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Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What To Do About It

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  320 ratings  ·  53 reviews
In the middle of the Mojave Desert, Las Vegas casinos use billions of gallons of water for fountains, pirate lagoons, wave machines, and indoor canals. Meanwhile, the town of Orme, Tennessee, must truck in water from Alabama because it has literally run out.
Robert Glennon captures the irony—and tragedy—of America’s water crisis in a book that is both frightening and wic
Hardcover, 414 pages
Published May 11th 2009 by Island Press (first published March 30th 2009)
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Jul 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books that makes you feel depressed, overwhelmed, angry, disgusted, etc., but hopefully by the end, optimistic. It's in the same category for me as Omnivore's Dilemma and Half the Sky: explore a giant problem, then offer solutions that are possible but definitely not easy. I want to cite so many facts and statistics from the book, but that could go on for pages and pages. But here's the bottom line: If we don't have enough water, nothing else matters. Not buying local produc ...more
Christina Dudley
Jan 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
What an amazing book! I learned so much from this read about such a wide range of water-related topics: where Americans in different regions get their water; the connection (cycle, really) between energy and water; why dams and diversions and endless well-drilling have finally caught up to us; the catch-22 of bottled water versus what's still in our city drinking water; conservation tips and larger-scale hope on the horizon for making the best of the water we have.

Who knew that our beloved inter
Rob Best
Sep 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
"Unquenchable" is an in-depth look at all the ways we use and waste water in the US. For someone familiar with the water space, it seems to be a refresher, geared more to be an eye-opener for those unfamiliar with the water system in the US and less toward a comprehensive discussion of water politics and solutions to the crisis. While the book has numerous excellent case studies of localized water impacts, it jumps around a lot as well, making it harder to understand what comprehensive reform is ...more
Dan Sharber
Jul 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
this was actually a really good book. a lot of great info on water rights and how they are managed or mismanaged in various places. also a lot about what can be done to conserve water. some conclusions i did not agree with but this was not simply a list of individual changes to conserve water. the author also took on energy creation as well as gold courses and agriculture which all over use water. well written and engaging overview of water issues.
Derek Emerson
Aug 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009-books-read
There are no shortage of crisis situations facing our world, yet nothing seems so elemental as water. It is such an integral part of our daily existence that it can be hard to understand how deep our dependence on water really is. That we need to drink water is understandable, but that it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef will make you look at that quarter pounder a bit differently.

Of course, concern about water is as ancient as life itself. In the United States water dispu
3.5 stars

This is a very comprehensive book about water issues, and it's very well researched. Glennon first outlines the evidence that water scarcity is indeed a problem, and lists the reasons why. Then he outlines some possible solutions - both realistic (low flow toilets) and absurd (cloud seeding).

Ultimately Glennon advocates for a market solution to the water crisis, while being wary of privatization and deregulation. While I do agree with him in that, as a country, we need to pay attention
Jan 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
I give it four glasses (of water) up. An entertaining, thought-provooking, non-technical look at how we waste water, and why moving to the Southwest might not be such a great idea.
Feb 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Good information but terrible solutions.
Andrew Roy
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Solid book, Glennon does a very good job of giving an overview and considering many different solutions. Sometimes painted a simpler picture than exists by giving one or two examples, and relied a bit too heavily on examples, but his general analysis is certainly correct. Not super exciting, but definitely a very important issue, and this book is a solid overview of why water scarcity is a problem and the best ways to fix it.
Terence O'Brien
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well written book on an immensely important issue. I would only say that, with the data and facts expanding exponentially each day, that one would need further research to fully understand the problems we're facing. A lot has changed in a decade. Also think the book fails to mention a few key components to water production and consumption--particularly with respect to clothing and other goods that we often overlook the cost of. But overall an excellent piece.
Jun 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Even though this book is 10 years old, many of the same water issues are (sadly) still occurring...with new issues still popping up. As a person who studied water policy and water issues, this book is written in a way that makes it accessible to the public and is easy to understand. However, the author politicized a few things that took away his credibility at points. But overall, a pretty good book.
Martini Man
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent book written in accessible language about the American water crisis and what can and should be done about it. I found the balance between community needs and individual rights well done with sensitivity. The book is a little old now, but the solutions are still current.
Christian Hartman
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fascinating book, it will make you upset about how water has been used (and continues to be used) in this country, as well as open your eyes to the true value of this seemingly limitless resource!
Apr 18, 2020 is currently reading it
Dr. Glennon's 2nd excellent book about the outdated water laws in the US and rapidly approaching crisis of water shortage.
Jul 23, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommended to Weavre by: Osterhout Display Shelf
While Glennon's writing style isn't quite as vivid as Workman's (Heart of Dryness, the topic itself remains compelling. For anyone who thinks, "I don't need to worry about that where I live," I'd encourage a bit more reading on the current realities, which have changed considerably even in very recent years.

