It’s not news to residents of Southern California that the management of water resources has far-reaching economic and political ramifications, but even they may be surprised by the pivotal role journalist Steven Solomon assigns to water throughout human history. It is “Earth’s most potent agent of change,” Solomon asserts in his sweeping book, which begins with the birth of civilization, is midwifed by large-scale, irrigated agriculture, and closes in our current “age of water scarcity, [when] water’s always paramount, but usually discreet role in world history is visibly taking its place at center stage.” Solomon’s intelligent, well-informed assessment of the challenges we face today grows naturally from the comprehensive analysis that precedes it in the first three sections: “Water in Ancient History,” “Water and the Ascendancy of the West,” “Water and the Making of the Modern Industrial Society.” The author astutely synthesizes a vast amount of scholarship to spotlight recurring patterns.

more from Steven Solomon at the LAT here.