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Water Security - Principles, Perspectives and Practices


The title and cover page first invited me to want to read this book. However, I have taken much too long to complete this review, because, even for a water professional of 25 years experience, I found it a little heavy going. It is principally a collation of papers reviewing water security from policy and academic perspectives. It has contributions from many accomplished writers and advisors in the water policy field however, it would have benefited from an Executive Summary of the main issues addressed with some collective conclusions and potential solutions.

The book covers many key subject areas: water-energy nexus, the key role of cities for both demand and drivers of change; the true value of freshwater ecosystems; trans-boundary issues; a good overview of corporate water stewardship, and more. It is also dotted with interesting facts and perspectives: Saudi Arabia produces nearly 50% of the world’s desal water, but at a cost - while users pay around $0.03/m3, the true cost is around $6/m3; low CO2 energy sources provide the dilemma that they tend to use more water and require more land per megawatt than more conventional sources, biofuels being a particular example; between India and Pakistan, common water security interests have been a driver for diplomacy and cooperation rather than war. There is also some important reinforcing of established facts, such as ‘70% of water abstractions are for agriculture’.

For a subject so critical to human and environmental survival, clear communication and comprehension are critical. I feel the book is, however, weak on providing plain language explanation and discussion of the issues, for comprehension by less or non-expert policymakers and practitioners. The inclusion of words such as ‘epistemological’ or ‘hydromentalities’ does not help with clarity.

There are some strong discussions based on solid experience and research, but some which seem more like thinking aloud. Many issues, concerns and trends are highlighted – which is important – but relatively few solutions are offered, leading to a risk of over-pessimism for the reader.

My view is the book will be of limited interest to those looking for plain language guidance and solutions, but as a resource for academics and policy makers to progress the work of developing further thinking on the concepts of water security, the book would be valuable.

Reviewed by Peter Easton

WATER SECURITY - PRINCIPLES, PERSPECTIVES AND PRACTICES, by LANKFORD, B, BAKKER, K, SELTOUN, M AND CONWAY, D (Eds) Published by Earthscan from Routledge, 2013. ISBN 978-0-415-53470-0/2/3, 376 pp. List price £34.99. W: