December 2012, Vol. 24, No.12

Water volumes

The World’s Water, Volume 7 – The Biennial Report on Freshwater Resources

Peter H. Gleick (co-authors: Lucy Allen, Juliet Christian-Smith, Michael J. Cohen, Heather Cooley, Matthew Heberger, Jason Morrison, Meena Palaniappan, and Peter Schulte), 2012, Island Press, 1718 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20009, 392 pp., $70, hard cover, ISBN: 978-1-59726-998-8, soft cover: ISBN: 978-1-59726-999-5.

The new edition of The World’s Water offers exactly what one expects: hard data and topical discussions about all aspects of fresh water, ranging from technological issues over scientific progress to economic and political aspects. Peter Gleick, founder and president of the Pacific Institute (Oakland, Calif), again takes the lead.

Similar to previous editions, the book is divided into different sections. The topical chapters, seven in total, focus on one chosen subject each. Climate change and transboundary water, corporate water management, global water quality, the link between fossil fuels and water, Australia’s Millennium drought, China’s dams, and water policy reforms in the U.S. are in the spotlights. They are in-depth, extensive, and well-documented assessments with a critical undertone.

"Water briefs” are shorter, more specific chapters, some of which are similar to the seven main chapters in content; however, some are different, such as the one that gives an overview of movies and documentaries in which water plays a vital role. Another water brief is a table of Water Conflict Chronology, a continuation of the effort of the Pacific Institute to document water conflicts throughout history, anywhere in the world. The origin of the majority of the conflicts in recent years (they are documented until 2010) provides food for thought regarding development disputes and water as a military (or even terrorist) tool.

My favorite section, however, is still the collection of data tables. These are a treasure trove of information on freshwater resources, consumption, and access to water and sanitation. They are organized by country with up-to-date information and are an absolutely impressive part of the book. These numbers enable the reader to quickly understand the current situation in any particular country and assess the changes as a function of time during the last two decades.

Readers who know previous volumes of this book series will not want to miss this one either. For newcomers, this book is an entry point; it contains the tables of contents for the six previous editions, enabling readers to look up past chapters. This is useful because of the topical nature of the discussions; in addition, new chapters sometimes refer to a past edition. Collecting all volumes yields an in-depth and quantitative overview of more or less all aspects related to the world’s water sources.

One small change from past editions is in the title: instead of The World’s Water 2010–2011, the years have been dropped, and this edition is now simply Volume 7.

Bart Van der Bruggen is a professor in the department of chemical engineering at the University of Leuven, Belgium. 

©2012 Water Environment Federation. All rights reserved.