The Price of Thirst Book Summary - The Price of Thirst Book explained in key points

The Price of Thirst summary

Karen Piper

Global Water Inequality and the Coming Chaos

3.7 (10 ratings)
15 mins

Brief summary

The Price of Thirst by Karen Piper is a nonfiction work focusing on the global water crisis. Piper draws on her experiences in high-risk areas to explore the politics and economics of water access, and looks at our changing view of a resource we once took for granted.

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    The Price of Thirst
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    Urbanization, agriculture and climate change – problems we’ve created – are why we’re running out of water.  

    Some 70 percent of earth’s surface is covered with water. So why has the issue of water scarcity become such a hot topic?

    It’s not that we lack water in general; it’s a lack of drinkable water that has become a global concern.

    Much of the water available for drinking is actually polluted; and waterborne diseases, such as cholera and dysentery, are actually the leading causes of death and sickness around the world. The combination of highly populated cities and poor sanitation has led to a rise in waterborne diseases.

    Another source of drinkable, or potable, water is groundwater found in natural underground reservoirs, or aquifers. Yet when we pump water out of aquifers faster than it can be replenished, these reservoirs collapse, preventing them from absorbing any more water.

    Crucially, when aquifers dry up, the land can actually sink, a process called subsidence. In California’s San Joaquin Valley, the constant extraction of groundwater to irrigate crops is believed to have caused the land to sink some 40 feet over the past 90 years.

    What’s more, aquifers in coastal regions are at risk of taking on seawater when groundwater levels fall too low, turning once potable water into non-potable water.

    Many freshwater rivers are fed by glaciers. Yet because of climate change, these glaciers are melting at ever faster rates. While the flow of freshwater into rivers might increase in the near term, in the long term as the glaciers melt completely and disappear, so too will the rivers.

    The distribution of potable water is also a concern. Importantly, we as a society are distributing water unequally among ourselves.

    Increasing urbanization has put pressure on water systems. As some 55 percent of the world’s population lives in cities, the demand for water in metropolitan areas far exceeds the supply from nearby ground- and surface water sources. Demand thus can only be met through deeper wells or even transporting water from increasingly remote areas.

    Within certain municipalities, water is often unequally allocated by agencies or the government. New Delhi, for example, distributes water to certain regions based on geography. So while some 500 liters per person per day goes to the local army base, some 225 liters goes to official settlement areas. Yet only 50 liters per person per day is delivered to New Delhi’s overpopulated slums.

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    What is The Price of Thirst about?

    In The Price of Thirst (2014), author Karen Piper reveals how private water companies have not only failed to offer universal access to clean water but also contributed to environmental degradation and political conflict amid a quest for profit.

    The Price of Thirst Review

    The Price of Thirst (2014) by Karen Piper explores the global water crisis and its far-reaching consequences. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It sheds light on the urgent and pressing issue of water scarcity, prompting readers to consider the true value of this precious resource.
    • Through thorough research and personal experiences, it paints a compelling picture of the individuals and communities affected by water scarcity, creating a sense of empathy and understanding.
    • With its gritty and honest portrayal of the challenges faced by those in water-stressed regions, the book offers a thought-provoking and eye-opening exploration of a topic we often take for granted.

    Best quote from The Price of Thirst

    Investment companies describe water as the new oil.

    —Karen Piper
    example alt text

    Who should read The Price of Thirst?

    • Environmentalists concerned with global concerns over water
    • Political scientists studying water rights issues
    • Anyone interested in the environment and climate change

    About the Author

    Karen Piper is a professor of literature and environmental studies at the University of Missouri. She is also the author of Cartographic Fictions: Maps, Race and Identity and Left in the Dust: How Race and Politics Created a Human and Environmental Tragedy in L.A.

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    The Price of Thirst FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Price of Thirst?

    The main message of The Price of Thirst is the battle for water and the consequences of privatization.

    How long does it take to read The Price of Thirst?

    The reading time for The Price of Thirst varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Price of Thirst a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Price of Thirst is an eye-opening and thought-provoking book that sheds light on the global water crisis. It is definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of The Price of Thirst?

    The author of The Price of Thirst is Karen Piper.

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