Dayton Daily News, July 15, 2007

“DAYTON — The Miami Valley is one of the most water-rich regions in the United States, on top of one of the nation's most productive aquifers. And we're just a stone's throw from the Great Lakes.

Cynthia Barnett argues that we'd better think twice if that's the attitude here in the Midwest. Her new book, "Mirage: Florida and the Vanishing Water of the Eastern U.S." (Regional, $24.95), sounds a warning to the complacent residents of water-rich lands that others are coming for our water.

Barnett demonstrates how even the most water-rich state can become parched by building her book around Florida's tragic water mistakes. She uses the state to instruct readers in the basics tenents of environmental protection and why it matters to everyone. Why should Floridians care if Atlanta suburbanites water their lawns? Because in a drought, the rivers that begin in Georgia won't have enough water to feed Florida's bays downstream. And without the perfect freshwater/saltwater balance at the outlet to the Gulf of Mexico, valuable shellfish are completely wiped out. Suddenly, there's an economic problem, too.

The most important lesson of "Mirage" is that water scarcity is a national problem. Barnett shows how population shifts and redistricting have shifted federal political power south and west, where some are plotting to pipe, truck and barge away Great Lakes region freshwater. While it might seem the Great Lakes have plenty of water to share, Florida has proven even the most water-rich region can see its eco-system wrecked once the water starts getting pumped out.

As Barnett shows, Americans can't pretend forever that water is a right and should be nearly free. We have to be taught to conserve.

– Scott Elliott
The Dayton Daily News