July 19, 2014 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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The Santa Cruz Declaration on the Global Water Crisis came out of a US National Science Foundation sponsored workshop on Equitable Water Governance last year. It was published in Water International earlier this year with commentary from several figures in the field of water. It seeks to describe several categories of water injustice compromising the lives and livelihoods of many millions across the globe. It also provides a brief summary of possibilities arising from the contestation of water injustice in many local contexts.The opening statement of the Declaration has proved controversial as you will see from some of the comments:
At least one billion people around the world struggle with insufficient access to water. However, the global water crisis is not, as some suggest, primarily driven by water scarcity. Although limited water supply and inadequate institutions are indeed part of the problem, we assert that the global water crisis is fundamentally one of injustice and inequality. This declaration expresses our understanding of water injustice and how it can be addressed.A continuation of debate about the Declaration is due to be published in an upcoming issue of Water International.I will be happy to receive additional comments on the Declaration and will post them online with the Declaration.Ben Crowbencrow@ucsc.edu
However, the global water crisis is not, as some suggest, primarily driven by water scarcity. Although limited water supply and inadequate institutions are indeed part of the problem, we assert that the global water crisis is fundamentally one of injustice and inequality.
We have been constantly reminded that of the 1400 million cubic kilometres of global water resources, only 2.5% is freshwater; and of that amount, 99% is permanent ice or in deep aquifers. Thus, there is not enough water on the planet, particularly with the escalation in population growth (from 1.6 billion to 6.1 billion during the last century alone).
I read this ‘declaration’ in the morning, and since I got hot under my collar I decided to put it aside. Then I read it again in the evening, and got ‘dismayed’ again. So, here is the ‘beef’. The ‘declaration’ opens with the following stunning statement summarizing the authors’ “understanding of water injustice and how it can be addressed”:
The global water crisis is not, as some suggest, primarily driven by water scarcity. Although limited water supply and inadequate institutions are indeed part of the problem, we assert that the global water crisis is fundamentally one of injustice and inequality. We, the undersigned scholars, community members, activists, officials and citizens, declare that the principal form of the water crisis is not a shortage of water, nor failures of government, but the many injustices in access to, the allocation of, and the quality of water. The global water crisis is not likely to be resolved by the provision of more water.
It never fails to amuse me to see when lawyers and ‘social justice activists’ talk (or write) about injustice in allocation of a resource without any understanding of the physical nature of the resource. I do not know if the group authoring this ‘declaration’ is driven by self-promotion in stating that “the global water crisis is fundamentally one of injustice and inequality”. As a physical scientist, I am stunned, as I am sure are most if not all of my peers, by the opening statement that “the global water crisis is not . . . driven by water scarcity”. Tell this to a Jordanian, Israeli, or Palestinian, just to mention a few. How can they consider injustice in the agricultural sector (e.g. irrigation) when disregarding unequal distribution of water on the globe? How they can bunch the injustices and inequalities in the agricultural sector of the Middle East or Sub-Saharan Africa with the injustices and inequalities in the same sector of Nicaragua or Cambodia?
I was among the very few privileged to be invited by the Special Issue’s guest-editor to offer a comment on the Declaration, to be included within the very same issue. Unfortunately, I was joined only by Dr. Malin Falkenmark of the Stockholm International Water Institute in voicing criticism (she did it in a more “diplomatic” and more settled way, as Swedes always do). Only the two of us recognized the fallacies in the Declaration’s argument that “the global water crisis is not, as some suggest, primarily driven by water scarcity.” Only the two of us noticed that its framers offer no supporting scientific data for the Declaration’s argument. Only the two of us, finally, pointed out that an agenda-driven perspective renders the Declaration’s arguments null and void. Instead, all other commenters offered resounding accolades which reminded me of the politically-correct scripts (that are so much now in fashion) with which I became so familiar growing up on the wrong side of the “iron curtain.” What a travesty (and how ironic) to call this opinion piece a Declaration as if it to draw a parallel with The Declaration of Independence which so eloquently and justly argued for its universal principles.
