Water, David L. Feldman, Polity $39.95.

Water is required by every living thing, yet a growing number of people face difficulties accessing it. Climate change, urbanization, pollution, energy use, agriculture, population growth, and migration, all contribute to water stress. With uneven distribution and unequal use, water management has become a major 21st century challenge. David Feldman’s book explores many facets of the issue – including distribution, use, climate impact, control and charges – and suggests how threats to freshwater sustainability might be prevented through international cooperation. Freshwater allocation and quality, as well as the extent to which other species’ needs are considered, varies greatly by country. These discrepancies can be explained by the wide-ranging values and moral principles of nations. Indeed, utilitarians tend to promote the general welfare of individuals with little regard for other species and future generations. Progressive conservationists, on the other hand, believe the obligation to care for natural resources is rooted in the intrinsic value of nature as a whole. Whether water is a human need or a human right also remains highly controversial. This can be seen in the contrast between the communitarian notion of rights in many indigenous communities and the property-based concepts of water rights held in more modern societies, as well as the opposed models of public and private water supply. Feldman concludes that while the environmental policies of sovereign states may vary, none can ignore the water needs of plants and animals, or those related to human health.

-A. S.