Water Planet: The Culture, Politics, Economics, and Sustainability of Water on Earth. Edited by Camille Gaskin-Reyes. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2016. 469 pages. Acid-free $89 (ISBN 978-1-4408-3816-3). E-book available (978-1-4408-3817-0), call for pricing.

Water Planet seeks to present “an integrated picture of the role of water in everyday existence” (xi) and extends to environmental issues, the interplay between culture and water, governance, water supply, economics, power generation, equity in access, and more. Each chapter includes an overview, case studies, an annotated document, and “perspectives” that are the promised opposing viewpoints.

The “primary documents” may be a concern because they are annotated excerpts. As in the case of secondary citation, it is easy to shade or alter meaning through editing or excerpting, or to simply lose context and meaning. This is valuable content but perhaps not purely primary. Annotation, likewise, is a double-edged sword, since it can enhance understanding but may also limit the reader’s own thoughts and interpretations. The “perspectives” do not reflect the extremes that are in circulation; however, there is a lot to be said in favor of this approach. Some topics discussed aren’t included in the super-heated public discourse, such as the relative effectiveness of programs to address water-related gender inequities (332–91). Further, it makes no more sense to include climate change denial as a science-based stance than it does to do the same for claims of a flat earth. Beyond that, in modeling discourse, it demonstrates difference without polarization.

Because of the scope of the book and its modest size, depth and completeness are limited. This may help prevent intimidation or boredom among more introductory-level researchers, but it limits usefulness for more in-depth work. Many of the segments of Water Planet rely heavily on references that are popular publications, secondary, or both. This opens up the potential for misinterpretation, may compound simplification and reduction, and the model it presents for undergraduates or high school students regarding what is appropriate to cite in scholarly work is questionable. The work is well-indexed, but the lack of a glossary and a guide to acronyms is regrettable.

Water Resources Allocation: Sharing Risks and Opportunities would supplement Water Planet and can be read free online at https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/environment/water-resources-allocation_9789264229631-en. This work stresses policy, governance, and economics, but ecological, historical, and sociocultural elements are inextricably embedded. The World Bank offers a current, open-access working paper titled “The Rising Tide: A New Look at Water and Gender” (2017, http://hdl.handle.net/10986/27949), which is more limited in scope than Water Planet but addresses many of the same issues through the lens of gender.

Earthscan Studies in Water Resource Management offers a multivolume alternative, allowing for multiple simultaneous users and greater focus within each volume. These are comparably current to Water Planet, but at $40 to $120 per volume, it could easily become more costly. The Politics of Fresh Water: Access, Conflict and Identity (Ashcraft and Mayer, 2017), as an example of the series, uses recent cases for impact and is supported with solid literature, but it does not include a correlate to the “perspectives.” Springer’s Water Security in a New World is another multivolume option. At more than $100 per volume, it is substantially more expensive. The series is currently just four books, each with a somewhat narrow focus. Consequently, it is not suggested as an alternative. Jeremy Schmidt’s 2017 Water: Abundance, Scarcity, and Security in the Age of Humanity appears more geared to the popular market. Nonetheless, the bibliography is formidable in size and quality, and the book is well indexed. The emphasis is the history and development of a philosophy of water management, primarily in the United States.

Attractive and accessible, Water Planet could be a beneficial resource for lower-level undergraduates or advanced high school students, but it is not unique or essential.—Lisa Euster, Librarian, Washington State Department of Ecology, Lacey, Washington


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