Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization by Steven Solomon is a weighty tome at 500 pages plus photographs and notes but covers a heck of a lot.
Not having time to read it all I dipped in and out of it’s chapters and found it fascinating. With freshwater use growing twice as fast as population growth, water is rapidly going to replace oil as the world’s most valuable resource (if it hasn’t already) and there is going to be bigger battles between those who have access to it and those who do not.
Water famine could outstrip famine and religion as the cause of wars and the scenario played out in the book is pretty bleak indeed. Researched in great detail, Solomon shows enormous understanding of the issues and gives us the history of water’s role in shaping of the world as we know it today. Interspersed with maps and a set of photos, the understanding of the past is critical to understanding the present situation. Egyptian, Roman, Islamic and Chinese sea and water power are explained; the building of the great canals; “The Sanitary Awakening” that lead to a massive clean up of the way water was treated; and much more.
With humans requiring two to three quarts (~2 liters) of fresh water a day to stay alive, population projections for 2050 to be in excess of 9 billion, and only 2.5% of water on earth being freshwater, the challenges are enormous.
If you’re interested in the issues surrounding water in the 21st century and how the issues came to be, I don’t think there is another single book that encompasses all the issues in such great depth and detail.
You can buy it from Amazon for around $18.50. Now I just need to finish it!