Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2000


Published in Great Plains Research 10 (Fall 2000). Copyright © 2000 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


Rarely is a book on water both technical and lucid. E. C. Pielou has the scientist's determination to get the lingo right and the writer's determination to bring coherence to complexity. This is a contemporary natural history of fresh water, as the author makes clear on the opening page: "The most noteworthy characteristic of any small body of fresh water-be it a pond, a stream, an icicle, or a rain cloud-is its impermanence"

There is also an urgency to the book. Since fresh water is only about 3 percent of the world's entire water supply, the author notes that "a shortage of clean fresh water could well be the ultimate limiting factor to human population growth" (ix). Conflict over fresh water has already shaped relations between the United States and Canada and Mexico. Pundits predict future wars over water in the Middle East.