Book Review: Dry Spring – The Coming Water Crisis of North America

Dry Spring by Chris WoodFrom the back cover of “Dry Spring”:

As it warms, our world is running out of fresh water – fast. Lakes, aquifers and rivers are disappearing, but we consume more water than ever. What will this mean for North America?

Veteran author and Canadian journalist Chris Wood has had a varied career contributing to national and regional publication including the CBC, Global and Mail, The Tyee, The Walrus, and many others. Chris is also co-author of the bookBlockbusters and Trade Wars: Popular Culture in a Globalized World.

In an interview with Wood last month, I asked how he came to write his latest book Dry Spring. He told me that throughout his writing career his focus has been, as he put it, “People and societies in their place”. This interest, combined with his acute awareness of the pressing environmental issues facing society, led him his work on the world’s fresh water supply, most particularly that of North America.

Telling the story of water, climate, and people

One might expect telling the story of water supply and distribution would be a bit, well – dry. But the story Wood tells is compelling, as he shows how the water that we largely take for granted moves, cycles, and distributes throughout watersheds and ecosystems.

Wood explains how the distribution and availability of fresh water sources is altered by climate change and how the pattern of climate variability has begun to swing in an ever-widening arc of greater extremes as more energy is absorbed into the system seeking equilibrium – from massive floods to devastating droughts.

Wood draws the reader into the ecology of watersheds and water distribution by making it a human story of the challenges faced by society in the coming decades in response to the increased volatility of the global climate. His ability to make this a story about people, in towns and cities, on ranches and farms, is where this book truly shines.

The need for international cooperation over watersheds that cross national boundaries is one point Wood stresses, particularly for Canada and the United States, something of a controversial point among his fellow Canadians. Wood argues that increased cooperation and shared stewardship of water resources is in the best interest of both nations (not just the United States).

Remaining hopeful

Dry Spring is a cautionary tale. I talked with Wood for the better part of an hour, discussing his book, climate change in general, and how people perceive issues of water, sustainability, and preparing for a rapidly changing climate.

I asked Wood if he thought humanity would finally realize the true nature of the situation in which we find ourselves and understand the urgent need to adapt, change, mitigate, and amend our relationship with the earth.

Chris Wood acknowledged the difficulty of not succumbing to pessimism, but nonetheless remains hopeful:

“After all”, he says, “Reality always wins, sooner or later.”

Dry Spring is a much-needed dose of reality.

Praise for the Dry Spring

Former Commissioner of New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection, Al Appleton, says:

“The best thing yet written on the many impacts of global warming on the world’s water and climate systems. A highly readable interweaving of hard science with the stories of individual people.”

From Alanna Mitchell, author of Dancing at the Dead Sea: Tracking the World’s Environmental Hotspots:

“This is a beautifully written, compelling, controversial and hopeful tale that merits a place on the bookshelf of anyone who cares about the fate of humanity.”

One comment
  1. Bobby B.

    I thought that T. Boone Pickens’ was working with Carl Pope of The Sierra Club to sell water to the thirsty cities of Texas. The way I read it, Pope needs Pickens’ wind plan and Pickens needs Pope’s endorsement for the water plan. I even bet they’ve considered expanding the idea to other regions.

    By the way, if the Navy can purify sea water for all of its shipboard needs, couldn’t mankind as as whole eventually turn to the the oceans for this resource? Sure it would be expensive, but not impossible.

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