Friday, January 21, 2022

Good to the Last Drop

When the World Runs Dry: Earth's Water in Crisis 
by Nancy F. Castaldo 
208 pages; ages 10 & up
Algonquin Young Readers, 2022   

“When you get up in the morning and turn on the faucet of your bathroom sink, you can probably trust that water is going to flow out through the tap.” But what if it doesn’t, asks Nancy Castaldo? Or what if the water that does come out is toxic? 

You might be able to go a week or so without food… but water is essential to our life. In this book, Nancy examines our relationship to water and highlights specific issues contributing to a global water crisis. Each chapter presents case studies of ongoing problems in the US and beyond.

In one chapter, Nancy looks at infrastructure: the plumbing and pipes that transport drinking water into our homes. She revisits the Safe Drinking Water Act and shows how polluted drinking water is often and environmental justice issue. She dives into the problems facing residents in Flint, Michigan and Newark, NJ and gives some tips on what to do if lead is found in your school drinking water. 

A number of chapters focus on sources of water pollution, from industrial to agricultural. One community facing groundwater pollution is a short couple-hour drive from my home. Residents in Hoosick Falls, NY are dealing with industrial chemicals that have percolated through the soil and into the aquifer they depend on for their water supply. Other communities, such as our neighbors in Bradford County, PA have lost their water due to pollution from fracking. Sure, you can get water delivered to your home and fill up large 250-gallon “buffaloes” – but the average person in our country uses 60-80 gallons of water per day. How long would that water last for your family? Not to mention problems of keeping water flowing on frigid winter days.

fracking in Bradford County, PA
Algae blooms and red tides contaminate water supplies. Accidental pollution happens when people flush medications down the toilet, and when chemicals from soaps and detergents reach rivers and streams. 

There are problems with too little water: lack of rainfall and snowfall resulting in lowering water levels in lakes and reservoirs. Maybe people can conserve by not watering their lawns, but how can farmers keep crops growing and livestock healthy when the pump runs dry? Likewise, problems arise when there is too much water. Flooding and rising seas pollute drinking water and destroy farmland.

Declining water resources drives conflict and migration. What happens when a corporation, partisan group, or local gangs take control of diminishing water supplies? Fortunately, Nancy ends with a couple chapters that look at potential solutions from recharging aquifers to desalinization, suggestions for action, and resources for folks who want to know more.

Nancy was kind enough to answer One Question:

me: What was the thing that made you know you had to write this book?

Nancy: This was a tough book to write, but so worth it. It enabled me to see people impacted by very difficult challenges rise to the occasion to help others. Every voice matters, from the Standing Rock teens who ran across the country to raise theirs to the Flint moms who supported the Hoosick moms miles away. In the end, I watched so many people show up to make a difference. That’s what it is all about – just showing up for our families, our communities, each other, whether in a classroom or a ballot box. The water crisis impacts everyone. 

My inspiration began in childhood when my mom became a water activist. I even wrote about clean water issues for my middle school newspaper. But the topic rose up again more recently when I was working on The Story Of Seeds and I saw how water issues impacted our worldwide food security over and over again. That led me to writing this book. It is a worldwide issue that needed attention. My readers are on the front lines. I hope that this book becomes a tool in the toolbox for teens working for a better future.

Thank you, Nancy. Speaking of working for a better future, here are some Simple Things You Can Do staring today:
  • take shorter showers
  • fix leaky faucets
  • only run full loads in dishwasher
  • collect rainwater for gardening
  • fill a reusable water bottle

Nancy is a member of #STEAMTeam2022. You can find out more about her at her website.

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.


  1. I'm glad this topic is getting some attention in this new book. That along with a growing set of climate change stories,is alerting our younger generation to the crisis. Thanks for featuring on MMGM.

  2. Such an important topic. How lucky to have a mother who was a water activist. Younger generations are really interested in water activism and climate issues. Her timing is perfect. Great book for school libraries. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Sounds like a good book for school libraries, or for kids to base a project around. Thanks for the review!

  4. I met Nancy at a Highlights Workshop some years ago. I know how hard she works at her writing and how careful she is about her research. I am sure this is a wonderful book. Thanks for the review.

  5. Ooh, a double review this week! This sounds like a really powerful and informative read—I don't think I understand much at all about the water crisis, honestly, so I appreciate the synopsis, Nancy's thoughts, and your action steps. Thanks so much for the wonderful review, Sue!

  6. This sounds like a good book for people of all ages to read. Water is so important and we definitely need to take positive actions in that area. Great post all around.