"The Big Thirst" by Charles Fishman (2011)
"But the smell and the color of this tributary are astonishing, arresting. The water is India-ink black. The smell is barnyard-organic fermented with chemical-plant acrid - manure and methane. At the point where the black tributary joins the Yamuna's riverbed, the smell is almost too strong to bear.
"This is one of the 'drains' that collect the wastewater from Delhi's residents, its hospitals, factories, and businesses, and pour it back into the Yamuna, almost a billion gallons a day. It is, in fact, a black river of raw urban sewage - this one drain puts out 1 million gallons of wastewater every four minutes. Out in the middle of the restored flow floats the carcass of a dead water buffalo; along the banks you can easily spot every sort of debris - flowers, clothing, take-out containers, a Bacardi rum bottle, a hypodermic needle."
Thus intones the chapter on India's water supply - certainly the most depressing part of this book. Other chapters explore water shortages in both Las Vegas and Atlanta, Australia's chronic struggles with drought, and frequent side trips into the economics of water. In the author's capable hands the subject of water scarcity never grows dull, and the book is well-written from start to finish. In fact, I can't think of a single bad thing to say about this book. I found it to be a gripping read, and it is one of the most interesting non-fiction books I've read in quite a while.
This is Charles Fishman's second book. His first book, "The Wal-Mart Effect," is much better known. I plan on picking it up the next time I visit a bookstore.