Drinking Water Book Summary By James Salzman

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Drinking Water (2012) dives into our relationship with potable water, starting from centuries ago and taking us all the way to current day.

This book provides an educational and entertaining look at our habits when it comes to drinking water.

It offers a multitude of fascinating facts about commonly accepted facts about this topic—some that might even surprise you.

This book is informative, interesting, and eye-opening all at once, making it a must-read for anyone who wants to learn more about their relationship with their drinking water.

Drinking Water Book

Book Name: Drinking Water (A History)

Author(s): James Salzman

Rating: 4.3/5

Reading Time: 24 Minutes

Categories: Economics

Author Bio

James Salzman is a renowned academic and expert in environmental law.

He's the author of a number of books as well as over 80 acclaimed academic papers.

His work has earned him the esteemed title of Donald Bren Distinguished Professor of Environmental Law at the highly-renowned UCLA School of Law.

Salzman has long been considered an authority on matters related to water use, access, and protection and his expertise has earned him recognition around the world.

It's because of his knowledge that we can continue to educated ourselves through his extensive library of works on these important topics.

Unlock The Hidden History Of Water: Tracing The Path To Our Taps

History Of Water

Understanding the importance of conserving and protecting access to drinkable water is a critical requirement in light of today’s increasing demands for fresh water.

In this book, you’ll gain insight into the history of drinking water, from who first created it to when we came to understand how dangerous untreated water can be to our health.

You’ll also learn about John Snow, a historical figure unrelated to “Game of Thrones”, as well as why bottled water has become so popular and where 20 percent of the world’s fresh supply is located.

This knowledge can help us all take action for advancing efforts for saving and sustaining drinkable water sources worldwide.

We have a moral imperative today when it comes to preserving natural resources such as clean drinking water for generations now and in the future – and this book is a great point of reference that every person should consider reading.

The Mystical Power And History Of Water

For centuries, drinking water wasn’t seen as being desirable.

In upper-class Roman society, it was thought to be only suitable for children, slaves or women who couldn’t drink wine.

This opinion carried on through to the Middle Ages and beyond – even the first pilgrims to reach the New World preferred beer over water!

In fact, some even believed that drinking water could lead to feelings of melancholia – one example of this is an English doctor from the seventeenth century.

Nonetheless, many believed that there were mystical powers behind water.

Throughout history, people have told tales of holy waters and springs with enchanted qualities for healing or even achieving immortality.

Nowadays, an example is Lourdes in France which was declared a place of saintly pilgrimage after Bernadette Soubirous saw the Virgin Mary 18 times at a spring there in 1858.

Even today, thousands travel from far away every year to try its legendary curative waters.

The Power Of Water In Ancient Rome: How Caesar Used Access To Drinking Water As Political Leverage

The Romans were the first to really appreciate the politics and power of water.

They set up delivery systems such as aqueducts which brought free water into people’s households – 2,000 years ago!

The impressive engineering of these aqueducts has made them stand the test of time.

Under the rule of Augustus, the number of lacūs dramatically increased in order to demonstrate to citizens that life was better under a Roman Empire.

This was about more than just providing access to drinking water – it was about preservation of power and control.

He adorned each public water station with words “Aqua Nomine Caesaris,” which meant “water in the name of Caesar”.

Through these innovations with water, Rome was able to secure their power and authority by demonstrating that they could provide something even more vital than food or air – clean, free drinking water.

It’s incredible what they managed to achieve over two thousand years ago!

Clean Water

Up until the mid-nineteenth century, it was commonplace to consume water without being aware of the risk of disease.

This was largely due to a lack of understanding about how contaminated drinking water could make people ill.

In fact, some cities in the United States were so badly polluted by excrement and waste from slaughterhouses and tanneries that their drinking water was literally undrinkable!

Despite this knowledge gap, many people still drank the unsafe water, and as a result thousands died in yellow fever and cholera epidemics.

It wasn’t until Philadelphia began to establish a clean water supply (thanks to a generous donation from Benjamin Franklin) that other cities started to take action too.

It wasn’t until 1854 when London physician John Snow first made a connection between polluted water and disease.

