A monthly book club discussing works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that have the Great Lakes as a setting or as subject matter. This month’s selection is Water Follies: Groundwater Pumping and the Fate of America’s Fresh Water by Dr. Robert Jerome Glennon.
The Santa Cruz River that once flowed through Tucson, Arizona, is today a sad mirage of a river. Except for brief periods following heavy rainfall, it is bone dry. The cottonwood and willow trees that once lined its banks have died, and the profusion of birds and wildlife recorded by early settlers are nowhere to be seen. The river is dead. What happened? Where did the water go?
As Robert Glennon explains in Water Follies, what killed the Santa Cruz River — and could devastate other surface waters across the United States — was groundwater pumping. From 1940 to 2000, the volume of water drawn annually from underground aquifers in Tucson jumped more than six-fold, from 50,000 to 330,000 acre-feet per year. And Tucson is hardly an exception — similar increases in groundwater pumping have occurred across the country and around the world. In a striking collection of stories that bring to life the human and natural consequences of our growing national thirst, Robert Glennon provides an occasionally wry and always fascinating account of groundwater pumping and the environmental problems it causes.