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Water in Plain Sight

Hope for a Thirsty World

By Judith D. Schwartz


Water scarcity is on everyone’s mind. Long taken for granted, water availability has become dependent on economics, politics, and people’s food and lifestyle choices. But as anxiety mounts—and even as a swath of California farmland has been left fallow, and extremist groups worldwide exploit the desperation of people losing livelihoods to desertification—many are finding new routes to water security with key implications for food access, economic resilience, and climate change.

Water does not perish, nor does it require millions of years to form as do fossil fuels. However water is always on the move and we must learn to work with its natural movement. In this timely, important book, Judith D. Schwartz presents a refreshing perspective on water that transcends zero-sum thinking. By allying with the water cycle, we can revive lush, productive landscapes, like the river in rural Zimbabwe that now flows miles further than it has in living memory thanks to restorative grazing; the fruit-filled food forest in Tucson, Arizona, grown by harvesting urban wastewater; or the mini-oasis in West Texas nourished by dew.

Animated by stories from around the globe, Water In Plain Sight is an inspiring reminder that fixing the future of our drying planet involves understanding what makes natural systems thrive.

Reviews and Praise

“Judith Schwartz’s work gives us not just hope but also a sense that we humans—serial destroyers that we are—can actually turn the climate crisis around.”—Gretel Ehrlich, author of Facing the Wave

“This book is part of a necessary movement to restore water to a central place in the climate and ecological conversation. Judith Schwartz paints a vivid picture of the miracles of land healing that are possible through the right relationship to soil and water. This book should be high on the reading list of every environmental activist.”Charles Eisenstein, author of Climate—A New Story

“People all over the world agonize about water―too much or not enough―and are directed to expensive, high-tech solutions. But in this important and exhilarating book, Judith Schwartz argues that the solutions lie in understanding and working with nature. Herein lies abundance and hope.”—Kristin Ohlson, author of The Soil Will Save Us

“Our freshwater crisis isn’t just caused by drought and overconsumption—it’s also the product of deforestation, unmanaged grazing, the destruction of wildlife, and other benighted land management practices. Fortunately, there are solutions. Water in Plain Sight reveals that restoring our planet’s ecosystems can help replenish our most precious resource. In her inspiring, erudite book, Judith Schwartz introduces readers to the Amish farming consultants, Texas dew harvesters, and Zimbabwean graziers who are developing world-changing approaches to ecological restoration and water stewardship. Water in Plain Sight proves that our water woes aren’t inevitable, and that the most sustainable path forward lies in partnering with nature rather than attempting to wrestle it into submission.”—Ben Goldfarb, author of Eager

“In this beautifully written book about water, Judith Schwartz reveals that water is far more than the elixir of life. For the non-specialist but informed reader, Schwartz imaginatively unpacks the vital role that water plays in not just our natural and farming landscape functions, but also in our planet’s self-organizing and sustaining systems.

Richly researched and written in a deceptively easy and personal style, Water in Plain Sight renders the complex comprehensible, enjoyable, and thus accessible. As a consequence, in the midst of humanity’s obtuse behaviour in destabilizing our Earth and landscape systems, Schwartz—through her thematic focus on water—delightfully explains the key principles that can enable us to begin addressing our Anthropocene challenge while offering hope for regeneration of both planetary and human health.”—Charles Massy, author of Call of the Reed Warbler

“The water cycle is Earth’s greatest gift to life, yet it is now badly broken. Through fascinating stories, Judith Schwartz reveals how we can work with nature to make the cycle function again—and in doing so lessen climate change, build healthier landscapes, and boost our odds for sustained prosperity. There is no message more important today, and it is time to act on it.”—Sandra Postel, author of Replenish

“Imagine having a wise and well-traveled friend eager to take you on a global tour of water triumphs and failures. Minus the airfare and jet lag, that is what Judith Schwartz has brought us with Water in Plain Sight.—Seth M. Siegel, author of Let There Be Water

“Hope, like water, often lies hidden just out of sight. Water in Plain Sight helps us find both.”—Jim Robbins, author of The Man Who Planted Trees

“What a great book! Judith Schwartz shows how better management of our land and water could change the climate.”—Alice Outwater, author of Water: A Natural History

“Insightful, informative, and inspirational—Schwartz connects the dots between soil, climate, and water, bringing solutions to light.”—David R. Montgomery, author of Growing a Revolution

“Happily, this book maps out, in very entertaining fashion, compelling strategies for fixing our broken relationship with water and offers hope that we can find ‘new routes to water security.’”—Tom Newmark, chairman, Greenpeace Fund USA; cofounder and chairman, The Carbon Underground

“Water makes up much of our planet and our bodies and yet what keeps it available and safe is a mystery to most of us. This fascinating and readable book is a primer for how to save our health as we save our ecosystems.”—Daphne Miller MD, author of Farmacology and The Jungle Effect

Water in Plain Sight is one of the most important books ever written on water. While conventional wisdom holds that greenhouse gas–fuelled climate change causes floods and drought, Judith explains that our collective abuse of soil and local watersheds is a major cause of climate chaos, and shows how retaining water in soil and forests as well as restoring local water cycles will help heal our threatened planet.”—Maude Barlow, water justice activist; author of Blue Future

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