Please, log-on or look up for the Water International 2014, Vol. 39, No. 2 in your library and read the “Declaration” and then send your opinion/reaction to Water International Editor-in-Chief Dr. James Nickum at email@example.com or Deputy Editor-in-Chief Dr. Philippus Wester at firstname.lastname@example.org
“What we can see is in other words two parallel global water crises emerging:
1) a water supply service crisis, not always driven by water scarcity, which can be alleviated by improved water governance and management; and 2) a water resource crisis, driven by increasing water scarcity, which has to be adapted to by mental shifts, resilience-based approaches and adaptive water policies.” - Malin Falkenmark, from the paper, p. 253
July 18, 2014 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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I’ve been told the Japanese have a real affinity for toilets, especially high-tech varieties. This picture surfaced in one of my Tweets this week. Here is the story.
My only experience with a high-tech Japanese toilet was at the Holiday Inn at the Osaka Airport in 2003. I was faced with a device with numerous switches, dials, and buttons, all labeled in Japanese. The only control in English was a red button that said, ‘High Pressure’. ‘Nuff said!
Click here for this week’s water news summary.
“Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things.” - George Carlin
July 11, 2014 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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Looking west across Lake Tahoe with former UNR student and good friend Sarah Raker. This was on 29 June 2014 on a wonderful field trip in the Truckee River basin led by Janet Phillips, who is developing a Tahoe (Truckee River source) – Pyramid Lake (terminus) Bikeway. What a ride that would be, especially the downhill segment!
Check out my post on the Lake Abert desiccation.
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“If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.” - Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
July 10, 2014 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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So will Congress determine whether water is wet? Could take some time.
The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing yesterday on the scope and impact of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule entitled “Definition of the ‘Waters of the United States’ Under the Clean Water Act.” The Administration’s position was represented by Bob Perciasepe, Deputy Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Here’s a link to his testimony.
Attached is a copy of the hearing’s charter which is a document prepared by the Science Committee’s professional staff. It served as a good briefing paper for the members of the subcommittee. Since this issue is probably a hot topic for some of you I thought you’d find the document of interest.
Here is a story from E & E:
WATER POLICY: Lawmakers roast EPA’s second-in-command over rulemaking, by Manuel Quiñones, E&E reporter (Thursday, 10 July 2014)
EPA has been aggressive in answering critics of the proposal. Administrator Gina McCarthy, for example, has been in Missouri trying to appease farmers (E&ENews PM, July 9). But the effort is not gaining much traction among congressional Republicans.
“The EPA is on a regulation rampage and this regulation proves it,” House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said during a hearing yesterday.
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) was less critical but said some constituents indeed had concerns about the rule. She welcomed the hearing as a way to help address the “misinformation that has been circulating about the proposal.”
That’s exactly what EPA’s deputy chief said he was hoping to do. “Some of the misinformation is something we have to cut through,” Perciasepe said.
Some critics, he said, have asked whether EPA was going to require permits for cows crossing streams, or protect dry washes and floodplains. “I can say categorically that none of those statements are true,” Perciasepe said.
Perciasepe said EPA’s rulemaking would actually reduce the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act and would not assert jurisdiction over waters not currently under federal protection.
But Smith pointed to a map of perennial and intermittent streams, hoping to show the dramatic potential impact of the rule. He asked, “To the extent that the water traverses the land, then that land itself would be impacted by the regulation, would they not?”
Perciasepe said, “The water, the water tributaries, the bodies of waters that are in those areas would be subject to regulation if you discharge pollution into them,” not the land itself.
Smith continued, “Suppose we are not talking about pollutants, suppose we are just talking about rain runoff or that drizzle that’s in your report.”
Perciasepe responded, “The stream would be covered, not the land area. You would not be able to discharge into streams, including streams that are intermittent.”
Referring to Smith’s map, he added, “I want to be really clear here, all that red area is not going to be regulated by the Clean Water Act. It would only be the tributaries that are in those areas. I don’t know what else to say about that.”
Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) demanded EPA withdraw the rule. “What you’ve shown is a disregard for listening. You don’t listen,” Collins said. “Congress doesn’t trust you, the Farm Bureau doesn’t trust you, counties don’t trust you, the public doesn’t trust you.”
