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Dry Spring: The Coming Water Crisis of North America

by Chris Wood

Growing out of an award-winning piece that veteran journalist Chris Wood wrote for The Walrus, Dry Spring exhaustively reports from dozens of sites in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico that have experienced firsthand the effects of climate change and the water-related havoc it wreaks on human societies large and small. What becomes clear is that, as far as weather patterns are concerned, “freak” storms and “anomalies” are fast becoming the norm. Seasons are increasingly unpredictable. Dry places are becoming dryer, wet places wetter. The crisis, for all intents and purposes, has arrived.

It is not just change, argues Wood, but the pace and scale of change that are “unlike anything nature has experienced in the last 100 million years.” From India to New Orleans and just about everywhere in between, water is coming in different forms at different times. There may not be any change, for example, in overall rainfall, but there may be more hot, dry days, and a few days on which cities and crops are deluged.

Wood sees the next 25 years as a time when profound changes – most of them bad – will occur, but also as a time for humans to take stock and make clear-eyed decisions about how to make water work harder for us, while working in harmony with nature’s own internal systems.

Wood is neither tree-hugging ideologue nor free-market evangelist, and his reportage is voluminous and plainspoken – by his own admission, he’s a reporter first and writer second – focusing on the individuals and places affected, but also on the science. Despite its alarmist title, Dry Spring also takes the stuffing out of wild-eyed Canadian “aqua-nationalists,” who reflexively scream that the sky is falling at the mere mention of selling some of our vast stores of fresh water to the U.S.

What Wood does well is connect some of the scientific and environmental dots that we may otherwise see as isolated news stories about floods or storms or droughts or crop failures or forest fires. They may seem like random events now, but they won’t after you’ve read this book.