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The Green Life: Book Roundup Wednesday: Books About Water Issues

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January 13, 2010

Book Roundup Wednesday: Books About Water Issues

Books about environmentalismEvery Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. This week,we're recommending books about water issues.

Dirty Water (by Bill Sharpsteen, $27.50, University of California Press, Jan. 2010): In 1985, unbeknown to its residents, the city of Los Angeles was dumping massive amounts of partially treated sewage into the Santa Monica Bay. Nearly a tenth of the bay turned into a dead zone. The story begins when a frequent swimmer of the bay found out that L.A. had applied for a waiver from the Clean Water Act to continue polluting the water. Outraged, he led a fight that eventually forced the city to clean up its act. Dirty Water is a lively, inspiring read that chronicles how ordinary people challenged the status quo to cause change.

The Mississippi: A Visual Biography (by Quinta Scott, University of Missouri Press, Mar. 2010): This lovely volume takes the reader on a photographic tour of the Mississippi, documenting the length of the river from its source in Minnesota all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. The river's essence is captured in all of its ecological and geographical diversity. The book's first half includes a look at the river’s winding course through history, including its geological formation and the shifting cultural and political tides of those who have exploited, altered, and sought to restore this timeless force of nature.

The Atlas of Water (by Maggie Black and Jannet King, $22, University of California Press, 2009): This compact atlas contains every fact you ever wanted to know about freshwater. Each page is packed with graphs, charts, and maps that render the staggering quantity of information accessible.This slim guide examines a variety of issues, including agriculture and industry's deleterious impact on freshwater resources, the growing needs of human populations, and the consequences of global warming. Overall, the book provides a fascinating look at the state of water in our world and can be considered a must-read  for anyone grappling with this complex topic.

Comparing Futures for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (by Jay R. Lund, Ellen Hanak, William E. Fleenor, William A. Bennett, Richard E. Howitt, Jeffrey F. Mount, and Peter B. Moyle, $40, University of California Press, Feb. 2010): The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, along with the San Francisco Bay, forms the West Coast's largest estuary and is the largest single source of California’s water supply; most of the state's farmlands depend on it. This impressive collaboration between a broad array of experts (many of them based at the highly regarded UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences), tackles the daunting question of how to manage the delta more sustainably, offering an overview of the problems plaguing the delta system and practical, well-researched solutions. It's not a light read, but indispensible for anyone who wants a comprehensive grasp of California water issues.

Fresh Pond: The History of a Cambridge Landscape (by Jill Sinclair, $30, MIT Press, Apr. 2009): Fresh Pond, a lake at the northwest edge of Cambridge, Massachusetts, has been many things to many people: a source of drinking water, a site of industry, a recreational space, a delicate ecosystem. A mix of photographs and text, this book documents the history of this small body  of water and examines the tensions inherent to natural spaces in urban settings. It also provides an interesting example of the interaction between changing social goals and values and American landscapes.

--Wendy Becktold

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