Fresh Water

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9780226668161: Fresh Water

With the eye of a professional scientist and the passion of a dedicated amateur, E. C. Pielou conducts a guided tour of fresh water on its course through the natural world. As the world's supply of clean, fresh water continues to dwindle, it becomes increasingly important to understand the close connection between water and all forms of life. Pielou's fascination with fresh water gives us a "natural history" that is remarkable and surprising.

"[A] keen and detailed look at the life and history of fresh water. . . . Dip into Fresh Water. It will both stimulate and satisfy as only good natural history can."—Toronto Globe and Mail

"Pielou's ease with her subject and her no-nonsense style of writing will satisfy and inspire the poet as well as the naturalist."—Denize Springer, Express Books

"[Pielou's] writing is didactic and definitive, in places even charming, and is buttressed by clear illustrations. . . . A welcome addition to the genre of literature designed to bridge the gap between scientists . . . and the intelligent and concerned lay public."—Daniel Hillel, Nature

"A wonderful natural history of one of life's necessities, a refreshing break from the grand theory and special pleading of many a science book. . . . Read it."—Fred Pearce, New Scientist

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Review:

It's a strange paradox: the earth's water supply is constantly growing, yet humankind--or so scientists now warn us--is facing a potentially catastrophic shortage of potable water in the next century. "Fresh water," writes Canadian scientist Pielou, "will turn out to be the factor that limits population growth," largely because so much of that growing supply is locked up in arctic ice or lies deep beneath the surface of the earth. In her thoughtful survey of the physics and chemistry of water, Pielou introduces readers to such concepts as the water cycle, in which rainwater becomes groundwater and eventually returns to the sky from whence it came; examines the economics of water surpluses and deficits in the natural world; and studies the formation and behavior of rivers and lakes, among many other topics. Building more dams, she warns, is no solution to the impending water crisis: "Channelization and diversion both have the effect of increasing a river's rate of discharge (equivalently, speeding its flow), which may be as undesirable as decreasing the discharge (slowing the flow)." Her thoroughly interesting natural history of fresh water in all its forms makes for a fine introduction to hydrology and for a solid contribution to environmental literacy. --Gregory McNamee

From Kirkus Reviews:

A crystal-clear introduction to the physics, character, and exquisite grace of fresh water, from naturalist Pielou (After the Ice Age, not reviewed). Fresh waterwithout which there would be no human lifeis a paltry 2.6 percent of Earth's total water, and then only 30 percent of that is in cycle, shapeshifting through rain and snow to stream and aquifer, evaporating, falling, flowing. Pielou endeavors to bring the natural history of fresh water to life, and she does so admirably. Her book takes its broad circularity from the water cycle, starting with how groundwater gets underground, what it is doing down there, how it surfaces (including her nifty conceit that we are all walking on water). She moves on to stream morphology and how rivers shape the land and why they course rather than sink; the where and why of lakes and their watery architecture; and the hydrological, ecological, and biological wonder worlds of wetlandsstring bogs, ribbed fens, wet meadows, prairie sloughs (``as always with wetlands, there's no shortage of names''). She explores the mechanics of ice and the dynamics of autumn freeze and spring breakup; the circumstantial advantagesand disadvantagesof reservoirs, dams, and diversion projects. Thence she returns to the atmospherevapor, clouds, fogboth closing and restarting the cycle. There is a satisfyingly vast amount of detail in these pages, and Pielou never shies from scientific and technical explanations, but she knows how to coax the art out of potential evapotranspiration = precipitation + withdrawal + deficit with a poet's economy of means, carefully sprinkling hydrology's word-songs for effect. There is also much here for gardeners, who will appreciate an understanding of wilting points and moisture budgets. Pielou writes with clarity and a feel for words, and her affection for the subject at hand is immediately and infectiously communicated to readers. (81 b&w illustrations) -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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