He used medical records, a map and surveys to determine that the cholera outbreak in London originated from the Broad Street pump.

As for proof that dirty water caused sickness, he discovered what appeared to be an old diaper near the source of contamination – and this served as tangible evidence that intoxicated drinking water actually causes diseases!

Thus it took almost a full century after dirty urban environments appeared before human societies reached an understanding about disease transmission through contaminated drinkingwater sources.

Once this link between hazardous H₂O and serious illness became clear, cities across Europe rushed to improve their sewer systems and increase their access to clean safe-to-drink supplies.

And now — thankfully — we know better than ever how vital sanitation is for our health.

How Clean Water Saved London And New York From ‘The Great Stink’

It’s not always easy to find a sufficient water source, and it wasn’t easy for two of the world’s biggest cities.

New York City had to resort to the Kalch-Hook, a seven-acre pond described as containing “abominable fluid” that was far from ideal as a drinking source.

So, The Manhattan Company created an infrastructure for clean water with 45 miles of pipe reaching upstream waters in Croton, yet this ended up being insufficient for NYC and more sources had to be found from 125 miles away in the Catskills.

London went through its own struggles with the Thames being so polluted by industrial waste that the Great Stink created a highly unpleasant odor that could even be felt in Parliament!

It took John Snow and Edwin Chadwick’s work for government bodies to understand they needed to stop sewage dumping into the river before London ever smelled that bad again.

Finding a sufficient water source is certainly no small feat, yet both cities overcame their difficulties when dedicated people stepped up and made it possible.

Are Treatment Systems For Drinking Water Enough To Combat Contamination?

Treating unsafe water is still a challenge, even with the advancements in water-treatment systems.

For example, historically drinking water sourced from lakes and rivers was often contaminated by wildlife excrement or bacteria.

Today, however, we have even more concerning pollutants to watch out for – such as endocrine disruptors found in wildlife living nearwater sources all over the world that have been known to show dangerous levels.

These endocrine disruptors can be caused by organic chemicals that interact with hormones which leads to overtime abnormalities of our immune and reproductive systems.

In some cases, the levels of these toxins have been found to be ten times higher than the minimum amount that qualify as toxic waste.

And even if we refrain from throwing our drugs down the drain, some of us may still ingest pharmaceuticals or other chemicals from personal care products which may not get fully absorbed into our bodies and end up being dispersed into our waterways.

What’s more; even with today’s advanced water-treatment solutions such as chlorine and ultraviolet exposure, recent studies suggest that there still might not be enough filtering of certain unwanted contaminants to make many US city drinking waters safe for consumption.

Overall its fair to say that no matter how advanced methods in treating unsafe water are becoming; its still a challenge for us humans to keep the most vital liquid on Earth pure and safe for consumption.

The Real-Life Fear Of Water Contamination: How Safe Are Our Resources?

Water Contamination

Distribution is probably the most vulnerable stage in our water system, and it might come as a surprise to many that something as simple as bird droppings or pee of teens can cause contamination.

In 2006, teens broke into a water tower in Blackstone, MA and caused $40,000 in damage due to their mischief.

In 1993, seven people died due to salmonella poisoning because of bird droppings being introduced into the same type of distribution systems.

The United States has tens of thousands of facilities connected by millions of miles of pipes from over 75,000 sources responsible for distributing the water we use.

Fortunately, these facilities are monitored and testing is conducted regularly by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which enforces regulations around legally considered contaminants.

Yet ultimately the effectiveness of this protection is only as strong as our current leadership allows it to be; during the Bush administration there was widespread neglect in protecting our drinking water practices while industries were on the rise.

This demonstrates just how fragile our water system security truly is and why near constant vigilance is needed.

How Bottled Water Became The Hottest Beverage Of The 21St Century

The late twentieth century saw bottled water become widely popular for many reasons.

Fitness trends, convenience and profitability all played a part in its rise.

The big fitness boom of the 1970s was likely one of the first contributing factors, with Perrier being one of the earliest brands to be seen as a healthier alternative to soda.

