Book Review: ‘Rain – A Natural and Cultural History’

June 18, 2015 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana

Disclosure notice: Cynthia Barnett is a friend and she sent me a free copy of her book in April 2015. As usual, this is one of my ‘stream-of-consciousness’ reviews, so quit now if you are expecting something different.

It’s been two months since I received a copy of Cynthia Barnett’s newest water book: Rain: A Love Story - oops, I mean Rain: A Natural and Cultural History. That period of time seems to be about my normal residence time for reviewing books, although I am way over for a few more.

Rain-300pxLet me attempt to explain the ‘title’ Rain: A Love Story. I can’t recall its origin, although it might have been Cynthia’s original working title, you know, like Paul McCartney’s Scrambled Eggs working title for Yesterday. But that ‘original title’ is how I think of the book: it’s a love story by Cynthia, in which she expresses her love for rain, and I suspect, an affection that is reciprocated in some anthropomorphic fashion. [Note added on 19 June 2015: cheek out Cynthia’s comment below, in which she explains her original title.]

This book strikes me as a logical extension of her previous two water books: Mirage: Florida and the Vanishing Water of the Eastern U.S.  (which some lame reviewer renamed Cadillac Swampland) and Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis. I say ‘extension’ because in this book, she lays bare her soul and admits to the love of her life (sorry, Aaron)she loves rain. She’s having an affair with rain! No BS. No PR. No nada. Pure and simple, Cynthia is a rain junkie. Dare I say ‘rain groupie’?

Cynthia_BarnettAs a WaterWonk, I love rain, but mainly because it and its overarching relative precipitation provide inputs to the terrestrial hydrologic cycle. Its offspring, infiltration, provides groundwater recharge. I don’t mind rain, but I can think of better things to do than to take a walk in the rain. That feeling was perhaps different when I lived in Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada,  but I now live in an area that averages over a meter of precipitation per year. I love rain mainly for what it does, not for what it is. She loves it for what it is, what it does, what it represents to a variety of people and cultures, and so much more.

So what do you do when you love something or someone? You tell the whole world, right? That is what Cynthia does. Everything about rain is brought to our attention. What it looks like. What it smalls like. How it forms. What it is made of. Why it occurs where it does. What it does – yes, the good, the bad, and the ugly. The inspiration it provides. What links Kurt Cobain and Emily Dickinson? Everyone knows that Seattle and Portland, OR, are among the wettest cities in the USA, right? Guess again! And raindrops are shaped like classic ‘water drops’, right? Uh-huh…..

She starts in Seattle and ends in Cherrapunji, India. In between, she covers it all. I learned more about the ‘science of rain’ than I knew existed. And lots of other stuff, too. Why is rain so special? Who wrote about rain? Who sang about rain? Who worships it? Who documented it? Who makes clothes to protect us from rain?

Like the journalist she is, Cynthia documents extremely well: almost 40 pages of notes with almost 300 individual entries, and a 21-page index. 355 pages!

And she writes, like, well, a writer. Beautiful. What can I say – poetic, lyrical, musical, magical? She is a writer and a chronicler. She is the best water/environmental book writer around, bar none.Regardless of what your background, beliefs, or political party are, you will learn from and love this book.

What I like best about Cynthia Barnett is that she is a true believer. She’s written three remarkable water books. But she’s not just following a checklist, you know:  ’Today – wrote water book – check. Tomorrow: write book on  the garment industry – check’…. She focuses on water and related environmental issues because she believes in them and wants to provide her readers with her insight, passion, joy, and wisdom.

I will use this in my classes just like I use Blue Revolution.

Her next book? Maybe Mud: Rain’s Best Friend?

I cannot conclude without listing my my favorite ‘rain’ song. Although it doesn’t express my sentiments about rain, it’s gotta be I Can’t Stand the Rain, with a slight preference for  the version by Precious Wilson and Eruption instead of the original by Ann PeeblesAsk me tomorrow and I’ll give you another answerMaybe Rain by the Beatles. You can see Cynthia’s Top 25 Rain Songs on Spotify.

Summing up: Cynthia Barnett loves rain and I love Cynthia Barnett. READ THIS BOOK!

I can’t stand the rain
Against my window
Bringing back sweet memories

Hey window pane
Do you remember
How sweet it used to be
When we walk together

Everything was so grand
Now that we’ve parted
I know there’s one thing
That I just can’t stand

I can’t stand the rain

Against my window
Bringing back sweet memoriesI can’t stand the rain
Against my window
Cause he ain’t here with me

Alone with the pillow

Where his head used to lay, yeah
I know you’ve got some sweet memories
But like a window you ain’t got nothin’ to say

I can’t stand the rain

Against my window
Bringing back sweet memories
I can’t stand the rain
I Can’t Stand the Rain  by Ann Peebles, Don Bryant & Bernie Miller

TGIF! Weekly Water News Summary, 6 – 12 June 2015

June 12, 2015 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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Are you serving as an unpaid board member of a water district, nonprofit, or a similar organization? Here is a cautionary tale from Texas.

