Book Review: Quench Wisely

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As long as it flows freely from our taps, many of us fail to fully appreciate the wonders of clean, abundant water. While Cynthia Barnett is not the first to point out that we’re straining the limits of our water supplies, Blue Revolution stands out for its deep reporting, clearheaded analysis, and solutions-oriented approach. By speaking to water experts and managers of all stripes and traveling the globe to see success stories–and failures–Barnett shows how the United States might work out its vexing water problems.

For one thing, she says, we need to confront the “water industrial complex” that has led governments and businesses to favor massive engineering projects and escalating use over efficiency, conservation, and locally suited strategies. But for large-scale change to happen, we need to reorient our individual thinking–and this is where Barnett’s big idea comes in. Blue Revolution is her call for a new water ethic, in line with–and inspired by–Aldo Leopold’s land ethic. By embracing a new relationship with water, we can clear the way for a water system that’s good for the environment, the economy, and society. Now that sounds refreshing.

Have something to say? Send a letter to This article first appeared in the January-February 2012 issue of Utne Reader.

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