Collins added, “When you say that these puddles and streams aren’t regulated and you put in your blog they’re not regulated, but it’s not clear. So I don’t understand why [you don't] withdraw the rule.”
Perciasepe responded, “There’s a difference between making it clearer because others are trying to make it unclear and whether we believe the rule we proposed does what I say. Because I believe it does.”
Because Perciasepe agreed that every drop of rainwater could eventually end up in a regulated body of water, Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) said, “You’re going to control every piece of land and every landowner.”
Perciasepe pleaded for more time to respond, saying, “But those are not jurisdictional. The backyard water is not jurisdictional. Mr. Chairman, can I please …?”
The chairman moved on, saying Perciasepe could address the issue again later in the hearing.
GOP lawmakers pressed EPA to release more analysis for public comment and maps showing the impact of the proposed rule on waterways and wetlands.
Smith and other lawmakers also questioned Perciasepe on EPA proposing the Clean Water Act rule before the completion of a study meant to justify the measure, which is under review by the EPA Science Advisory Board.
Even though EPA has promised not to finalize the rule until after the report is done, Smith and other lawmakers blasted Perciasepe for preventing direct communication between committee lawmakers and the SAB.
Smith said, “We don’t have to get the EPA’s permission for the Science Advisory Board to give us answers to our questions.” He asked, “Why did the EPA intercept our questions?”
Perciasepe said the agency had passed along the panel’s questions but said members are treated like “special federal employees.” He added, “We feel that there needs to be a process.”
Smith replied, “We have a complete and fundamental disagreement on that. I think it was totally inappropriate for the EPA to intercept the questions.”
Unlike Bob, I hope you enjoy!
July 9, 2014 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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A few days ago The Oregonian published an article by Rob Davis about the drying of Lake Abert (or Abert Lake as the locals call it): Lake Abert, Oregon’s only saltwater lake, is disappearing and scientists don’t know why. Here is an in-depth story from Davis and more: 5 things you should know about Lake Abert, Oregon’s disappearing salt lake.
As is often the case with online stories, the comments are as interesting as the story itself, and this one is no exception.
Lake Abert (small red dot on the map, south-central part of Oregon) is located in Lake County, Oregon’s dry country, in the so-called ‘Oregon Outback’. The lake is about 80 miles east of Klamath Falls, and is fed by one stream, the Chewaucan River. The only outflow is via evaporation (and presumably, some groundwater seepage).
The article focuses on a family business whose brine shrimp business is tanking, scientists who claim that drought is not the cause of the desiccation and are puzzled why the drying is occurring, farmers and ranchers who irrigate with water from the Chewaucan River and are concerned that their water may be taken from them to save the lake, and disinterested state officials, including a watermaster who made an ill-conceived, dismissive quote (see below).
Here’s more from Davis: 5 things you should know about Lake Abert, Oregon’s disappearing salt lake.
Here is an earlier (February 2011) column by a guest columnist, limnologist Doug Larson. He stated:
In 1991, the state of Oregon and the federal government authorized a private developer to impound the Chewaucan River with a crude, earth-filled dam, 23 feet high. Freshwater that should be flowing into Lake Abert to maintain optimal salinity levels is now being withdrawn from a 650-acre reservoir to irrigate marginal agricultural land. This, combined with a natural water shortage in the region, imperils the lake’s fragile ecology.
Oregon’s Water Resources Department could revoke the developer’s water-withdrawal permit, now under review. But removing the dam entirely would have a more lasting and purposeful effect, freeing the river while saving a small business whose impact on the lake is negligible.
Interesting about the dam, which was not mentioned in the Davis stories.
I was surprised at the decisions made affecting Lake Abert in the apparent absence of data and the inability of OWRD to track irrigation withdrawals from the Chewaucan River.
So why am I interested in this story, which I Tweeted last weekend? I’d just driven through the region, spending the night in Lakeview, on Highway 395 about 30 miles south of Lake Abert and just north of Goose Lake (the large lake straddling the Oregon-California state line south of Lake Abert). Goose Lake was essentially dry when I drove past it in late June 2014. A local told me it had been dry since last summer.
