Elements: Water (The Ripple Effect)

Currently I’m reading one of the most fascinating — and frustrating — books I’ve ever read. It’s called The Ripple Effect, by Alex Prud’homme, nephew of the late, great Julia Child. (He also co-authored the NY Times bestseller, My Life in France, with his famous aunt).

It’s fascinating because it almost reads like a novel, in spite of the amazing amount of research that went into it. And frustrating, because not enough people have read it: time is running out. It’s subtitled, “The Fate of Freshwater in the Twenty-First Century”, and if that doesn’t give you pause, every chapter in this book will.

He addresses a myriad of subjects concerning our current water crisis: dams, droughts, floods, the connection between energy and water, hydrofracking, the American West’s water use(!), oil shale and gas extraction, and tons of other topics. Along the way, he makes the acquaintance of some of America’s most fascinating characters, from ranchers to billionaires to eco-institute founders, and more. The book was published in 2012, so while it predicts Hurricane Sandy, it regrettably came out before that event.

Here are a few statistics that may change how you use water in your life:

1-liter water bottleThis is a 1-liter polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, plastic water bottle.

• Fill it 1/4 full: this represents the amount of oil that went into its making, distribution and recycling.

• 3-4 full bottles represent the amount of water that went into its making, distribution and recycling.

And this is a recyclable bottle, unlike most on the market!

(BTW, its contents are “purified water”: that is, filtered tap water, which also runs — for nearly free — out of your faucet at home.)

In 2006 alone, Americans bought 31.2 billion liters of water, requiring some 900,000 TONS of plastic to bottle (per the Beverage Marketing Corporation). Another study showed that 50 billion plastic water bottles were used in the US in 2006, or 167 bottles for every citizen (see page 294).

And wait till you find out what we are doing to our water and how fast we are using it up! It’s frustrating: but also makes for great reading!

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