Book review

The Big Thirst

Charles Fishman

In a few words

Water is so easy to take for granted, so why would I waste precious reading time on this subject? A good question, but I couldn't resist the promise of a subtitle ‘The secret life and turbulent future of water’. A quick glance at the first page of the book with its mention of water being used for both baptising children and launching spacecraft, and before I knew it, I was well and truly hooked and chapter two was within my sights.

Great for

Anyone who enjoys narrative nonfiction. If you like your books with a political or environmental focus, then you will appreciate the wide scope of this book. Readers who enjoy going to the next level of detail will appreciate the (optional) comprehensive notes for the references that appear at the back of the book, which ensures they do not impede the flow of the story.

Why I love this book

Beyond minor first world irritation at the temporary disruption to Christchurch’s water supply during the earthquakes and its more recent chlorination, I have had the luxury of taking water for granted.

However, reading this book immediately relieved me of such complacency and I developed an appreciation and deeper understanding of just how vital the provision of safe, potable water is to our very existence. Apart from intriguing scientific background information about water, this book offers in-depth insights into the economics, politics and culture surrounding the subject.

The case studies and situations the author investigates and reports on (notably in Australia, India and the US) make for compelling reading. This is one of those remarkable books that stayed with me long after I finished the last page.

What I learnt through exposure to the recycled wastewater debacle at Toowoomba, or the water excesses of Las Vegas, had me not only pondering the vagaries of human nature but being able to apply what I had learnt to the next water management crisis appearing on my news feed.

My one criticism would be

It was instructive and interesting reading about water challenges and responses in other countries, but it would have been fascinating to have had New Zealand and some of its water management issues under the microscope.

Annie Boardman

Blurb Writer

A member of four book groups, Annie is happy to read anything and everything that comes her way, but she especially enjoys books that enlarge her world view.

View more reviews