Water: A Natural History

Water: A Natural History

Water: A Natural History

Water: A Natural History

Synopsis

An environmental engineer turned ecology writer relates the history of our waterways and her own growing understanding of why our waterways continue to be polluted- and what needs to be done to save this essential natural resourse. Water: A Natural History takes us back to the diaries of the first Western explorers; it moves from the reservoir to the modern toliet, from the grasslands of the Midwest to the Everglades of Florida, throught the guts of a wastewater treatment plant and out to the waterways again. It shows how human-engineered dams, canals and farms replaces nature's beaver dams, prairie dog tunnels, and buffalo wallows. Step by step, Outwater makes clear what should have always been obvious: while engineering can depollute water, only ecologically interacting systems can create healthy waterways. Important reading for students of environmental studies, the heart of this history is a vision of our land and waterways as they once were, and a plan that can restore them to their former glory: a land of living streams, public lands with hundreds of millions of beaver-built wetlands, prairie dog towns that increase the amount of rainfall that percolates to the groundwater, and forests that feed their fallen trees to the sea.

Excerpt

In 1972, the United States passed the Clean Water Act in response to a crisis in national water quality. Its purpose was to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the waterways: by 1985, the discharge of pollutants into the waterways was to cease, and all of the nation's streams, rivers, and lakes were to be fishable and swimmable. Every city was required to build a secondary wastewater treatment plant, and every industry had to install the best available technology to reduce the discharge of pollutants into the waterways. In the years that followed, the stranglehold that wastes had on the nation's streams, rivers, and lakes was eased.

However, stringent discharge controls have not been enough to restore the nation's waterways: a generation after the Clean Water Act was passed, about a third of the stream miles and lake acres in the United States are still polluted. Obviously, there is a great deal more that we need to do.

This book was born in the bowels of a Boston wastewater treatment plant. I have a bachelor of science degree in mechan-

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