cover image Blue Revolution: Unmaking America's Water Crisis

Blue Revolution: Unmaking America's Water Crisis

Cynthia Barnett. Beacon, $26.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-8070-0317-6

Barnett, an award-winning journalist specializing in environmental and water issues, proposes that we need a new "blue revolution" comparable to the green one, warning that "like the unending bull market, or upward-only house prices%E2%80%94the illusion of water abundance is a beautiful bubble doomed to pop." She compares America's problematic water policies to nations that take floods and droughts more seriously: the Dutch use community consensus and compromise for the public good. Singapore's top-down policies, along with changing the tiny nation from "postcolonial pigsty to one of the world's most successful economies," are freeing it from dependency on imported Malaysian water as it gains self-sufficiency through intensive engineering, recycling wastewater into drinking water, and a conservation agenda "to bring people closer to water so that they can better appreciate" and protect it. Barnett believes that our water problems, from the devastation of Katrina to fights over the Colorado River, derive from "America's widespread lack of respect for water," and that we need to develop a water ethic that values and conserves water, keeps it local, avoids overtapping of aquifers and massive water projects, and leaves as much as possible to nature. Although water activists may be mystified by Barnett's lack of discussion of water privatization, the book provides an eye-opening overview of the complexity of our water-use problems and offers optimistic but practical solutions. (Sept.)