Unmaking America's Water Crisis
By Cynthia Barnett
Beacon Press, Hardcover, 9780807003176, 272pp.
Publication Date: September 20, 2011
List Price: $26.95*
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Americans see water as abundant and cheap: we turn on the faucet and out it gushes, for less than a penny a gallon. We use more water than any other culture in the world, much to quench what’s now our largest crop—the lawn. Yet most Americans cannot name the river or aquifer that flows to our taps, irrigates our food, and produces our electricity. And most don’t realize these freshwater sources are in deep trouble.
Blue Revolution exposes the truth about the water crisis—driven not as much by lawn sprinklers as by a tradition that has encouraged everyone, from homeowners to farmers to utilities, to tap more and more. But the book also offers much reason for hope. Award-winning journalist Cynthia Barnett argues that the best solution is also the simplest and least expensive: a water ethic for America. Just as the green movement helped build awareness about energy and sustainability, so a blue movement will reconnect Americans to their water, helping us value and conserve our most life-giving resource. Avoiding past mistakes, living within our water means, and turning to “local water” as we do local foods are all part of this new, blue revolution.
Reporting from across the country and around the globe, Barnett shows how people, businesses, and governments have come together to dramatically reduce water use and reverse the water crisis. Entire metro areas, such as San Antonio, Texas, have halved per capita water use. Singapore’s “closed water loop” recycles every drop. New technologies can slash agricultural irrigation in half: businesses can save a lot of water—and a lot of money—with designs as simple as recycling air-conditioning condensate.
The first book to call for a national water ethic, Blue Revolution is also a powerful meditation on water and community in America.
Cynthia Barnett is a long-time journalist whose awards include a national Sigma Delta Chi prize for investigative magazine reporting and eight Green Eyeshades, which recognize outstanding journalism in the Southeast. Her first book, Mirage: Florida and the Vanishing Water of the Eastern U.S., won the gold medal for best nonfiction in the Florida Book Awards and was a “One Region/One Book” selection in thirty Florida counties. Barnett earned a master’s degree in environmental history and was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan, where she spent a year studying water. She lives with her family in Gainesville, Florida.
“Barnett takes us back to the origins of our water [with] the same vividness and compassion as Michael Pollan.”—Los Angeles Times
“Journalist Barnett explores a simple solution to the growing water crisis in the US, where we use more water than any other culture in the world. That solution: a water ethic. She notes that the green movement has helped raise awareness of the importance of energy and sustainability, and that a blue movement would do much the same: help Americans rediscover their relationship with water, and learn to conserve/recycle and manage it more effectively. And, she adds, it is entirely possible to reverse the damage done by the indiscriminate use of water through those measures and new technologies that can cut agricultural irrigation in half.”—Book News Inc.
“It's a call to action. Barnett takes us back to the origins of our water in much the same way, with much the same vividness and compassion as Michael Pollan led us from our kitchens to potato fields and feed lots of modern agribusiness.”—Los Angeles Times
“Barnett does not come off as a Cassandra, shrieking about looming cataclysm and dumping figures over her readers’ heads. In Blue Revolution she is part journalist, part mom, part historian, and part optimist, and as a result her text comes off as anything but a polemic.”—The Boston Globe
“Our future depends on the Blue Revolution that Cynthia Barnett advocates, for, as the ancients knew long before modern science did, 'Water is life.'”—New York Journal of Books
“Thorough and packed with data.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Barnett’s clarion call to her fellow citizens imagines an America where it’s ethically wrong to waste water. Using compelling stories from around the globe, she shows that America’s future depends upon our coming to value water – not only in the price we pay, but with profound appreciation for each drop.”—Robert Glennon, author of Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What to Do About It
“The roots of a new water ethic are found in the practices of millions of individuals, businesses, and other organizations around the world. Barnett shows how good water use practices can go viral, with massive benefits for society and nature. Blue Revolution offers affordable, practical, down-to-earth solutions for America’s water crisis.”—Stephen R. Carpenter, Director of the Center for Limnology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Winner of the 2011 Stockholm Water Prize
“The book provides an eye-opening overview of the complexity of our water-use problems and offers optimistic but practical solutions.”—Publishers Weekly
“As Aldo Leopold is to the land ethic, Cynthia Barnett is to the water ethic. Her important and hopeful new book is rich with stories about innovative water projects around the world, demonstrating that we can choose thrift over waste, water gardens over cement ditches, local projects over mega-industries, smart over incredibly, stubbornly, self-destructively stupid. She calls us to a respectful water use that restores our spirits, even as it creates thriving biocultural communities. If you use water, you should read Blue Revolution.”—Kathleen Dean Moore, coeditor of Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril
“Aldo Leopold helped found twentieth-century American environmental thinking with his call for a land ethic. Barnett has done a great service by calling for a twenty-first-century water ethic. She tackles America’s illusion of water abundance in the way past thinkers attacked our old ideas about an endless western frontier. Of the new crop of books on water, this one may be the most important.”—Fred Pearce, author of When the Rivers Run Dry