Take me to the source

Considering that, this time last year, a litre of petrol cost less than a litre of mineral water in this country, Rupert Wright couldn’t have timed the publication of his thought provoking book better. As we are all forced to adjust our wallets to the heightened values of fossil fuels, are we forgetting to pay due respect to water, perhaps the greatest natural commodity on Earth? Mr Wright’s message is not, as one might expect, a doom-laden sermon on the parched state of the Earth (and a more enjoyable read it is as a result).

It’s a journey that begins when the spring in his Languedoc home mysteriously runs dry, and meanders through the role of water in religion, science, art and politics throughout the ages until it reaches the contradictions of today. How can it be that, in Africa, more people are connected to mobile-phone networks than water as, in the West, we begrudge paying for it unless it comes in a designer bottle?

The tour travels from Washington conferences on water (or ‘death by PowerPoint’) to Botswana, where the currency shares the same word as ‘rain’. On the way, we learn that the biggest terrorist threat to New York has less to do with skyscrapers and much more to do with the precarious state of its two water tunnels if one were to fail, the city would shut down. Some might be disappointed that no solutions are put forward to quench the world’s thirst for water, but, at the very least, one is encouraged to reconsider the value perceived and actual of this precious substance.