I’m not Oprah, Book Reviews from AWWA’s David LaFrance

The newest edition of Journal AWWA came out at the beginning of the month and with it, many great articles, including the following book recommendations from the American Water Works Association Executive Director David LaFrance. Read what he had to say as he helps narrow down your reading choices in 2013, check out these books (including Water 2012 Book Club selection, a Ditch in Time), and take a look at the Journal AWWA for more great reading. From I’m Not Oprah, Part 2:

In the April 2011 issue of Journal AWWA, I ventured into uncharted territory by offering a list of recommended reading for water professionals. Since then, the importance of understanding how water shapes our lives and the communities we live in continues to provide inspirational fodder for both the water professional turned author and the author turned water professional. In hopes of helping you narrow down your 2013 reading choices, I offer the following recommendations.

First on the list—and don’t let the title deceive you—is The Chlorine Revolution, Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives by Michael J. McGuire (available now in the AWWA store). Trust me, you don’t have to be a water chemist to appreciate this intriguing tale. This true story, which mainly takes place in New Jersey, is full of twists and turns—real life being better than fiction— about how courageous individuals who were willing to risk their professional careers stopped waterborne disease. McGuire focuses on the true previously littleknown hero, a physician named Dr. John Leal, and how he, with the help of now well-known water professionals— particularly George Warren Fuller—revolutionized the use of chlorine to make water “pure and wholesome.” Although today we take the use of chlorine as a water disinfectant for granted, at the time (1906–10) it was quite controversial.

Second, if you have ever scratched your head wondering who all the players are in U.S. water policy and why water policy is the way it is, then you should read A Twenty-First Century U.S. Water Policy by Juliet Christian-Smith, Peter Gleick, and other co-authors and researchers at the Pacific Institute (available now in the AWWA store). These authors explain the development of the existing framework for water management, its various modern-day uses, and related influences and influencers. In each case the authors offer insights and proposals on how to modernize existing policies and the agencies responsible for those policies in order to meet today’s water challenges. And although you may or may not agree with all of their recommendations, you will definitely have a better understanding of how existing water policy came to be, who is responsible for it, and what today’s key issues are.

Next, The Big Thirst by Charles Fishman explores the irony of how vital water is to our daily lives—and yet most of us still take it for granted. Fishman is a journalist by profession, and as such he is able to discuss water without being burdened by technical details or jargon and instead can speak to and about water in a way that captures people’s attention and helps everyone understand and appreciate water’s value. His book explores everything from the refreshing feeling of a shower to the “yuck factor” of recycled water to the importance of water to the people of other countries. In the end, the reader is reminded of (or introduced to) the significance of water to everything in our lives. Leadership of the water industry is also in flux, especially in utilities. To better understand how innovative leaders come to power and why utilities select their leaders, you must read Bureaucratic Ambition by Manuel Teodoro. Teodoro explores what motivates water utility general managers to be innovative and which utility-business environments allow innovation to be successful. His research has far-reaching implications and provides important new insights for job seekers and employers alike.

Last, A Ditch in Time by Patricia Limerick (available now in the AWWA store) is the story of how a water utility—whose first asset was a ditch—can shape the world we live in. This is the tale of how a city grew despite the fact that “nature had misplaced” the water that was needed to make it prosperous. The story tells how city visionaries, fierce competition among several privately owned water companies, complicated legal wrangling, and the public’s overwhelming demand for fire protection and later safe drinking water ultimately resulted in what is known today as Denver Water. This, however, is not solely a “local” story but rather one that is typical for any community where water allowed a community to flourish and where the talent of engineers and the tenacity of businessmen, politicians, and others were needed to fulfill the community’s vision. In reality, this is the story of how water systems allow every city to exist. I hope you will find some time to crack the spine of a few, if not all, of these books. They not only provide enjoyment; they also help provide perspective about the important work that we do. And who knows?

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