I cut my hydrologic teeth in the Great Basin of Nevada, very similar to this part of Oregon. The western part of the USA is known for its pluvial (sometimes called ‘glacial’) lakes, which formed during the Pleistocene Epoch, when the climate was wetter than now because of the effects of the continental glaciation to the north. My former Desert Research Institute colleagues Marty Mifflin and Peg Wheat were experts on these lakes and I learned a lot from them. Here is their classic 1979 publication, Pluvial lakes and estimated pluvial climates of Nevada.
During the Pleistocene, large freshwater lakes, such as Lakes Lahontan and Bonneville, dominated the region. Those lakes are long gone, leaving behind saltier, smaller remnants: the Great Salt Lake, Pyramid Lake, Walker Lake, and others, as well as playas (dry lakebeds). It should be noted that the latter two lakes’ salinity increases and volume losses have been exacerbated by diversions.
What this means is that Lake Abert was formed during wetter times, and in the present time, occupies a much smaller volume and area and a higher salinity. So it has an ‘equlibrium’ size and salinity (adjusted to current climatic conditions), although I don’t know what those are. No one does, and that’s part of the problem here.
I am surprised that none of this – pluvial lakes – has been mentioned in any of the aforementioned newspaper articles. It’s pretty well known and is relevant. I am not even a paleolimnologist or paleoclimatologist, like my former UNM colleague Roger Y. Anderson, who examined dry lakes in the USA Southwest to ascertain lake histories and climate changes.
I suspect the dam alluded to in Larson’s article is having an effect on the lake volume. How could it not? Cut down the flow, the lake will shrink. But is it causing all the shrinkage? Hard to say. Again – what is the ‘equilibrium’ size of the lake? That has not been determined. Davis’ article mentioned a proposal submitted by Joe Eilers, a Bend hydrologist, to OWEB that sought to determine the water balance of the lake. It was not funded and that does not surprise me.
My Ten Cents: I suggest beefing up the aforementioned proposal (which I have not seen) and combining it with a paleolimnological and paleoclimatic study encompassing the current Lake Abert basin or even extending it to the entire basin of Lake Chewaucan. A climate focus is critical as it would draw interest from funding agencies. I doubt the state of Oregon would fund it (I agree that politics is at play here) and the researchers would likely have to go to the NSF or some other science agency. The key is to make the study more ‘researchy’. Involving some undergraduate/graduate students and an errant academic or two would be a good idea.
Check out the Mifflin and Wheat publication. Might provide some guidance.
Is it worth the money to save Lake Abert? Many would say no – the lake is dying anyway so why spend money and possibly have to give up good irrigation water? I say ‘yes’ – it will enhance our knowledge of these relict lakes in Oregon and perhaps unlock some climatic and other mysteries.
While we’re at it, we might ponder and answer the question, ‘Do lakes have water rights?’
One thing we don’t need: the attitude reflected by today’s quote.
“I don’t have time to read it.” - Brian Mayer, OWRD watermaster, referring to scientists’ data showing the drought is not as severe as believed (from the story)
July 4, 2014 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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Running a little late this week but not because it is the Fourth of July holiday in the USA: I’m ‘recovering’ (pleasantly so!) from the AWRA IWRM Conference and the 500-mile drive home from Reno yesterday.
Happy July 4th to my USA friends and colleagues! Take a moment to reflect upon the Declaration of Independence.
Click here for a summary of the week’s water news.
“No shit, Sherlock.” - What a California water manager thought of saying to a state legislator who remarked on the inefficiency of a community’s water distribution system
June 27, 2014 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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I am spending the night in Lakeview, OR, the self-styled ‘Tallest Town in Oregon’ since its elevation is 4,800 feet (c. 1,500 m) above MSL.
Pretty impressive, eh?
I am en route to Reno and the AWRA IWRM Conference. I am taking the long way simply because I wanted to see this part of Oregon. Very pretty, especially the last part through the Sprague River Valley.
And the drive from Lakeview to Reno on US Highway 395 was wonderful.
