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Constance Elizabeth Hunt, 'Thirsty Planet: strategies for sustainable water management'

Zed Books, 2004; ISBN 1 84277 243 0; £15.95

As the blurb to this sometimes excellent book goes, “by 2025 nearly two billion people will live in regions experiencing absolute water scarcity”.

Water, as some prescient reports from the UN and NGOs are starting to point out, will be the resource over which our future wars will break out. As the key to life, we've seen glimpses of a world in which water is seriously scarce, in African famines and Asian and American dust bowls; if the fight for oil is vicious, what might happen if we're competing for the most fundamental necessity of life?

Constance Hunt's book is an invaluable resource for anyone wanting to have a deeper understanding of the complexity of this issue. It does not deal with what-ifs or utopian ideas of how much easier the whole thing might be if there were fewer humans or we were all wonderfully environmentally aware... Rather, it is a straightforward and dryly down-to-earth look at the facts as they are and feasible ways of protecting global and local ecosystems so that, even if the situation will never be perfect, it does not slide into catastrophe.

As well as the environmental, agricultural and technical aspects of the subject - including the influences of climate change and transport use - Hunt also ventures into the realms of international organisations and agreements, examining the implications of existing treaties and bodies and making suggestions for the future.

Unfortunately there is little recognition of the present political manipulation of water, such as the Israeli theft of Palestinian supplies or Turkish attempts to starve Kurdish rivers. These are dealt with in part elsewhere (see, eg, reports on the Ilisu dam campaign or Julie Trottie's Hydropolitics, published by East Jerusalem's Passia), but some consideration here would have produced a more rounded and comprehensive book.

This is not exactly light reading - much of it is pretty technical - but there is a good glossary (at the beginning, indicating the extent of the need for it!) and it is sliced up into manageable chunks that render it perfectly approachable (with a deep breath) to the informed generalist.

Topics: Global Justice