A lesson in Florida’s fresh water crisis worth reading and understanding

“Drying Up: The Fresh Water Crisis in Florida,” by John M. Dunn. University Press of Florida. 272 pages. Hardcover $24.95.

Mr. Dunn, an experienced journalist, educator, and water advocate, puts the Florida particulars of the world-wide fresh water crisis before readers in an accessible, well-researched, and well-balanced study. The information is, in fact, horrifying. The warnings have been around for so long, people of good will have worked so diligently, and yet for a host of reasons the steps taken have often been misguided or insufficient. 

There is a war going on between those who use and abuse fresh water selfishly and those who truly recognize that the clock is ticking. While local jurisdictions issue building permits nonstop and new communities spring up overnight fed by new roads and hooked to the water infrastructure, their inevitable paved over appeal threatens the water supply by blocking drainage into the soil, while the sheer number of new users threatens it even further.

This battle rages almost everywhere. In Florida, the issues are complicated by the invasions of stupidity and greed that have crippled irreplaceable ecological wonders, most notably the Everglades. “Big Sugar,” dependent on the astronomical use of fertilizers that pollute the waters and overcharge plant growth while harming wildlife, threatens whatever is in its way. Lawyers and lobbyists prevail.

John Dunn – Credit SusanDunn

Reading through this book is a pleasure because of its carefully structured chapters and subchapters. Though the material is abundant and often complex, the packaging is extremely reader-friendly. Readers can set their own pace, and there is just enough repetition of key concepts and issues to create emphasis with the downside of tedium.

Here’s an example of concept clarification:

When one washes a car, most of the water eventually rejoins the aquifer. So that water is used, but not consumed. Some of the water evaporates, and some is relocated through the stormwater system. That water is used and consumed. Such distinctions run through the book, building a lexicon of critical terminology.

Running through the many chapters, more prominent in some than in others, is a well-turned geological history of Florida. This history, voiced eloquently and vividly by Mr. Dunn, is essential background for his detailed treatment of our recent centuries: Florida from the Industrial Revolution to the present time. Many of the most consequential chapters involve attempts to re-engineer the flow of water through the state, from Lake Okeechobee downward: attempts that have had questionable intended consequences and dangerous – indeed calamitous – unintended consequences. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in May 8, 2019 Fort Myers Florida Weekly, the May 9 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Palm Beach editions, and the May 16 Venice edition, click here:  Florida Weekly – Drying Up

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