Click here to enjoy the weekly water news summary.
“Fasten your seat belts; it’s going to be a bumpy night.” - Margo Channing (played by Bette Davis), in All About Eve (thanks to Eric Fitch)
Tuesday Dutch Treats: Middle East Water, UN Water, Post-2015 Agenda, ‘Living with Water Scarcity’ & More
June 24, 2014 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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With the Dutch shredding their group in the 2014 FIFA World Cup (3 wins, no losses/draws, a blowout 5-1 win over defending champion Spain, and 10 total goals scored) I thought it would be appropriate to honor their expertise in water resources as well.
Friend and colleague Michael van der Valk of the Dutch Portal to International Hydrology sent this information my way. This portal is an excellent site for water resources information so check it often. It frequently has free downloads that cost money elsewhere. The title of each post is hot, so click to access downloads (if there are any).
Vanishing Water Landscapes in the Middle East
On 11 June 2014 Francesca de Châtel successfully defended her PhD thesis
on water in Syria. The Jordan River has been reduced to 2% of its historic size and is heavily polluted. Across Syria, rivers are shrinking, springs have dried up, and the desert is spreading. The water crisis in the Middle East, the most water-scarce region in the world, is rapidly worsening, yet decision-makers appear unwilling to acknowledge its severity and water remains low on the political agenda. How can this gap between the reality of growing scarcity on the ground and the continued illusion of plenty be explained?
Water, Drought, Climate Change, and Conflict in Syria
In May 2013, a year ago, Thomas Friedman, writing for the International Herald Tribune and New York Times, was one of the first to acknowledge the importance of drought, the lack of water and possibly climate change in the Syrian revolution. »Kids without books, teachers or classes for a long time that’s trouble. Big trouble.«, he wrote. And »the drought and unemployment were important in pushing people toward revolution«, a Syrian lady was quoted. Building on this and on other information, Peter Gleick, in his paper “Water, Drought, Climate Change, and Conflict in Syria”, to be published in July 2014, also concludes that drought, water and agricultural management, and climatic conditions are factors in the Syrian conflict.
United Nations Watercourses Convention enters into force
On 19 May 2014 Viet Nam acceded to the UN Watercourses Convention, making it the 35th country to join this global instrument. The accession by Viet Nam to the United Nations Watercourses Convention triggered its entry into force by bringing the number of Parties to the required total of 35. The 1997 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses (United Nations Watercourses Convention) will enter into force on 17 August 2014.
UN-Water’s technical advice on a possible Water Goal: Securing Sustainable Water for All
What should be to role of water in the Post-2015 Development Agenda? This was one of the questions in the expert consultation process that UN-Water undertook all year during 2013 to help UN Member States in their forthcoming intergovernmental negotiations. The outcome – an evidence-based paper and an Executive Summary – recommends a prioritization of water through a dedicated goal with five interlinked targets, that builds on and extends existing commitments such as the Millennium Development Goals and the priorities agreed at Rio+20. But what is the goal? Securing sustainable water for all!
Improving food security in the Sahel is difficult, but achievable
Africa’s Sahel suffers from degraded soils, erratic rainfall, and an exploding population – all of which hold huge implications for the region’s food security. This year the situation is especially dire. Valerie Amos, the United Nations coordinator for emergency relief, estimated that 20 million people in the Sahel will face hunger this year, requiring $2 billion in food aid. WRI’s Chris Reij writes about it.
Knowledge and capacity development in the water sector: special issue of Water Policy
Water management is particularly dependent on strong capacity, a solid knowledge base and awareness at all levels, including those of the individual, the organization, the sector institutions and the ‘enabling environment’. Yet getting all levels to operate in a coherent manner is challenging, and requires vision and leadership. A special issue of Water Policy seeks to further the understanding of leadership in knowledge and capacity development in the water sector. However, its theoretical and methodological insights will be of interest beyond that arena. The special issue resulted from selected papers presented at the 5th Delft Symposium on Water Sector Capacity Development held in Delft, The Netherlands. The best thing: they are free to download!