And how about the work from IUCN- Water? Nature’s water infrastructure is valued at $29 trillion per year! Check out this infographic.

Now click here for the week’s water news summary.

‘If God had wanted us to use the metric system, Jesus would have had 10 apostles.’ - Jesse Helms



June 12, 2015 | Posted by Susan Scalia
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Featured Collection –  Water for Megacities – Challenges and Solutions:

Today, cities are growing bigger and faster throughout the world. Currently there are 28 megacites, those with a population of 10 million people or more, and the number of megacities is expected to grow to 41 by 2030. This featured collection examines the increasing water resources demands and challenges of megacities.

Sun et al. provide an introduction to megacity issues and an overview of the papers in the featured collection.

Li et al. provide a global overview of the diverse characteristics and water challenges for 28 megacities.

J. Wang et al. provide an overview of the challenges and solutions to provide adequate water supply to support Beijing’s continued population growth.

Several papers provide diverse case studies for megacities across China and Jakarta, Indonesia using computer simulation models and decision support systems.

Other Technical Papers:

Cox et al. use Public Participation Geographic Information Systems (PPGIS) methods to collect spatial data identifying places stakeholders think are important providers of watershed services.

Bouska and Stoebner characterize fluvial geomorphic changes to the Cache River of southern Illinois over the past 110 years to inform restoration and management.

White et al. develop a national database of localized sediment and nutrient export coefficients for ecoregions of the United States.

Riboust and Brissette model climate change impacts and uncertainties on spring flooding of Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River.

Alamgir et al. analyze meteorological drought patterns during different climatic and cropping seasons in Bangladesh.

Slagle et al. examine the perceptions and behaviors of suburban residents regarding stream quality.

TGIF! Weekly Water News Summary, 30 May – 5 June 2015

June 5, 2015 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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ASBBAIt’s my last day in Stockholm before heading home tomorrow.

Took a nice walk this morning during which I passed the iconic ABBA Museum.Yes, you can see silicone dolls of the ‘Fab Four’. All for a small fee, of course. Locals advised me not to spend my money, which I had not intended tomuseum do anyway. As one local said to me, ‘They’re so 1970s.’ Agreed!

Besides, Ace Frehley is coming to town!

Have to admit that ‘Waterloo’ is a great WaterWonk song.

Have a new category this week - Florida.

Click here for the latest water news summary.

“Low-hanging fruit is often inedible” - Yours truly

TGIF! Weekly Water News Summary, 23 – 29 May 2015

May 29, 2015 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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Congratulations to the IWRA, the local planning committee, and main sponsors the Scottish Government and WaterAid UK for holding an excellent World Water Congress in Edinburgh. This’ll be hard to top.

sessionThe picture to the left is from the session I moderated – Shaofeng Jia, yours truly, Sri Rachmad, Álvaro Morote and Jonathan Chenoweth.

If you are looking for an excellent conference venue, try the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC). It’s conveniently located, and Edinburgh is a great city.

Ever walk away from a session that totally energizes and inspires you? I attended one Untitled2today, the last day – Special Session 16 (SS16):  A bottom up approach to water security and poverty eradication.  Sort of a combination between WASH and IWRM.

Click here to view the weekly water news summary.

When ae door steeks anither opens.” Scots proverb (English equivalent: “When one door closes another opens.”)

TGIF! Weekly Water News Summary, 16 – 22 May 2015

May 22, 2015 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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caledonianMary Frances and I are in Edinburgh for the World Water Congress. I am looking forward to it. She will be doing some sightseeing; we are both headed to the Highlands today.

It’ll be great to see Portland water attorney Laura Schroeder here. She will be giving a couple of presentations, including one on Afghanistan. Great – we are 90 miles apart and have to travel almost 7,000 miles to catch up on waterlaura stuff.

I’ll be going dark for much of 22 – 24 May.

To my US friends and colleagues: have a safe Memorial Day, enjoy…and remember.

Click here for the weekly water news summary.

‘At my age, I must strike while the iron is available – can’t wait for it to get hot.’ - Unknown (but I will own it)

TGIF! Weekly Water News Summary, 9 – 15 May 2015

May 15, 2015 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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Good week!

iwraI will be leaving for IWRA’s World Water Congress in Edinburgh, Gwp-logoScotland, on 20 May, then continuing on to Stockholm for a meeting of the Steering Committee of the Global Water Partnership. I might not be posting much on Twitter during that time although I will endeavor to maintain these Friday summaries. 500px-B.B._King_in_2009

R.I.P. B.B. King - and Lucille. The thrill isn’t gone, it’s just moved upstairs.

