Drinking Water

Drinking Water

A History

  • Ebook
  • ISBN 9781468306750
  • 320 Pages
  • Overlook Books
  • Adult


When we turn on the tap or twist open a tall plastic bottle, we might not give a second thought to where our drinking water comes from. But how it gets from the ground to the glass is far more complex than we might think. With concerns over pollution and new technologies like fracking, is it safe to drink tap water? Should we feel guilty buying bottled water? Is the water we drink vulnerable to terrorist attacks? With springs running dry and reservoirs emptying, where is our water going to come from in the future?

In Drinking Water, Duke University professor and environmental policy expert James Salzman shows how drinking water highlights the most pressing issues of our time–from globalization and social justice to terrorism and climate change–and how humans have been wrestling with these problems for centuries. Provacative, insightful, and above all fun to read, Drinking Water shows just how complex a simple glass of water can be.


“Though he ranges widely, Mr. Salzman, who teaches law and environmental studies at Duke, focuses on what one might call social justice. Access to water may be viscerally regarded as a “right,” but he points out that the best way to ensure a reliable supply of pure water, especially in poor regions, is often to privatize it.” —The New York Times

“What do Rome’s aqueducts, Napoleon’s death, and the pilgrimage site of Lourdes have in common?  All involve water: the leading ingredient of our bodies, essential for our daily lives, and the subject of innumerable struggles.  Why does bottled water, the cheapest and most abundant liquid, sell for more than the same volume of gasoline?  Even if you prefer to drink wine–it’s mostly water anyway–you’ll enjoy this book.” –Jared Diamond, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel

“Instead of buying your next twelve-pack of bottled water, buy this fascinating account of all the people who spent their lives making sure you’d have clean, safe drinking water every time you turned on the tap.” –Bill McKibben, author of Earth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

“Drinking Water effortlessly guides us through a fascinating world we never consider. Even for people who think they know water, there is a surprise on almost every page.” –Charles Fishman, bestselling author of The Big Thirst and The Wal-Mart Effect

“Meticulously researched, grandly conceived, and splendidly executed, Drinking Water takes a prosaic subject and makes it endlessly fascinating. Smart, witty, and perceptive, Drinking Water is essential reading.” –Robert Glennon, author of Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What To Do About It

“Salzman has produced gem of uncommon value–a fascinating book which slips in among its engaging stories their weighty implications for policy.” –William K. Reilly, former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and former President of the World Wildlife Fund

“In his deeply thorough, thought-provoking and ultimately hopeful book, James Salzman shows why water security and quality are set to boil to the surface of world’s politics.” –John Elkington, author of The Green Consumer’s Guide and Cannibals with Forks: The Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business

“Immensely readable, the book weaves one entertaining story after another to show how we have thought about, valued, protected, and provided this most precious of all liquids.” –Paul R. Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb and The Dominant Animal