Collectively, the contributions examine knowledge and capacity development in both the water services and water resources sub-sectors. In order to be linked well to current local realities, the papers rely on both academic analyses based on empirical research as well as practitioners’ accounts based on their professional experience. They present an overview of the current state of the art in knowledge and capacity development in the water sector.
Living with Water Scarcity – new book
Do you worry that there is not enough water for people, the economy and environment? Do you wonder if the water in our taps and rivers is safe or polluted? Do you want to know if farmers waste water, utilities charge too much, or bottled water destroys ecosystems? You are not alone in asking questions. The headlines say “drought, pollution, conflict and insecurity,” but the stories offer few solutions. Living with Water Scarcity [by David Zetland] clarifies the connections among personal and social water flows in an accessible style.
‘Al draagt een aap een gouden ring, het is en blijft een lelijk ding.’ - Dutch proverb ["Although a monkey wears a golden ring, it remains an ugly thing."]
June 20, 2014 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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Nice map of water rights in the USA (click to enlarge). It is Figure 4.3 on page 56 (via
Christian-Smith and Gleick, 2012) from the recently-releasedDepartment of Energyreport, The Water-Energy Nexus: Challenges and Opportunities.
And here is an infographic.
And click here to access the weekly water news!
“There has always been, in America, a thread of anti-intellectualism.” - Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ)
June 14, 2014 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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Seminal Groundwater Book (Shill alert!)
Friend and colleague Todd Jarvis and I spent yesterday at a retreat for semi-recalcitrant (speaking only for myself) geographers. As we departed I asked him, “When’s the book coming out?’ He looked surprised and then produced a copy of Contesting Hidden Waters: Conflict Resolution for Groundwater & Aquifers from his backpack.
Here is what I wrote about Todd and his book on 31 July 2013:
What about Todd Jarvis? A luminary? Better believe it! Unbeknownst to many, he is on the verge of finishing the first draft of his book, Contesting Hidden Waters: Conflict Resolution for Groundwater and Aquifers.
The big deal? I cannot think of a book on water conflict that does anything more than pay lip service (if that) to groundwater, which comprises far more of Earth’s unfrozen freshwater – 95 to 98% or so – than surface or atmospheric water. But it gets the ’Rodney Dangerfield’ treatment: no respect!
Not so with Todd’s book - all groundwater all the time!
The blurb from the book’s site:
The world increasingly relies on groundwater resources for drinking water and the provision of food for a growing population. The utilization of aquifer systems also extends beyond freshwater supply to include other resources such as heat extraction and the storage and disposal of substances.
Unlike other books about conflict resolution and negotiations over water resources, this volume is unique in focusing exclusively on conflicts over groundwater and aquifers. The author explores the specific challenges presented by these “hidden” resources, which are shown to be very different from those posed by surface water resources. Whereas surface watersheds are static, groundwater boundaries are value-laden and constantly changing during development.
The book describes the various issues surrounding the governance and management of these resources and the various parties involved in conflicts and negotiations over them. Through first-hand accounts from a pracademic skilled in both process and substance as a groundwater professional and professional mediator, the book offers options for addressing the challenges and issues through a transdisciplinary approach.
No, I’ve not read the book (it’s en route). No, this is not a review. But it is a recommendation. Todd Jarvis is a smart guy when it comes to hydrogeology – one of the smartest I’ve met. He’s thorough, meticulous, perceptive, experienced, calm, and thoughtful. When it comes to conflict and groundwater, he IS the world’s expert (the cognoscenti know this). You don’t hear as much about him as you do others because he is humble and doesn’t indulge in self-promotion; he just gets the job done without all the Sturm und Drang. But the recognition due him will change now that his book is out. Trust me – long after I am gone from this Earth people will be citing this text.
The subject matter will become increasingly important as global warming desiccates surface water supplies in certain areas, placing groundwater at the center of conflict in such areas.
Upshot: read the book – even if you are one of those who think that groundwater is not ‘accessible and drinkable‘.
I love this quote about the book:
“A refreshingly unique and long awaited approach to understanding the most neglected part of the hydrologic cycle and how we interact with it.” – Mark Giordano, Professor, Georgetown University, commenting on the book