Robert Faludi

Sustainable Practices

March 2007

Review of Water Wars

Daine Raines Ward's Water Wars offers a comprehensive survey of our multifaceted relationship with our planet's most vital resource. The book takes us on a journey to expose how water touches us physically, politically and environmentally. We're introduced to the challenges brought by global warming in low-lying areas though Holland's unending struggle to hold back a slowly rising ocean. By visiting large dam projects in Egypt, America, India and Australia, we come to understand water engineering and distribution's vast political consequences, and the difficulty in matching projects to local culture and geography. Without water, no food can be grown, so Ward visits arid landscapes around the world, revealing the paradoxes underlying desert blooms. Again, culture and geography make each project unique, with outcomes varying vastly due to factors beyond the control of the engineers who create dams, canals and distribution systems. Water is not only a source of health, safety and food. It is also our primary resource for renewable energy. Many hydro projects count electrical production as their foremost purpose so Ward takes us through the political, economic and technical consequences of electrical generation from water. The book finishes with a powerful expose on the Florida Everglades and the elderly Marjory Stoneman Douglas' struggle to preserve them, along with the extreme political and technical difficulties in recreating an ecosystem once it has been substantially altered.

Water Wars provides an overview of the urgency and complexity of the water issues we face throughout the world. The book is a good introduction to how our fates are tied to this liquid, and especially to its physical location. Readers won't see an easy prescription for improving our relationship with water, and that's much of the point of this book. The primary messages are that water is universally essential but that dams, flood control, irrigation and hydro power must be viewed in the context of local geography, culture and politics.