- Out of water: designing solutions for arid regions by Liat Margolis and Aziza Chaouni
By Liat Margolis and Aziza Chaouni. 2015. Basel, Switzerland: Birkhauser. 240 pages. $84 hardcover, ISBN: 978-3-03821-541-7
Recent events suggest an escalating global water crisis: São Paulo, a megacity of 22 million, has over the past year rationed water resources due to the impact of unchecked development, resource mismanagement, and drought (Rodrigues and Brenha, 2014 and Lobel and Uribe, 2015); in August of 2014, Toledo, Ohio trucked in 33,000 gallons of bottled water after tap water was declared unsafe as a result of toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie; between 2009 and 2012, India’s erratic monsoon seasons led to devastating drought (Economist 2012). The disruption or diminished access to a life- critical resource denotes what many would describe as a world “running out of water,” be it a result of declining or contaminated supplies. However, as authors Liat Margolis and Aziza Chaouni emphasize in their edited volume Out of Water: Designing Solutions for Arid Regions, global water reserves are not at issue; rather, managing water needs and water use must instead emerge from a socio- technical understanding of a given context’s water resources and related infrastructure.
Out of Water, published by Birkhäuser, is a co-edited collection of essays that evolved from an initial exhibition on innovative, arid water technologies and design; and a later symposium that featured a range of disciplines focused on managing and conserving water resources. The richly illustrated, 208 page book (the hardcover has a list price of US$84.00, but is available from Amazon for US$65.10. It is also available as an e- book from Birkhäuser for US$84.00) builds upon the earlier research and presentations, identifies “applied and theoretical intersections among distinct areas of expertise,” and seeks to provoke exchange between design disciplines and broader academic and professional fields.1 The book is organized into three sections that highlight different water needs and consumption related to domestic, agricultural, and ecosystem service sectors. Each section features key essays and case studies that describe socio- technical responses to discrete contexts, many of which challenge conventional practices and situate water technologies within a comprehensive perspective that explores how each unit of water serves multiple functions and actors. The essays advocate for an interdisciplinary exchange around water concerns, as each represents how a distinctive viewpoint—be it political, economic, social, or spatial—influences how technologies are implemented and received. The case studies, both built and speculative, are graphically organized as expository diagrams, graphs, maps, and technical details in order to easily compare one technology’s efficiency, energy use, and performance with others featured in the book. The clear and elegant drawings further demonstrate the spatial impact each technology imparts to urban and rural landscapes.
Margolis’ and Chaouni’s book provides an invaluable resource for a variety of users or readers. Through extensive data, the volume documents the complexity of issues surrounding access and allocation of water and wastewater systems. The book advances a need to rethink these relationships whereby water is understood according to a range of qualities that satisfy diverse applications or objectives. Combined with a multi- unit accounting of water resources, each unit of water, whether potable or non- potable, can then be reused. As a number of essays and case studies demonstrate, this philosophical shift leads to innovative [End Page 97] or revised practices, such as the use of sewage effluent for agricultural irrigation or aquifer recharge, dual water systems to recycle wastewater, identification and dissemination of appropriate technologies, or water budget analysis methods and related sensor technologies that facilitate conservation2.
This collection of essays establishes the need for design practice to participate in these advances in order to derive urban form via the integration of water technologies and cultural meaning. The authors position the book as a companion to other seminal texts on sustainable urbanism, including Resilience in Ecology and Urban Design: Linking Theory and Practice for Sustainable Cities by Picket, et al.; Water Centric Sustainable Communities: Planning, Retrofitting, and Building the Next...