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The Big Thirst

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  752 ratings  ·  158 reviews
The water coming out of your tap is four billion years old and might have been slurped by a Tyrannosaurus Rex. We will always have exactly as much water on Earth as we have ever had. Water cannot be destroyed, and it can always be made clean enough for drinking again. In fact, water can be made so clean that it actually becomes toxic.
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Published April 12th 2011 by Tantor Audio (first published April 12th 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,913)
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David
Mar 23, 2015 David rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who drink water, people who are not dumb-ass climate change denialists
Books about environmental and economic issues are always kind of depressing, because it's really easy to show examples of how very badly we are screwing ourselves over on an epic scale. Like most authors of such books, Charles Fishman shows us how very, very bad it's getting and then tries to end on an optimistic note: "Hey, we have the technology and the science, and if we just behave like rational adults who know we're all in this together, we can solve this problem!"

Uh huh, how often does tha
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Paul
This is a superb book and one that should be required reading for every human being. Instead of reading some of the drivel (classics) in high school, kids should read about the single most important element in life, water. There is something enigmatic about our attitude about water. Our attitude about water is something akin to the old song line, "you only really appreciate something when you lose it". This book is not a polemic or screaming about yet another crisis. Although water is becoming a ...more
David
One of the best books I've read in a long time, found and purchased by my long-suffering wife as a Christmas gift. She found it for sale inside a well-known U.S. government Department. I was pleasantly surprised to see unvetted ideas flowing running on tap near, if perhaps not quite in, the corridors of power. [note to self: keep the dopey water puns under control]

“Some water needs to be secure and guaranteed for everyone, at the lowest possible cost, outside the market system, and some water ne
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John
My brain is waterlogged.
Open "The Big Thirst" to any page, plump your finger down at any spot at random, and you'll probably come across something about water you didn't know or hadn't thought about. At least that's the way I experienced it.
It gets to be almost too much about water, but it's certainly well-reported and well-told and ultimately I think it's going to have an effect on how I think about water.
The thesis is straight-forward. The golden era of water is over, Fishman says. Abundant, c
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Valerie
Definitely makes you think differently about our relationship to water, and for that, it is valuable. However, the book overemphasizes and repeats (and repeats and repeats) some information, while ignoring other very interesting and relevant issues. To wit, Fishman skirts delicately around the issue of climate change (probably in an attempt to target a wide American audience without offending those who think that climate change isn't really a fact) without really addressing it as a major issue a ...more
Steele Dimmock
Ultra Pure Water is toxic, Recycled waste water can be made cleaner then regular tap water, bottled water is unregulated and worse than municipality water. These were just some of the interesting factoids I got from this book.

The book is very america-centric but the author travels to Australia and India to explain the water issues impacting these other two countries. The details that he goes in to around Toowoomba, Perth and Adelaide water crisis' is impressive. The magnitude I was previously ob
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Wai-kit Ng
This is one of those books that make you do a double-take. In this case, on something we all know very well. It's water. But, I never knew that although we think of consuming water like we consume other earth's natural resources, like fuel, it is not true. Water is never consumed. In fact, no new water is created. The fresh water that falls down from the sky is billions of years old. Probably as old as the earth. So, you can't actually waste water, as in destroy it. Conversely, you can't really ...more
Michele
Great book on our most important and most taken for granted natural resource. Regardless of your thoughts on climate change, the book is worth a read to understand how we use water and how we need to change our water culture.
Amy
I've often wondered why clean safe drinking water from our faucet seems too good to be true. This book explains why we shouldn't take that for granted and what we can do to keep that in our future
Jim Duncan
Eye opening - can debate whether part of the issue is climate change but clear that our century of essentially free and unlimited access to clean water is over for the developed world. Amazing how developing countries like India have taken a step back in access to clear water. Great job of mixing human stories with the cold hard facts. Great examples of simple steps (like purple piped recycled water for gardening/outdoor use) as a means of decreasing our need to acquire and purify all the water ...more
JodiP
I learned so much in reading this book. I knew the vague outlines of our water situation, but this provided a lot of details. I am somewhat more optimisitic about our water troubles, but only if we have hte political will to change how we use water, including lightly treated water provided in purple lines to indicte it's not potable. I was astonished ot read that many cites expereince significant waste just delivering the water; Paris loses 25% before naything reaches a single tap! I'm less opti ...more
Darren Hawkins
A really interesting overview of water problems in a few different places around the globe. Unlike many books on important current issues, this one understands and incorporates big-picture political affairs, science, and down-to-earth details of the effects on people's lives. Water is likely to be the source of many 21st-century conflicts and this book provides a thoughtful introduction to many of the issues. I wish it included another chapter or two on developing countries, including at least o ...more
Michele
I will never leave the faucet on when I brush my teeth again. I realized I do it, because I feel rich, when the water is running and I can waste water, but after this book I will stop!
I learned a lot about water. He has some fun facts that get you thinking. I felt like he was prophetic in a lot of ways. I believe the golden days of water will soon end. That our children will not know the ease and low price that we do today.

