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The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Fresh Water in the Twenty-First Century

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  278 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
AS ALEX PRUD’HOMME and his great-aunt Julia Child were completing their collaboration on her memoir, My Life in France, they began to talk about the French obsession with bottled water, which had finally spread to America. From this spark of interest, Prud’homme began what would become an ambitious quest to understand the evolving story of freshwater. What he found was sho ...more
Kindle Edition, 435 pages
Published (first published June 7th 2011)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,130)
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Keith Akers
What I liked about this is that it covered the politics of water very well. The author writes in an engaging style and it reads like a novel. What I didn't like was that the book is hopelessly anecdotal. The stories are great, the politics is well explored, this guy should be a journalist. But the analysis is perfectly awful. The promise of the subtitle ("The Fate of Fresh Water in the Twenty-First Century") is not met: the fate of fresh water is mentioned, but not discussed. In the end I compro ...more
Aug 12, 2011 Lauren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It wasn’t until I started reading this book that I realized I hadn’t been entirely sure what to expect from a book about water. Within the first twenty pages, however, I also realized Mr. Prud’homme was going to exceed whatever expectations I had about this topic. This is a tremendously well-researched and organized book, covering a vast array of topics and shaping the conversation about water into a complex but accessible treatise. It’s a fantastic survey of the state of water – and the laws, e ...more
Nov 09, 2011 Robert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Ripple Effect is a must read for anyone who cares about the environment and more importantly is conscientious about where his or her water comes from. I wanted to read this book because I thought I would become more informed about the water I drink much like I did about the food I eat from Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food or even Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation. While I certainly did learn a lot more about the problems surrounding water in The Ripple Effect, I ...more
David Smiadak
Feb 12, 2014 David Smiadak rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most complete book in detailing water issues that I have come across. The book describes the high political stakes of water both domestically and around the world. Also a very useful reference for detailing existing and emerging technologies for both water extraction and treatment. Good read for anyone interested in the topic. ...more
Apr 16, 2014 Srikanth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In continuation of my previous piece on water, i am writing a short review on the book "The ripple effect" by Alex Prudhomme. The reasons that got me interested in water are

A. The days i started spending my time atop mountain top posts with nothing but Ice for water and was imagining what would happen if it doesn't exist, the enemy wouldn't need a WMD.

B. slowly started seeing water tanker jokes proliferate into mainstream movies.

C. When my parents in Viluppuram install a RO water purifier at
Jan 28, 2012 Rachel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The coolest thing about this book is that I have been emailing back and forth with the author (who is directly related to Julia Child) and he has accepted our invitation to be the keynote speaker at our (Water For People, DC) World Water Day event! yay!

That said, this book is overwhelming and does not offer much info on any positive steps being taken to address the challenges outlined (which include the full gambit of disaster - pollution, drought, flood, conflict).
Aug 11, 2012 Megan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Read it to become less of a water newb.
Dennis Stimson
Dec 01, 2012 Dennis Stimson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great information and thoughtful. Thank you!
Fred Dameron
Oct 03, 2016 Fred Dameron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Two big take aways. One: the U.S. must start to charge for water at the actual rate that the water costs to get from source, to tap, to sewage treatment, to next user. Yes unless you are the first person to use water from a spring it most likely has been used before and has gone through a sewage treatment plant. Now this cost must apply after infrastructure has been replaced. The cost of replacement infrastructure should be born by the state. What ever that state is. In the case of a city the ci ...more
Anna Sutanto
Jan 19, 2016 Anna Sutanto rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The three sections in this book (quality, drought, flood) followed by 21st century water situation provide a comprehensive information about the water crisis. The author discussed not only the politics of water but also on the ground experience of people who suffer from the environmental consequences of having too much or too few water. Although the discussion mainly focus on cases in the US, the author also mention many cases from around the world. Thus a reminder of the ripple effect of water.
Preston Kutney
The "Blue Planet" we live on is covered with water. A casual (or extraterrestrial) observer would no doubt conclude that water availability issues seem unlikely on a planet two-thirds underwater. However, there is an important distinction missed in that conclusion - there is a difference between freshwater and seawater. Worldwide, available freshwater constitutes less than 1% of the world's supply of H20. Variability in the location, timing and quality of that water is the premise of this book.

Sep 01, 2011 Lance rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The topic is covered, however the promise of the title is not met. If one has been following the news at all and have an interest in the use and availability of water most of what is in this book is already out there. Drought in the southwest is not news. Drought in Texas old news. States and countries fighting over water--no surprise! The book is well documented, and many people should at least read parts of it.

The author also has pointed out many of the short comings of the governments to tac
Nov 24, 2011 Rev. rated it really liked it
I only gave this book four stars because I think it's important. The nuts and bolts of the book are not enjoyable in the least. However, simply because it's unpleasant to look at the train that is barreling down on you, does not mean that looking away will make it go away. The case for water's plight is strong in this book - so strong, in fact, that when Prud'homme is offering solutions near the end, that you just cease to believe him.
He spends so much time (and documentation - the book is about
The Hermit's
Apr 25, 2016 The Hermit's rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well written book on the current and growing scarcity of water and it's condition as population grows and it becomes full of diseases, pollutants and pharmaceuticals. Minus a start because this book has a 'fearmongering' vibe and does not offer any real solutions or good news. The few solutions that are currently being employed, like cloud seeding and water desalination only create more environmental problems and still need fossil fuels to power them.
Nov 13, 2011 Randy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This was one of those books that jumped off the shelf and into my hands one day while I was at the Public Library. I have been thinking about the plight of our water for a little while, and this book just brought the whole issue into focus. I have to say, while there is hope, the way things are going, things could get pretty scary.

