Blue Revolution: Unmaking America's Water Crisis

Cynthia Barnett

Beacon Press, 2011

Agent: Elise Capron

Americans see water as abundant and cheap: we turn on the faucet and out it gushes, for less than a penny a gallon. We use more water than any other culture in the world, much to quench what's now our largest crop--the lawn. Yet most Americans cannot name the river or aquifer that flows to our taps, irrigates our food, and produces our electricity. And most don't realize these freshwater sources are in deep trouble.

Blue Revolution exposes the truth about the water crisis--driven not as much by lawn sprinklers as by a tradition that has encouraged everyone, from homeowners to farmers to utilities, to tap more and more. But the book also offers much reason for hope. Award-winning journalist Cynthia Barnett argues that the best solution is also the simplest and least expensive: a water ethic for America. Just as the green movement helped build awareness about energy and sustainability, so a blue movement will reconnect Americans to their water, helping us value and conserve our most life-giving resource. Avoiding past mistakes, living within our water means, and turning to "local water" as we do local foods are all part of this new, blue revolution.

Reporting from across the country and around the globe, Barnett shows how people, businesses, and governments have come together to dramatically reduce water use and reverse the water crisis. Entire metro areas, such as San Antonio, Texas, have halved per capita water use. Singapore's "closed water loop" recycles every drop. New technologies can slash agricultural irrigation in half: businesses can save a lot of water--and a lot of money--with designs as simple as recycling air-conditioning condensate. 

The first book to call for a national water ethic, Blue Revolution is also a powerful meditation on water and community in America.

“Barnett takes us back to the origins of our water in vividness and compassion as Michael Pollan led us from our kitchens to potato fields and feed lots of modern home gardener, emerges scared but wiser.”
Los Angeles Times

“Barnett examines issues in every region of every country. If books were people, Barnett’s Blue Revolution would be the trim, reasonable speaker at the podium, arguing persuasively for a new water ethic.”
The Boston Globe

“Barnett’s clarion call to her fellow citizens imagines an America where it’s ethically wrong to waste water. Using compelling stories from around the globe, she shows that America’s future depends upon our coming to value water -- not only in the price we pay, but with profound appreciation for each drop.”
Robert Glennon, professor of law at the University of Arizona and author of Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What to Do About It

Blue Revolution by Cynthia Barnett is an urgent yet ultimately encouraging survey of the water crisis. It is urgent because freshwater is an endangered resource that limits human development as well as the benefits that nature provides to people. It is encouraging that the roots of a new water ethic are found in the practices of millions of individuals, businesses and other organizations around the world. Barnett shows how good water use practices can go viral, with massive benefits for society and nature. Blue Revolution offers affordable, practical, down-to-earth solutions for America’s water crisis.”
Stephen R. Carpenter, Director of the Center for Limnology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the 2011 Laureate of the Stockholm Water Prize

“As Aldo Leopold is to the land ethic, Cynthia Barnett is to the water ethic. Her important and hopeful new book is rich with stories about innovative water projects around the world, demonstrating that we can choose thrift over waste, water gardens over cement ditches, local projects over mega-industries, smart over incredibly, stubbornly, self-destructively stupid. She calls us to a respectful water use that restores our spirits, even as it creates thriving bio-cultural communities.  If you use water, you should read Blue Revolution.”
Kathleen Dean Moore, author of Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature


“Aldo Leopold helped found 20th century American environmental thinking with his call for a land ethic.  Barnett has done a great service by calling for a 21st century water ethic.  She tackles America's illusion of water abundance in the way past thinkers attacked our old ideas about an endless western frontier.  Of the new crop of books on water, this one may be the most important.”
Fred Pearce, author of When the Rivers Run Dry