I give this book my highest recommendation. Apr 03, Christopher Mims rated it it was amazing.

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Science journalism at its very best; devastating in its implications. May 18, Heather rated it did not like it. There are absolutely no sources cited!! How can this be credible in the least? It's full of statistics that aren't referenced. Nov 20, Kevin rated it really liked it.

And the reason why I call it scary is that its happening all around us and the bleak future we have ahead of us. Freshwater, one of the most precious resources we have, had been once treasured dearly and wisely used. But as the pace of industrialisation quickened and the population density rose, short-term gains overtook the long-term ones.

And with them came - DAMS! Dams were once called the temples of the modern age by Nehru, India's first PM. They were supposed to usher in a post-colonial utopia and instead what we have is displaced homes, destroyed ecosystems, droughts, choking rivers and slow death. Worldwide rush to build more mega-dams like Hoover, Coulee, Three Gorges, Aswan, Narmada etc, and the ill-fated irrigation projects resulting from them have resulted in massive losses of available water coupled with irrational choices of water-demanding crops like cotton or alfalfa, have resulted in the current water crisis we face globally.

Some highly tragic cases emerge out of these like the near total destruction of Aral sea and wetlands surrounding it, wanton destruction of Mesopotamian marshlands of around 20,sq km in area, deforestation of Amazon rainforests, loss of British Fells at an increasing rate, among many others. These join the list of human-made environmental disasters which are threatening us now and lead our next generations on a doomed trajectory. The solutions to this water crisis have to be political than scientific, for solutions do exist and in many countries water reclamation projects, increasing river flooding basins, taking lessons from ancient projects like wadis, shunning water-hungry crops like cotton in arid areas or nutrient-poor alfalfa, stop building newer dams, improve pipeline integrity should be the way.

This book is a world history on "tragedy of commons" and everyone should read it! This was my first introduction to Water - inspired by my NYE visit to a wetland near Shangrila, Yunnan and the realization that I knew nothing of wetlands or environmental issues in general. It's a bit outdated ? Chalk full of case studies from around the world never knew Qaddafi built multibillion dollar mandmade river straight through Libya's desert and plethora of numbers to shock and mobilize you to do something.

Will continue this quest to understand water summore in the coming months Mar 10, Rachael Tierney rated it liked it. Like many other reviewers I was hit pretty hard by the social issues highlighted in this book. We've seen time-lapse images where rivers and lakes are evaporating away, or where the sea level shifts, and we all know that humans are causing these changes, but in a weird way I always assumed it was simply our effect on the atmosphere cars, industrialisation, etc.

I was left feeling uneasy when every chapter of this book gave some horrible example of greed or ignorance when it comes to water. The Like many other reviewers I was hit pretty hard by the social issues highlighted in this book. The chapter about the river Jordan was particularly frustrating to read especially the whole "who-stole-first" part. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book but agree with many other about the sad lack of footnotes and images though I did like the few small maps littered throughout.

When the Rivers Run Dry: Water--The Defining Crisis of the Twenty-first Century

Sep 13, Alex rated it really liked it. This book is the best. If you only read one book on the water crisis, this should be the one. This is a comprehensive look at how water shortages impact people all over the world and how they have dealt with it in the twenty-first century. Pearce did an amazing job researching and performing case studies in order to be able to put this book together. I love the way that it is organized and broken down into sections.

His writing style is both captivating and interesting.


A major crisis is not building, but well on its way. It will define the 21st century, as water is of the utmost importance for us all. The book provides the details of many spots on Earth, about the problems and the solutions found to water scarcity and abundance. It should be part of every country's education curriculum.

Though, buy the newest edition if you can, not the edition I'm reading, as new developments inevitably shed a new light. One thing struck when reading this book: However, European citizens see nothing wrong about demanding increased quantities of cheap cotton and food from countries like China, India and Uzbekistan where the production of this cotton and food is destroying local water supplies. Aug 02, Evelyn rated it really liked it Shelves: An interesting read about the ongoing crisis with respect to meeting human needs for water and the many projects such as dams that have only exasperated that crisis.

An interesting science read that takes you around the world on a tour of the world's rivers. He weaves together the scientific, economic, and historic dimensions of the water crisis. The Colorado River, the lifeblood of the Southwest, is severely overused, and upstream demands means it no longer flows to the sea. With reduced river flows and diminished snow pack in the Rockies and Sierra Nevada mountains, water supplies in the Southwestern states are severely stretched.

As news accounts describe, California has been in a drought for several years, and significant water restrictions have been issued statewide. But water issues reach well beyone just the Southwest United states. Southwest, are shrinking rapidly. Dams created to prevent flooding prove incapable of fulfilling their mission, resulting in devastation to towns, villages, and downstream population. But this book certainly drives the point home. It's truly a book for the layman, easy to understand without being superficial.

Hopefully, this book and others like it will raise attention and resources to address the water crises around the world. We never destroy water. We may mismanage it, pollute it, waste it, but sooner or later, it will return one day. Pearce shows where we mismanage water, and where we have the potential for doing better. These projects tend to be hugely expensive, and cause as many problems as the solve. But of course, fixing the problem requires being AWARE of the problem, and " When the Rivers Run Dry " brings the problems, along with some solutions and a promise for more intelligent water usage in the future , to light.

Oct 02, Carmen Thong rated it liked it. Feels more like a collection of journalistic pieces than a coherent book. I like the clear-cut structure very essay-argument , but that falls a little flat as it feels less like a thesis defence than a rambling exploration. Not enough analysis and big picture as it jumps from location to location sketching the bare basics of each case.

