Shaeffer, a professional resource manager who helped draft the federal water pollution control legislation of 1972 and 1977,...


FUTURE WATER: An Exciting Solution to America's Most Serious Resource Crisis

Shaeffer, a professional resource manager who helped draft the federal water pollution control legislation of 1972 and 1977, and co-author Stevens have an idea to sell--and it's worth a hearing: sending used water ""back to the natural cleansing system of soil, plants, air and sunshine for reclamation and reuse""--rather than, as at present, practicing ""disposal-by-dilution."" The first chapter sets the terms of this debate; the succeeding ones give some pertinent history. Since the 1840s American cities have ""reached out and reached out"" to consume astonishing quantities of war. Recycling was successfully practiced in Germany, France and England as early as 1890, and also, experimentally, in the US. But American sanitary engineers, following the ""linear"" instead of the ""circular"" route, ""became leaders in the development of technological means of sewage disposal."" Nonetheless their best efforts-the trickling filter, activated sludge, chlorination--avail little against the massive outflow of cities and industry. Much of this persistent wrongheadedness the authors blame on a ""Himalayan"" bureaucracy of water-supply officials with ""fossilized"" attitudes toward the whole subject--a bureaucracy ""interwoven with a private web of consulting engineers and equipment suppliers"" who squelch innovative approaches to the water question. These, as described in the later chapters, include several solutions devised by Shaeffer. Characteristically, they require a minimum of technology and funds; many, we hear, are startlingly successful and are in vigorous operation after 15 or 20 years' service. (A Muskegon, Illinois pilot project employs lightly treated wastewater to irrigate 5,300 acres of cropland--and returns a profit in corn sales; Hamilton Lakes, Illinois is a ""water self-sufficient community"" of nearly 8,000 that attained the elusive goal of ""zero discharge"" without any state or federal subsidies.) The key in all this, say the authors, is recognizing that what we call ""pollutants"" can be more profitably thought of as ""resources out of place,"" subject to reclamation and profitable recycling. The dimensions of the water problem are more systematically and comprehensively laid out in Fred Powledge's Water (1982); Shaeffer and Stevens score, however, for plausibility, sincerity and enthusiasm.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Morrow

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983

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