In addition, Perrier also had an effective marketing budget which was put to good use when they sponsored the 1979 New York City marathon with 6,000 participants wearing their logo.

Water sommeliers even cropped up in high-end restaurants to recommend the perfect water to accompany your meal – something that may sound outlandish to Americans but is commonplace in Europe due to their recognition that spring waters can contain higher levels of certain minerals like magnesium and calcium as they interact with limestone on their journey up from underground sources.

Furthermore, it also became more convenient and therefore appealing with small plastic bottles conveniently replacing large bulky ones.

Lastly but not least, companies such as Pepsi and Coke reaped massive profits by bottling municipal water for resale – spending about $1.50 for a bottle made up for 1000 gallons of obtained water which contributes to its huge profit margin.

All in all, these various features of bottled waters have coalesced over time into what has become a deeply rooted drinking culture today.

The Impact Of Bottled Water On Health And The Environment – A Cause For Concern

There are serious environmental and health concerns related to our current water consumption habits, particularly with regards to bottled water.

Studies have found that several brands of bottled water contain traces of arsenic and lead, which can be harmful if consumed in large quantities.

Additionally, the amount of plastic used to bottle this water is creating an alarming pattern of waste – it only takes three to four liters of water to create each one-liter plastic bottle, but 30 million bottles are thrown away every day.

Furthermore, while regular tap water is tested a staggering 330,000 times per year by the Environmental Protection Agency, there’s no such regulation when it comes to bottled water.

This means we don’t know what kind or how many tests are given.

While some studies find it may be cleaner than tap water on occasion, Cleveland compared 57 different bottles and 15 had a higher level of bacteria than tap water itself.

Ultimately, these facts suggest that consuming bottled water should not be viewed as healthier than what comes from our taps – especially when considering the impact it has on our planet.

The High Cost Of Improving Access To Clean Water: Who Lays The Pipes?

Clean Water

The human right to access water is still hotly debated today, as evidenced by the abstentions at the United Nations’ Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights when they declared access to water a basic human right in 2002.

In contrast, 15 other nations have recognized similar basic rights in their own legal systems.

This debate has resulted in a variety of approaches around the world.

For example, South Africa amended its constitution after Apartheid fell, making it the responsibility of the government to provide citizens with 6.6 gallons of free water per day.

Meanwhile, Argentina stakeholders suggested privatizing their water system – an approach that was met with strong opposition from some members of the community who claimed that God provides water as a gift, not through man-made pipes.

Water scarcity isn’t restricted to developing countries though; here in the United States old and failing water infrastructure results in 6 billion gallons worth of lost water every single day.

The cost for fixing this problem? A whopping $335 billion – underscoring why access to clean drinking water is still a contested issue today.

Protecting Precious Sources Of Water And Exploring New Ones Are Vital For The Survival Of The Planet

With the realization that our planet does not generate any new water, a lot of effort is being made today to secure drinking water for tomorrow.

This includes initiatives such as transporting water from the Great Lakes between Canada and the United States to areas in need, an attempt that was sadly politicized and regulated.

At the same time, others are looking further abroad, exploring sources of freshwater and potential ways to transport them to those in need.

One example is icebergs in the North Pole which contain some of the cleanest water in the world.

Researchers have even put forward plans to tow seven-million-ton icebergs from Greenland to the Canary Islands!

Apart from sourcing and shipping solutions, other efforts are being put into place for obtaining fresh drinking water such as desalination (where saltwater is turned into freshwater), improved treatment centers which can safely recycle sewage water, or dual-water systems where one tap is for drinking/ cooking and another for activities like washing cars.

All these measures demonstrate that people globally care about preserving what we have now so future generations will have access to safe drinking water.

Wrap Up

The final takeaway from this book is that water is essential for our survival, but our relationship with it isn’t so straightforward.

Throughout history, contaminated water has caused numerous diseases and epidemics, which have had a tremendous cost in terms of human health and wellbeing.

Now, we have to ensure that all parts of the world have access to clean, safe water free from contaminants.

We need to protect our existing supply systems and be responsible stewards of this precious resource.

Ultimately, taking care of our water is necessary for sustaining life as we know it.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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