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"Nor Any Drop to Drink"
by William Ashworth

Review by John Gabree

Without doubt of most precious resource is water. According to William Ashworth, corporate greed, political shortsightedness, bureaucratic bungling and plain old stupidity have combined to jeopardize the water resources of every part of the country.

It is ironic that this should be so. The earth has enormous amounts of water, enough to provide more than 88 trillion gallons for each man, woman and child on the face of the planet. But most of it is unavailable -- more than 90 per cent is too salty to drink or to water crops; some of it is as much as two miles below the earth's crust, too far for wells to reach. But even the .05 per cent available for human use amounts to 42 million gallons per person. And it is a resource that is constantly renewing itself.

Where is the shortage? Unfortunately, although the average human needs only about two gallons of water a day to survive, by the time the average American has cooked, washed, flushed the toilet, and so on, he has consumed 90 gallons on a normal day. Industry employs another 600 gallons per capita daily and food production takes even more. When all uses are added together, our per-capita water expenditure as a nation turns out to be not two gallons a day but 1,500. Not only are we using up enormous quantities of water, but the amount we have available for most uses is constantly and alarmingly decreasing. The absolute quantity is not diminishing, but we are rendering it unusable by polluting it.

Ashworth proposes, first, a national inventory of water sources. How much do we actually have -- locality by locality -- and what is its condition? Second, he calls for an assessment of the nation's present and future need for water. Third, he call for national planning to match water supplies to water needs. Reliance on remote sources of water, he argues, must be discouraged, thus leading to controls on growth in areas such as Arizona and Southern California. Water supplies must not be polluted further; water must be used apprpriately and efficiently; and users must cooperate in allocating supplies. "Nor Any Drop to Drink" is a useful summing-up of a serious problem that is not being addressed with sufficient urgency. (1982)

Buy Nor Any Drop to Drink by William Ashworth



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