Even so, Glennon may not be the place to start, as the academic, figure-laden writing style may not grip some readers in the same way as other books on the subject. To Glennon's credit, he i
Douglas Eu
Dec 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
a fantastic way to understand the problem with suggestions for how we can each act

I read the Audible version of this book supplemented by the Kindle version where I put highlights and notes. found this book after viewing the equally thought provoking documentary "Last Call at the Oasis". The water crisis as described by Robert Glennon is complex. The book does a good job of describing it and highlighting that in most cases, it isn't caused by a single problem but rather is a result of the inter
May 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: educational
Nutshell: not exactly a page-turner, but full of interesting and important information on water waste and the little things we can do to eventually make a big difference.
The author occasionally gets a little long winded and the logical flow of the book is a little choppy, but I'm ultimately very glad to have read the book. Whether or not you agree with Glennon's favored solution, the book is an honest and ugly picture of the water situation in America. America has always professed to be a land
Camille Tesch
Mar 13, 2014 rated it liked it
I read about half of this one, but got sucked into other things, so it went back to the library. I'd like to come back to it sometime. I've been interested in water politics and policy ever since it really dawned on me that I grew up in the desert, but water was cheap and everyone had beautiful lush green lawns through the summer while the mountains turn brown.

Reading this made me glad to live where I do. I also thought a lot about Jared Dimond's book 'Collapse', and wondered if many communitie
May 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
I think that everyone should read this book. I knew that water problems are going to become incredibly serious in coming years. I knew that ethanol production here in the midwest where we have abundant water has drawn down the water table in some locations and left private wells dry. I also knew how critical water supplies are in the southwest. This book is well written, very readable, and almost shockingly informative. People are rather blase about how they use water in the U.S. and they don't ...more
Dec 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Readable and informative. I'd heard about how Southern California got most of its water from Northern California, but I hadn't really thought through the bickering that could occur between upstream and downstream states where major rivers were concerned, or even how ridiculous it is to have a major metropolis in the middle of the desert, and insist on immaculate lawns. The fact that there are water rights lawyers!

Makes you appreciate water and how stupidly cheap and easy to get it is for many Am
Oct 23, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: geography
Having lived in Arizona for sixteen years and being familiar with the importance of water conservation, I should like this book. I want to like this book. But in spite of all my desire I disliked reading it. It reads like an MTV produced book jumping from trivia to trivia without forming a cohesive argument in any chapter - although the author attempts to do so. And I recognize at least one factual error in one of his accounts. Something should be said about his insistence on progressive liberal ...more
May 31, 2009 rated it liked it
A good update on our current water situation and is more easily readable than "Cadillac Dessert". Certainly written for the masses.

Glennon lays out many different ways we can solve our water problems, which will only continue to get worse with time, ranging from brilliant to crazy, and feasible to outlandish and expensive. Through this shotgun approach, states, cities and individuals can find solutions they can implement to help solve our water crisis.
Oct 05, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I didn't really learn anything new from this book. In fact, I thought it was too similar to the last book of his I read, "Water Follies." His writing style sucks. Plus, there are a few places that he contradicts himself. Boy would I love to be his editor! But it was still interesting, and he makes a compelling argument for composting toilets. I just feel that only about a third of the book gave me anything new.
Matt Lundy
In all fairness, I didn't read every page. The book had some interesting anecdotes from the past 15 years that don't show up in Marc Reisner's must read Cadillac Desert, but a lot of it was just laundry lists of ways that we currently waste water, and how to save more. Definetly check out Cadillac Desert first, and read every page!
John Lyman
May 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Another excellent book on the environment and the way humans are tearing through it with no abandon. It is amazing how many ways we use water, many completely "hidden" and unnoticed. What is clear is that demand far outpaces supply and, evidently, as happens so often these days, very few are willing to confront the issue until it is so grave that some kind of adjustment MUST be made.
Dec 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this book was not as good as Glennon's Water Folies, it still contains lots of important information. The author uses anecdotal stories of local water problems to illustrate the larger water issues facing America, and presumably the entire world. I'm no expert in this area, but the author offers some guidelines for how to approach these issues in the future that seem to make sense.
Sep 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Had to read this for a hydrology class this semester, and it was terrifying! I found it to be a fascinating read, but it was extremely depressing and terrifying all at once. It's worth a read so that you become more conscious of how serious our water problem really is, and it'll make you very cautious about conserving water.
Joe Frankie
Robert does a great job with the impending water resource crisis we face. His book is easy to read, well-researched and documented. He breaks down the issues and tries to portray the multiple sides of the issues. He makes it plain to see that more of the same is not going to be viable solution. It worth your time and effort to read. You are a stakeholder in the upcoming debates on policy.
Jul 19, 2009 rated it it was ok
I didn't finish this book because it got really depressing and overwhelming. Seemed a little like fear mongering to me. Maybe there were tips at the end for what individuals can do? If so, they should have been alluded to earlier, because really it just seemed like we are all doomed.
Aug 23, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: sciences
A good read simply for the information inside of it. This book acts as a clearinghouse for important water law/conservation stories over the last 50 years, specifically the last decade. Only the last 40 pages or so are explicitly infused with the author's own political ideas.
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