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“In August 1905, a prospector called Pablo Valencia got lost on his way to a mining claim. He was alone on the 250-mile Devil’s Highway from Mexico to Arizona for almost seven days and had nothing other than his own urine to drink. Going without water for just seven days turned Pablo Valencia from a fine figure of a man to a desiccated bag of bones covered in human leather. Sheer bloody determination and a firm belief that home was just around a corner, kept him alive, barely.

Valencia was a prospector on his way to stake his claim in Arizona where he hoped, we presume, to make his fortune. His crucial mistake was to underestimate the importance of water.

Three hundred and fifty miles to the north and west, that same year, William Mulholland sat down at his drawing board with the exact opposite mindset. Valencia disregarded the importance of water on his way to seeking his fortune. Mulholland – the civil engineer who built the aqueduct that takes water into Los Angeles – made his fortune by providing so much water that people were able to forget about it.

People with both mindsets feature throughout this book: people who mindlessly squander water without thinking about the consequences. And those who are labouring night and day to keep the world from running dry.”

from the book’s Introduction

Frederika Whitehead, journalist for The Guardian, signs this report on one of the most pressing struggles of our times: water shortage. In the book’s 100-odd pages, Whitehead tells the story of how water, the driving force of life and civilization throughout the ages, developed into a highly-coveted commodity that in the coming years will transform our landscapes, natural and social.

Tracing water routes, outlining the critical shifts that water scarcity perpetuates, and showing the dramatic impact of water in the context of climate change, this comprehensive report features all the knowledge needed to understand the importance of water in our lives.

Burning topics covered include:

  • Water cartels and privatisation: the massive industry of bottled water and its impact
  • India-Pakistan and Israel-Palestine: hotspots of future conflicts
  • Food production and water expenditure

Unparalleled narrative and impeccable journalism make this book a must-read for anyone interested in one of the most pressing issues today.

An imprint of Urtext