Drinking Water : A History (Revised Edition)

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PW Reviews 2012 September #2

Writing in the popular style of world history seen through the lens of a commodity, Duke professor Salzman details the changing approaches that environmentalists, governments, and the open market have taken to this essential of life. Through exploring core questions in water management—whether people have a right to access drinking water, whether it "should be managed as a commodity for sale or a public good," what it means for water to be clean and safe—Salzman lucidly addresses controversial topics, such as the Clean Water Act and what it does and doesn't ensure about the safety of our water supply; risks from arsenic contamination and fracking; the benefits of systemwide versus point of use purification; and whether it helps or hurts communities to sell access to their water sources to private corporations. A special focus on the New York City area brings stories about the slaughterhouse-tainted "Collect," the Tea Water Pump, and the creation of Chase Manhattan Bank under the pretense of privatized water management in the late 1700s, and the building of the massive Croton Reservoir, which was inaugurated in 1842. Finally, Salzman discusses approaches that may define future water use, such as desalinization, investment in infrastructure, and harvesting water from space. Salzman puts a needed spotlight on an often overlooked but critical social, economic, and political resource. Illus. Agent: Doris Michaels, Doris S. Michaels Literary Agency. (Nov.)

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