Introducing a book about
our changing ways around fresh water
by Jim Rousmaniere
Over the years Americans have changed what they do in and around water. They no longer send raw sewage into rivers. They no longer fill in swamps to make space for farmland or shopping centers. They no longer build huge power dams. They don’t flush unused medicines down the toilet any more. So, we’re capable of change, but are we up for more change at a time when chemicals we know little about are getting into public waters, and when harder rains from climate change are doing real flood damage and when water shortages have become more common?
Journalist and historian Jim Rousmaniere introduces you to the wide range of people — many of them in New England — who are asking these questions. They include volunteer citizen-scientists who test the quality of water in rivers and lakes; they include government workers who are fashioning new ways to prevent urban floods; they include inventors who vie for prizes at water technology competitions. He gives you artists who’ve made a difference around polluted ponds. Rousmaniere shows how the people behind modern hydropower — the largest source of renewable energy in the United States today — are thinking about their impact on the environment in new ways.
Rousmaniere takes you into the past when mistakes around water were made and in some cases later unmade. Ultimately the author shows how history happens. “Water Connections” is as much about the ways of people as it is about the ways of water that flows through their lives.
What people are saying
JACK E. DAVIS
Author of “Gulf – The Making of an American Sea,” winner of the 2018 Pulitzer prize for non-fiction
“There are sobering lessons in this book. There is also beauty and eloquence and passion, in Jim Rousmaniere’s voice and the watery places he takes you to. He is guide and companion, knowledgeable and engaging, and when you part company with him—a sad moment—you will be grateful for what you have learned and the hope he has left you with.”
Executive Director, The Connecticut River Conservancy, Greenfield, Mass.
“Understanding and protecting our water resources doesn’t have to mean wading through a morass of technical data and engineering reports. Engaging stories about people and the places can inspire the ever-continuing work needed to ensure our rivers, streams, and lakes are clean, healthy, and full of life. Jim Rousmaniere’s Water Connections tells these stories well and leaves readers both encouraged by the work already done, and emboldened to take on the work still to do.”
President and CEO, River Network, Boulder, Colorado
“Water Connections is a wonderful meditation on rivers and their importance to each of us, our communities, and our future. With New England as the primary backdrop, and his own Roaring Brook and other local streams as central characters, Rousmaniere has uncovered lost stories of human ingenuity and engineering prowess as well as public health emergencies and regulatory failures. The examples from 1870 and 1945 lace together with those from 1982 and 2013, punctuating his points while encouraging a new look at history.
“He comfortably integrates systems thinking about complex problems into his prose, allowing the reader to increase their ecological literacy with little effort. His examples also draw our attention to the remarkable ability of our rivers to restore themselves when given the time and space to do so. By the end, I was left with a deep sense of hope for the future and profound curiosity about the untold stories of salvation and calamity from rivers all over the world.
“Don’t miss this book – it is full of surprise and wonder.”
Supervisor of the planning unit in the drinking water program at the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, Concord, NH.
“At the same time entertaining and immensely informative, Water Connections weaves together a broad collection of stories about the people who shaped and continue to shape the relationships among New England's people, land, and water.
“To understand any aspect of New England, one must know something about its history, and Jim Rousmaniere shows that's no less true of our multi-faceted relationship with water – in many ways the backdrop of our lives and – historically and currently – the lifeblood of our economy.
“The book is populated with historical figures like John Wingate Weeks (author of legislation that enabled the establishment of the White Mountain National Forest, spurred by the devastation of rivers brought about by clear-cutting), resourceful 19th-century figures who used “water rams” to pump water uphill, and modern-day heroes like the Nashua River's Marion Stoddart and the generation of watershed defenders she inspired. Water Connections' sweep is broad, reaching into every aspect of water in our lives, providing lessons that extend well beyond New England and the Northeast.
“It's a hopeful book, showing how much progress has been made in undoing the damage done to our life-giving rivers, lakes, and groundwater. It also strikes a cautionary note, reminding us of past blunders, failures to anticipate the consequences of new technologies and practices, and pointing to the troubling proliferation of emerging contaminants whose health and environmental effects we as yet know little about. Water Connections is a must-read for every New Englander who is drawn to water.”