Click here to access the weekly water news!

“Patience, time and money accommodate all things.” – Spanish Proverb(via @AnnaWSears)

Narvaez Award

AWRA President-Elect Martha Corrozi Narvaez (third from left) recently received the prestigious Achievement Award from the Water Resources Association of the Delaware River Basin. The award was given for her leadership, contributions and commitment to promoting and advancing practices of conservation and sound management of water and natural resources in the Delaware River Basin.

TGIF! Weekly Water News Summary, 2 – 8 May 2015

May 8, 2015 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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DWW2015Banner801x239You’ve got one day left to celebrate Drinking Water Week. Be thankful that most us in the developed world have access to safe drinking water from our taps. There are still around 3 billion people who don’t have such access. Even in the USA and Canada, not everyone has safe drinking tap water.

There is no excuse for not providing everyone with access to safe drinking water – from their taps, not from bottles. It ain’t rocket science, folks – just takes some money and political will.

Click here for the weekly water news and jobs.

“There’s nothing in the stream that’s good for your cows and there’s nothing your cows do to the stream that’s good for the stream.” - Frank Lucas, @USDA_NRCS (PA), on page 5 of this pub.

Tracy photo

John C. Tracy, AWRA President

May 2015 President’s Column, Water Resources IMPACT

I think I will make a habit of providing a quote for each of my columns, as other people seem to say what I am thinking much more clearly than I can state it. So I would like to start this column with a quote that I found in an article published by the Stockholm International Water Institute “Water Pricing: How to Value Our Most Elusive Resource” that is attributed to Plato (noted philosopher):

Only what is rare is valuable, and water, which is the best of all things…is also the cheapest.

I think this quote sums up quite nicely a contradiction I have been seeing in how we have come to regard water resources in this country. On the one hand, the number of articles, books, and web-pages declaring water as our most valuable resource has grown significantly over the last few decades, with a sampling of the articles that I was able to find just by using a simple web-search listed below:

Reading these articles, and many others like them, would seem to indicate that as a society we are well aware of the value of water, and the absolute necessity to ensure that we develop and maintain reliable, resilient and robust water infrastructure and systems.

However, on the other side of this discussion is the issue the country is now facing, which is an aging, and increasingly unreliable, water infrastructure, which is highlighted by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Infrastructure Report Card. The Report Card indicates that our drinking water infrastructure rates a D, our dams rate a D, our inland waterways rate a D-, our levees rate a D-, and our wastewater infrastructure rates a D.

The overall average grade for our nation¹s infrastructure is rated at a D+, which means that even if we graded on a curve, the nation’s water resource infrastructure would be below average relative to Transportation, Schools, Energy and other Public Services.

This situation is particularly acute in portions of my home state (Idaho) where the Infrastructure Report Card estimates that approximately $890 million in drinking water infrastructure and $1.4 billion in wastewater infrastructure is needed over the next 20 years. Many of these expenditures are needed in smaller rural water and wastewater utilities that are facing an aging infrastructure and an aging workforce, both of which need to be replaced within the next decade. For these municipalities, it is quite clear that if they do not maintain reliable water supply and wastewater systems, they will no longer be viable communities.

This leads me to the question: If water is our most valuable resource, how have we gotten to the point where we don’t seem to be willing to pay to ensure that we can access it reliably?

And of course the follow-up question: How can we convince ourselves to pay more to ensure we have reliable and resilient water systems? I had been wondering about these two questions for a while, and I really did not have any answers. That is, until recently, when I attended an event with a number of people associated with the privatization of water supply, wastewater treatment, and storm water management systems.

One thing that struck me about the event was that a large percentage of the attendees were from the business and financial sectors. When I started discussing the problems associated with improving the condition of our nation’s water resources infrastructure, especially in rural areas, they all agreed that this was a difficult problem that needed to be solved. They also pointed to some innovative approaches that they had seen work, all of which required a significant marketing effort, and the development of some creative financial models.

It is clear that within the water community we engage in many conversations about the physical and biological aspects of the water resource systems, discuss innovative engineering approaches to address water resource challenges, and talk about how to communicate the importance of having reliable water systems to the general public.

However, I realize now that a key voice that is often missing from our conversations about water resources is the perspective that comes from the business sector. This voice can help answer the questions of how the development and operation of our water resource systems can be better marketed and financed to ensure their sustainability.

I think this points to an opportunity for AWRA to expand our water community, and increase the diversity of voices included in our conversations on water. So the next time you are working on developing an agenda for a conference, seminar, webinar, or other activity associated with AWRA, think about reaching out to someone you may know in the financial and marketing communities, and ask them if they would be interested in talking about water.

John C. Tracy ~


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