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A concrete, straightforward report on the status of our drinking-water supply, far more in-depth and to-the-point than Branley's (above) and organized around particular problem situations as opposed to Branley's more text-bookish categories. If we run out of water, says Pringle at the start, it will be a result of greed, folly, and mismanagement. He notes that the US has no national water policy, authority is local and thus politically fragmented, and management is in the hands of 50,000 separate water companies. In the East, the problem is not scarcity of water but scarcity of deliverable, drinkable water. When New Jerseyans were fined for using water, their sources were spilling into the ocean for want of adequate storage; the state's prime pure groundwater supply, in the Pinelands, is threatened with development. On Long Island, wells are contaminated by pesticides; and in New York State, and elsewhere, rainwater runoff contaminates water reserves with highway salts. Toxic dumping has made ""chemical cocktails"" of the water in all US cities; and chlorination, put in to kill bacteria, combines with other substances to form cancer-causing compounds. The filters that would screen such compounds are rejected as too costly by water companies and local politicians. In the West, groundwater tables are dropping and 17 million people compete for water from the Colorado River. Pringle points to the conflicting claims of consumers vs. energy producers; those living East and West of the Rockies, and at upper and lower ends of the river; Indians on reservations and city dwellers; cities as against mining interests and agribusiness; and, in California, wasteful Los Angeles residents vs. residents of other areas that send them water. But agribusiness irrigation is California's chief water hog, using 85 percent of the water supply, and Pringle points out that these large landowners would also be the chief beneficiaries of proposed costly projects such as desalination plants and huge water-importing systems. He questions whether US taxpayers should subsidize their wasteful irrigation methods when drip irrigation, for example, would cut water use and increase crop yield. Whatever the proposal, Pringle makes clear who would benefit and who would pay, and he concludes that the answer to our supply problems lies not in grand, glamorous projects but in mundane measures such as plugging leaks in city water pipes. Once more, an intelligent, interesting, and informative summary that cuts beneath the technological surface.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1982
Publisher: Macmillan