, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 165-166
Date: 03 Sep 2011

Martin M. Melosi, Precious commodity. Providing water for America’s cities

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There are people who argue that history teaches us lessons. Some may even go as far as stating that our future societal directions can be detected from the past. In his latest book Precious Commodity, Martin Melosi does plead guilty for “trying to connect pressing current environmental issues with their past histories” (p.XI). However, unlike others, Melosi’s way of doing “history in the moment” (p.XI) does neither hide the contested nature of water nor does it presume that one simple linear trajectory explains our own times. No big certainties for Melosi. Instead, his examination of public versus private water control shows the complexity of water resources development and management.

Precious Commodity is a collection of both previously published research and a few new chapters. After an introduction to the theme, we read about the many river projects in America, about water supply and sewerage in American cities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and we are introduced to some