09.13.12Alan Harris

The Ripple Effect: To Read or Not to Read

The Ripple EffectA good book on current day water

Back in the late 1990′s I enjoyed playing SimPark on my Windows 95 computer. The premise of the game was to introduce prey and predator into the safari so there was a harmonious balance. It sounds easy, but nature would take its course and the harmony would quickly fall out of balance. Every time you would add one resource there would be a ripple effect over time you had to try and balance.

“The Ripple Effect” explores mankind’s attempt to control water and how every action, like a rock thrown in the pond, has a ripple effect. Here are a few reasons why you should and should not read “The Ripple Effect”.

Reason To Read “The Ripple Effect”:

  1. This water book starts off with a murder mystery so it grabs you in the first paragraph
  2. Covers the environmental sins of industrial and pharma companies over the past 100+ years (“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” ~ George Santayana)
  3. Heralds the success of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the lack of much needed changes in this 40 year old legislation. When the CWA was put into place 85% of the pollution was from obvious specific point sources. 40 years later point source pollution is only 15%, but today 85% of the pollution is non-point solution.
  4. Covers Shower to Flowers (AKA Toilet to Tap or my personal contribution Certified Pre-Owned Water) used for ground replenishment
  5. Ever wonder how NYC gets their water? Prud’homme goes deep (600 feet deep) into Tunnel No. 3, the $6 Billion, 40 year construction project scheduled for completion in 2020.

The only thing worse than not having enough water is having too much of it. Man’s attempts to control water has many ripple effects (see #3 below)

Reason Not To Read “The Ripple Effect”:

  1. Like water moving through a large lake this is a s-l-o-w read of 359 pages.
  2. Depressing – this is not a feel good book, which may not be all that bad
  3. It will make you think twice when visiting many areas of the country which have very old, un-engineered, leaking dikes which only need a mild earthquake to fail and have catastrophic affects
  4. The book may make you hate or at least question the intelligence of cities with 8 million people built where the annual rainfall of 8 inches only support 1 million people. (i.e. Los Angeles)
  5. The author’s bias and politics come across a little too much for my taste. If you believe life should be fair and it is your responsibility to help those less successful (AKA redistribute wealth) you may not even notice; so this may not be a problem for you. (page 210)
  6. The stupidity and contradiction of the laws of man vs. the laws of nature should make you mad.
  7. If you did not know we are in a precarious situation in regards to water then this book may be a disturbing wake up call for you.

Bottom line the book was pretty good. I gained new information and was exposed to a different perspective on topics I was already familiar with. If you are into water I would recommend reading “The Ripple Effect”, but keep in mind my reasons “Not to Read” and don’t get mad when you experience one or several of these 7 disclaimers.

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Alan Harris

Alan Harris is a water management pioneer. With roots in landscape architecture, Alan has worked with irrigation throughout his career experimenting with hydrozones and a variety of high efficiency irrigation systems. Now, over thirty years in the landscape industry, Alan continues to stay apprised of the latest technology even in a sales leadership capacity as our Director of Sales Operations and Regional Sales Leader for our landscape maintenance division. In addition to his contributions to this blog, Alan keeps his hand in water management as a regular contributor to Lawn & Landscape Magazine.


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  1. Thursday, 11:44 Martha Golea

    I read the murder mystery part at the link you included and WHOA, any book that starts out like that must be worth reading. I’m definitely intrigued. I am a little worried about how it will make me think about Phoenix, though. I’m not ready to move…

  2. Tuesday, 12:10 MomH2O

    I’m so glad that you visionary guardians of our water resources are devoting your time and talent to protecting our future. I really do feel cared for when I think about your zeal in the world of water management. If your passion was about preserving Pepsi (etc.) I wouldn’t feel as pampered b/c WATER – good plain old water – is my drink of choice. I also prize time spent in, on, or under the water!!

  3. Friday, 12:38 Alan Harris

    Martha: Phoenix is mentioned 28 times in the book. Here are 2 of my favorites: “Colorado River is used both for drinking water and to flush away treated sewage by more than two hundred communities, including Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Los Angeles.” and “Life in Phoenix can be viewed as a kind of experiment in extreme living, like a dress rehearsal for life on Mars, or perhaps for a future America beset by regions of extreme heat and dryness.”
    Prud’homme, Alex (2011-06-07). The Ripple Effect (pp. 108 and 133). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
    MomH2O: Kind words like yours make the nights and weekends spent writing a little easier to do.

  4. Friday, 12:41 Martha Golea

    Awesome! I’ve often thought that living in Phoenix must be a lot like living on Mars. But I read a lot of science fiction books and I think Mars colonists typically do a better job of adapting themselves to the native environment, rather than forcing the environment to resemble what they’re accustomed to.

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