And was honestly so annoyed with the big deal that the author makes about him carrying water with the Indian women, trying to be all B 3 stars leaning towards 2. And was honestly so annoyed with the big deal that the author makes about him carrying water with the Indian women, trying to be all Bill Bryson all of a sudden - but that's my own pet peeve I guess.

Aug 05, Phyllis rated it it was amazing. Fred Pearce, author of Rivers Run Dry, has traveled and studied water in 30 countries and has been writing about water issues for over 20 years. His analysis of how we are committing what is termed hydraulic suicide with our water footprint is terrifying and calls all of us to action. It is a compelling book documenting the destruction of this resource as well as highlighting efforts being done to reclaim fresh water.

The outlook Great book! The outlook is not good. Already we have examples of wasted water resources, like the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan where the Russians tried to grow cotton in the desert using water from the Aral. Today the Aral is completely dry. Other areas of note are the poisoned springs of Palestine and the Jordan River, where Israeli control of the water supply has only fed conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and access to water continues to be a major negotiating issue between Israel and its neighbors.

Look at what the textile industries in India have done to the Indus River and its neighbor Pakistan. In the last couple of weeks we have learned of the creation of a new lake in the Tunesia desert called Lake Gafsa. It is believed to have been caused by a tremor fracture of an underground reservoir.

When it first appeared it was blue and now it has turned green and filled with algae and authorities are concerned that the water is carcinogenic because of its proximity to phosphorous mining in the region. Warnings have not stopped locals from swimming and drinking the water. In our own country we have the disappearing of the Colorado River, whose reservoirs were once the lifeblood of seven states.

The Rio Grande now ceases to exist shortly after it passes El Paso. The Colorado no longer makes it all the way to the Pacific as it once did. What is especially troubling is cases like the Colorado or the Rio Grande where every last drop is spoken for because changes in one area of the river can have multiple effect downstream. We need better management of our waters and wetlands not just dams. I want to highlight the most recent news regarding the algae growing in Lake Erie and its effect of access to clean water in Southeast Michigan and Toledo.

I challenge each of you to become more aware of why and how we need to better manage this major resource by reading and discussing this book and others on the topic of Clean Water. Jun 15, Yvonne rated it really liked it Shelves: The author, Fred Pearce, is a journalist who has been traveling around the world and writing about water issues for over twenty years. It definitely shows in the style of this book. The case studies that Pearce describes show very vividly how fragile our supply to water is and how devastating our failure to protect it can be.

THe chapters are short and centered ar The author, Fred Pearce, is a journalist who has been traveling around the world and writing about water issues for over twenty years. THe chapters are short and centered around illustrating different types of problems, from poisoned wells, dissappearing aquifers, dead rivers and vanishing wetlands to salt encrusted farm land and dangerous dams.

While Rivers Run

It's sobering, to say the least. This book is definitely not written in an apocalyptic tone, but after the first pages I was terrified. His story about what has happened to the people of Uchsai, on the former shore of the Aral Sea was heart breaking without any embellishment. Reading its description, I thought that if any place was hell on earth this was surely it. Fortunately, he also ends the book by talking about examples of what people are doing to possibly stem this crisis. Those chapters were really fascinating. They dealt mostly with decentralized, relatively low-tech solutions and really drove home the realization that, in many cases, hubristic attempts to centrally control water have ended us in deep shit.

One of the things I most appreciated about this book is that Pearce discusses these issues from many angles. I learned about biology, hydrology, political history, economics, social conditions etc. One of my favorite chapters was about the Mekong River in Cambodia. Discussion of water issues in SOuth America is pretty scant. Ultimately though, it's a book that I learned a lot from and am grateful for reading.

Even if you don't plan on reading the whole thing, it's definitely worth picking up and reading the parts that sound most intriguing to you since it does read like a collection of well-researched articles. I wish everyone I know would read it to get a better understanding of why water is such a crucial issue- how it's elementally tied to power, politics and survival on so many scales and always has been.

I can't believe all the things that happen to her as she tracks the killers! I like the way McGowan writes.

Let The River Run - Carly Simon

The few pages weren't the best but the rest of the book was good. I'm setting this aside for the moment and returning to Kindle Unlimited. Just not grabbing my attention like other books are. Geri Schut rated it it was amazing Mar 20, Heather rated it it was ok Jul 16, Laura Vogler rated it it was amazing Nov 13, Wauneta Montague rated it it was amazing Feb 20, Lois rated it liked it Mar 26, Shirley Uhrain rated it it was amazing Feb 21, RMM rated it really liked it Sep 04, Suzanne Keller-Shryers rated it really liked it May 04, Curtis Cooper rated it it was amazing Jul 11, Jennie rated it really liked it May 09, June Coburn rated it really liked it Mar 02, Naduah rated it it was amazing Nov 07, Smith rated it it was amazing Apr 09, Zac Ellis rated it really liked it Apr 12, Mary Ann Johnson rated it really liked it Jun 17, GJ added it Aug 10, Rebecca Flansburg added it Jan 07, Jennifer added it Sep 08, Oana marked it as to-read Sep 12, Sherron marked it as to-read Sep 12, Cindy Warner marked it as to-read Apr 25, Heather Heal marked it as to-read Apr 26, Linda marked it as to-read Jun 13, Barbara marked it as to-read Jul 04, Jan marked it as to-read Sep 05, BookDB marked it as to-read Nov 14, BookishBelle added it Nov 01, Barbara marked it as to-read May 03, Blue Falcon marked it as to-read Mar 18, Eli Gaskin marked it as to-read Oct 18, Julian marked it as to-read Jul 20, There are no discussion topics on this book yet.

I live in Lampasas, TX and I am a full-time writer. Many of my books are set in north central MN; the rest in TX.