Book Review: Unquenchable

Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What to Do About It
by Robert Glennon
Island Press, $27.95

Unquenchable begins with the story of one of the most obvious and ostentatious wastes of water in America: Las Vegas. A gleaming, neon-bedecked homage to decadence in the middle of the desert, Vegas is a testament to our ability to build what we want, where we want regardless of any mitigating circumstances. There are private lakes, gigantic fountains and water parks—all in the middle of the desert.

The free use of unlimited water is something we take for granted, but in this book Robert Glennon argues that we’re already in the midst of a water crisis and it’s only going to get worse if we don’t change. He notes droughts in places like Atlanta and the massive importation of water into Southern California as signs that we’re straining our water resources to the limit. Many places in America are drawing more groundwater out of their areas than can naturally be recharged through rainfall.

Although the book is long and has a lot of technical details, Glennon mixes it up with water anecdotes from big cities and small towns to keep it interesting. He also provides several solutions, most notably cutting back on our consumption of water and using waterless toilets, which he hopes will turn the tide (sorry for the pun) in the coming water crisis.