Thursday, March 10, 2011

Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization

Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization is one of the most timely and pertinent books I have ever read.

In October of 2010, I attended the third annual WaterSmart Innovations Conference in Las Vegas. At the time, I was working for a company in the irrigation industry. My company helped sponsor the event and I even provided a poster session.

During one of the lunches, I sat next to Steven Solomon. At the time, I did not know he was the keynote speaker. We had an interesting discussion about our industry and what were were doing to help address smart irrigation. Before long, I found out he was an author and had done some extensive research on the role water has played on mankind these past few millennia.

His 500-page book Water, is engaging. It not only provides a great review of global history but it clearly describes the interaction between man and water. The book is broken down into four sections:

-- Water In Ancient History
-- Water and the Ascendancy of the West
-- Water and the Making of the Modern Industrial Society
-- The Age of Scarcity

Successful societies have figured out ways to make water an asset. But for many, the methods used are non-sustaining.

It is the story of the Haves and Have-Nots -- how the Haves tend to get more and the Have-Nots tend to get less. It explores the historical aspect -- the successes and the failures -- and what the future has in store as we strive to keep a balance between:

-- Environmentally sustainable use of water
-- Equitable access to water
-- Efficient use on existing supplies

Because water is directly related to energy, food production and economic development, we can foresee where the economical and political problems lie. The biggest problem areas are China, India and the Middle East. These nations and regions know they have a serious water problem. Some are actively engaged in addressing it. Others have elected to all but ignore it, opting for borderline insane policies.

Fresh water is finite, extremely limited and unevenly distributed. Water is the the new oil. Those societies that are able to create and implement prudent, sustainable policies will be the societies that will flourish in the 21st and 22nd centuries.

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