One quote I liked is the one that bottled water will not save you. I thi
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John Scharf
What an excellent book... who knew water is so political and controversial? After reading this book, you'll never look at or think about water the same way again.

Charles Fishman creatively explains water from several perspectives (historical, necessity, economic, political, marketing, scientific and entertainment) and its impact on numerous locations such as Las Vegas, Atlanta, Austrailia, and Spain. He explores our changing relationship with water (again, depending upon where you live on the gl
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Todd Martin
The first section of The Big Thirst contains more facts per square inch than any book I’ve read in a long time … and they are all about water. How much, how little, where it comes from, what’s in it, where it’s located, who has it, who doesn’t, why it’s important, what it does, as well as it’s physical, and chemical properties and its role in the universe. There are lists of facts, metaphors, analogies and comparisons … and every one of them is interesting.

Unfortunately, this burst from the star
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Jenny Brown
This discussion of the challenges of managing water use, drought, and the impact of water scarcity on Third World cultures discusses many important issues. But it suffers from reading too much like a collection of magazine articles without a clear organizing principle connecting the chapters.

The author was also too trusting of corporate sources for my tastes--at times the chapters turned into advertisements for IBM and GE and his belief that "market forces" can solve the problems of water distr
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Deb Rudnick
This is a book that should be required reading for, well, everyone, because we are all deeply dependent on and responsible for its subject. Fishman does a wonderful job connecting us with the enormous range of issues that supply water supply, water scarcity, water quality, and even our psychological and emotional connections to fresh water. This book is not a treatise on any of these subjects, nor a technical review- as he point s out, there are many books that cover many of the technical and po ...more
Laura
One of my office mates came back from Spring Break and told me that this was a book that I had to read. He gave me a summary and told me it was all about one of my favorite subjects, water. I am an environmental engineer / water resources engineer. Water is my career and is now what I am teaching about to the next generation. Would this book enthrall a lady of water like me? The answer is yes. I was fascinated by The Big Thirst, and what is even better, it was written in such a way that you don ...more
Ankur Jayakar
An awesome work by Mr Charles Fishman. This book doesn't preach you to fix that leaking tap in your house or doesn't blame governments and civic bodies for not doing what they are supposed to do. It just awakens your conscience towards the most precious but at the same time most neglected thing in our lives - Water itself. A fabulous research though the author avoids going into too much details about figures and dates and costs but conveys his point beautifully. And most importantly, Fishman con ...more
Elizabeth
I picked this up after hearing that Charles Fishman will be giving a speech at the college where I work, and I'm awfully glad I did. The first chapter of this book is utterly captivating; Fishman outlines our complicated relationship to water with eloquence and playfulness, and draws attention to the fact that while water is central to life on this planet, it's a resource that we take for granted. The rest of the book is a tour-de-force of investigative journalism. Fishman is a gifted writer, ma ...more
Glen
This is a book that is pretty easy to read, even fun, and tackles the mundane detail of water. I loved it. There is a good variety among the chapters, with one focusing on reclaimed water in rural Australia, and another on Las Vegas. In a topic area where I've read a lot of books already this one showed lots of new insight.
Tate
I am a non-fiction fan and like to find unique stories about everyday things. The Big Thirst quenched that desire. Water is not completely under the radar, but it is certainly taken for granted compared to other commodities. Fishman does a great job of taking a world view of the problem/issues by collecting stories from a number of different countries. I found the discussion about the daily quest for water in India to be particularly intriguing.