We have a finite supply of water on this planet. Yes, there is a lot of it, and we in Canada, are blessed with an abundance. Still, without the proper management of th
Oct 07, 2014 Dana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
p. 92

Dick Brame, a CCA fisheries scientist, described the Cheasapeake's ecosystem as "a patient that is dying of arterial bleeding, but he also has cancer. The arterial bleeding in this case is the overexploitation of species. The cancer underneath is the continuing decline of water quality. If you can't stop the bleeding, the cancer doesn't matter. But if you do, you still have to deal with the cancer."
Chris Leuchtenburg
This comprehensive review of the problems with water in the United States emphasizes policy conflicts in three sections focusing on pollution (mostly point source), water shortage and floods. Then there is a long section with a potpourri of issues that seem random, as if he had finished his thesis but still had a pile of note cards that he felt had to be used. The writing is just ok, and the thinking is not deep, but if you want a long list of all of the aqua-problems, this book has it.
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
As other reviews have noted, if you are aware of the water supply issues in even superficial depth, you probably know most of the stories discussed here. The organization does indeed seem lacking, and the science is not really discussed in sufficient detail. I also think the book suffers from an unwillingness to discuss regulatory capture and the power of industries as problems. Also: the EPA is like a beautiful hybrid Volkswagen Beetle, curvy and shiny ... except you crack the bonnet and there' ...more
Charles Eliot
Aug 12, 2015 Charles Eliot rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent and important book. The problem with fresh water is we take it so much for granted. If for no other reason than to wipe that notion from your mind, read this book. Now.
Matt Stevens
Jun 27, 2014 Matt Stevens rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite nonfiction books I've read in the past couple years. A very big driver into why I left Colorado and I worry about the future of the Southwest.
Jul 24, 2012 Keith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Prudhomme condenses the complex science, politics, history, and economics of water into a brisk polemic for the lay reader. His hydrological quest brings him to mines and salmon spawning grounds in Alaska, river deltas in California, and a subterranean pipe 580 feet below Manhattan. The Ripple Effect shows how decreased water supply, increased population growth, crumbling infrastructure, and climate change have combined with human greed, folly, and wastefulness to lay the groundwork for a global ...more
It definitely had interesting points, but it also seemed to be intent on delivering one side (and even though it's a side I'm inclined to believe in, it still puts me off). The book also suffered from structure and organizational problems as a result of breaking down the issues of water in the 21st century by quality, drought and flood (followed by infrastructure?) when really, the same issues came up in all of the sections, leading to repeating anecdotes. A different structure would have led to ...more
This book was well-researched and exceeded expectations. I learned quite a bit.
Jan 27, 2013 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A tome, but an engaging one. A series of studies of water quality, quantity, and how we manage both. If it sounds dry, it's not (pun intended), but it is a slow read that made me stop, think, cringe sometimes, and return back to the book. Big lessons: water is undervalued, already scarce, and full of stuff we probably don't want to drink. The other big lesson: even so, don't drink bottled water. It's no better for us, often comes right out of the tap, and is an environmental waste in every possi ...more
Yudou Hou
Sep 06, 2016 Yudou Hou rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michael Hentrich
Jul 22, 2012 Michael Hentrich rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even though this book was not what I expected, I'm really glad that I read it. Instead of simply learning about the pros and cons of different sources of water such as tap, spring, etc. I learned a plethora of information about the history and future of water in this world. I never realized how much influence water has in our economy and how much we've damaged much of it. This book definitely gave me a broader understanding of the environment and about how things work in our nation in particular ...more
Jun 21, 2015 Jean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers who want to know what the heck is happening with water. And, what we might be able to do.
Recommended to Jean by: New Yorker . . .
The first paragraph unfolds a chilling scene of murder - 'death by water' How could I put this one down?

Thousands of facts, substantiated by a plethora of references. Prud'Homme digs deep to expose the history – and possible consequences – of what happens when a few greedy entities, more than a few inept public officials, and an uninformed citizenry, dip their toes into 'the water' and threaten to compromise the essence of life itself.
May 12, 2012 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not always an easy read, but overall really fascinating because the story of water is the story of everyone's lives. I haven't read a book in a long time that was so relevant to my everyday existence--I have tended to think of water problems in far-off places, but we have plenty to deal with right here in the U.S. The author travels across the country to many familiar places to give a really well-researched account of the current situation.
Sep 19, 2012 Ben rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was extremely pertinent to me because I work for my state's Water Quality Control Division. I actually learned a lot more about the actual water quality problems and challenges facing my division by reading this book than I have by working here for two and a half years. This book also reminded me that I practice conservation at home for reasons other than my own personal financial gain.
Pretty much going over ground that has been gone over before. Of course no one pays any attention until its too late and it hits the fan. I shouldn't be saying this but until you control population growth no matter how green you get the resources are going to disappear..........Just give us humans a little mote time and we won't have to worry at all as there will be nothing left
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Alex Prud'homme is Julia Child's grandnephew. A freelance writer, his journalism has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Time, and People. He is the author of My Life in France (with Julia Child) and The Cell Game and the co-author (with Michael Cherkasky) of Forewarned. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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“Today's water arguments reflect a growing unease about how to proceed when old certainties are being pushed aside and new options seem limited or unappealing. But the stark warnings implicit in Wisconsin's poisoned wells, the intersex and dying fish of Chesapeake Bay, Lake Mead's recored-low waterline, the decay of levees across the country, and the resource war in Alaska's Bristol Bay, cannot be ignored.” 1 likes
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