the age of cheap water & its end

It’s always nice when you start reading a book that you think belongs in the every-citizen-should-know-about-this category, and you then get, as a sweet bonus, a fascinating story (or series of stories).

That is the case with The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water, by Charles Fishman (yes, that’s his name). Between relating the story of humans’ relationship with water, and examining how Las Vegas dealt with its water shortage (and how Atlanta has failed to deal with its), Fishman tosses in some astonishing facts:

*All the water on earth arrived here between 4.3 and 4.5 billion years ago – none has been created or lost since. That means that every molecule of water has been pretty much everywhere imaginable in its time on this planet.

Think about that for a minute.

Even the purest, spring-fed water – after reading this book you’ll want to put “purest” in quotation marks every time – has been, at some point, in the nastiest situations your sense of personal hygiene can conjure up.

*To quote Fishman,

If Earth were the size of a Honda Odyssey minivan, the amount of water on the planet would be in a single, half-liter bottle of Poland Spring in one of the van’s thirteen cupholders.

* The average American uses 99 gallons of water a day at home – that’s 750 of those half-liter Evian or Poland Spring bottles.

* Only one sizable city in India provides 24-hour water service to its inhabitants.

There’s much, much more, and I highly recommend this book. You’ll see why and how we have drastically underpriced water in this country, and why that will probably not be true in the not-too-distant future.