The book does not paint a doomsday scenario, but i
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Courtney
Ironically, I finished this book while in California during the significant drought the state is facing. This is another must-read for anyone who has an interest in climate change, or wants to know more about the challenges our planet may face if changes are not made to the way we consume in this country, particularly. A friend recommended this book to me.
David Hollywood
If you think your a conservationist then read this book and realise how much more we have to do. A very disturbing scenario for the future, unless we respond urgently and effectively.I was transfixed all the way through. A very important book.
Jhawn
Lots of provocative ideas and solutions. Things we haven't really thought about. Gives you a different way of understanding the problem we are facing with water. I was surprised to realize that the east coast of the US is affected the way it is.
Frits Haverkamp
Great book. Really helped me get a big picture view through detailed context oriented reporting on the state of water. Fishman argues that because we take water for granted we have refused to acknowledge just how scarey our dependence on water really is and how outdated our relationship with water truly is. The time for taking water for granted is over. Fishman lifts Las Vegas, long believed by me to one of the sickest places on the planet (a view that has not changed) as the example of how we n ...more
Jake
I imagined this book would be a dire plea to save water, a polemic call to action. I went into it expecting to be exhausted with cynicism and the weight of yet another cause to fight for but this turned out to not be the case. Fishman eloquently writes about our complex and often intimate relationship to water and how communities around the world react to the excess or scarcity of their water.

As some of the national reviews have noted, this book has affected the way I think about the most basic
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David Bruns
The Big Thirst: The Marvels, Mysteries & Madness Shaping the New Era of Water is a book about our relationship to water. I use the term "relationship" carefully - water is political, historical, economic, spiritual and medicinal. It is a substance that we ignore while it runs from the tap or on our lawns, but will pay 100x the value for in a plastic bottle.

This is not an environmental screed against water wasters or a technocrats view of a resource, it is a long essay about an under-apprecia
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Paul Mullen
Though Charles Fishman argues that this is not a polemic against modern habits of water usage, you can't come away from it without a sense of obligation. For my part, I hope to find a way to have a day-by-day display of water usage in my home (the monthly water bill is not timely enough to change behavior). The second-to-last chapter on water economics is the best of the group and is really worth everyone's time.

To be fair, Fishman tries to write a book about our relationship with water (like o
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Kristen
Picked up this book at the aquarium in Atlanta. Although I enjoyed it, towards the end it started to lose my interest. The one main thing I loved about this book was that it made me think about my water usage personally and also how ridiculous our water system is currently. Having pristine water used to water lawns, when waste water would be a better use is a topic this book really brought to light for me. Also, I think this book will actually save me a lot of money in the long run, as I will ne ...more
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Mandatory reading for EVERYONE 1 12 May 12, 2011 05:38PM  
  • Elixir: A History of Water and Humankind
  • The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Fresh Water in the Twenty-First Century
  • When the Rivers Run Dry: Water--The Defining Crisis of the Twenty-first Century
  • The Carbon Age: How Life's Core Element Has Become Civilization's Greatest Threat
  • Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization
  • Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines
  • Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What To Do About It
  • Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit
  • The Weather of the Future
  • Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water
  • Plastic: A Toxic Love Story
  • Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do about It
  • Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth
  • The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters
  • The World Is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean's Are One
  • Plastic Ocean: How a Sea Captain's Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to Save the Oceans
  • World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse
  • Water: A Natural History
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As a reporter, Charles Fishman has tried to get inside organizations, both familiar and secret, and explain how they work.
In the course of reporting about water to write The Big Thirst, Fishman has stood at the bottom of a half-million-gallon sewage tank, sampled water directly from the springs in San Pellegrino, Italy, and Poland Spring, Maine, and carried water on his head for 3 km with a group
...more
More about Charles Fishman...
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