"Aqua Shock: The Water Crisis in America," by Susan J. Marks, is a boring hodgepodge of facts and figures. It reads like some of the mind-numbing textbooks that I had to endure during my high school years. This book breathes no life or depth into the topic...and that is very sad because the worldwide water crisis is an immensely fascinating topic. How could the author get so lost in the trees that she misses the forest?
I love this topic. I've spent many months of my retirement years taking college-level seminar courses on the water crisis. I've read a number of major books and countless academic papers and government documents on the topic. I've heard enlightened seminar students deliver stimulating presentations on a wide variety of in-depth worldwide water crisis research studies. I prepared my own report on the water crisis currently facing Australia. So, it was with great interest and enthusiasm that I agreed to read and review "Aqua Shock" for the Early Reviewer program at LibraryThing. What a disappointment!
The water crisis is about as complex as most topics can get. It needs authors that can cut through the minutiae and help readers understand the underlying issues. Instead, Susan Marks writes like a cheerleader-type teacher trying to wake up an early morning class of disinterested ninth-graders. For example, the book begins: "America is running out of water! Sooner rather than later, your tap could run dry." This same introductory chapter closes with these words: "Water is a broad issue and -- through the lens of 'Aqua Shock' -- anything but dry, so let's get started." She peppers the book with information about potentially fun, interactive Internet sites that readers can visit to play with water facts. For example, in one paragraph that seemingly comes out of nowhere between two unrelated paragraphs, she says: "The amount of water that falls from the sky in an ordinary rainstorm might surprise you. Learn more about it with the U.S. Geological Survey's interactive calculator..." and here she provides the Internet address. I audible groaned when I read on page 143 that the United States needs "a big kahuna of water" implying that we needed a Cabinet-level national water officer.
The book has glaring factual errors. On page 23 (and repeated again on page 28), she attributes Joseph Dellapenna, internationally known water law expert and professor at Villanova University School of Law as saying this: "While the population of the United States doubled between 1950 and 1980, per capita water consumption increased sixfold during the same period." Now, I don't go around keeping obscure data in my head, but I suspect that most informed readers would immediately know that the population of the United States did not double between 1950 and 1980. It doubled between 1950 and the present day. I doubt the error was Dellapenna's, and it is certainly the type of error that an author or editor should have spotted and corrected. It makes me fear for other glaring errors that may dot this text that I did not spot.
As a retired academic research librarian, I've read countless term papers by college students who have amassed a dozen or so related academic papers on a topic and are attempting to bring them together into a cogent term paper. This book reads exactly like the type of student who misses the point...the type of student who does excellent research, but just can't put it all together into a cogent whole.
Don't read or buy this book; save your time and money. There are far better books on the topic. As a starter, read chapter two, "Emerging Water Shortages," in Lester Brown's book "Plan B: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble." The Earth Policy Institute makes this book available free on the Internet, each chapter being a separate, easy-to-read PDF document. Other interesting and insightful overviews are "Water: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource," by Marq DeVilliers, and "Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water, Revised Edition" by Marc Reisner. But above all, do inform yourself about the current worldwide water crisis. It is real and alarming.