"The Big Thirst" by Charles Fishman

Explore the critical role of water in "The Big Thirst" by Charles Fishman, revealing essential insights for procurement, supply chain, and marketing professionals.


The Procure 4 Marketing Team

8/1/20244 min read

a book on a desk
a book on a desk

Charles Fishman's "The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water" is an illuminating exploration of water's critical role in our lives, the hidden challenges of its supply, and the future risks we face concerning this essential resource. Fishman presents a compelling narrative that blends historical context, scientific insight, and practical examples, making it an invaluable resource for procurement, supply chain, and marketing professionals. This review delves into key themes, critical analysis, and the implications of Fishman's work for these fields.


"The Big Thirst" offers a deep dive into water's journey from a seemingly abundant resource to one that is increasingly scarce and contested. Fishman examines how water is managed, used, and often wasted across different regions and industries. He also addresses the looming crises of water shortages and the necessary innovations and policies to ensure a sustainable future. For professionals managing procurement, supply chains, and marketing, understanding water's pivotal role can inform better decision-making and strategic planning.

Key Themes

1. The Ubiquity and Mystery of Water: Fishman begins by highlighting water's omnipresence and the paradox of its simplicity and complexity. He traces water's historical significance and scientific properties, emphasizing its indispensable role in all aspects of life and industry.

2. Water Scarcity and Mismanagement: The book sheds light on the growing problem of water scarcity and how mismanagement and waste exacerbate this issue. Fishman provides case studies from around the world, illustrating the dire consequences of neglecting water management. This theme is crucial for procurement and supply chain professionals, who must ensure sustainable and efficient use of water resources.

3. Technological Innovations and Solutions: Fishman explores various technological advancements and innovative solutions aimed at addressing water challenges. From desalination plants to smart water grids, these innovations offer hope for better water management. Understanding these technologies can help professionals in developing more sustainable practices and reducing their environmental footprint.

4. Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability: The book emphasizes the role of businesses in water conservation and sustainability. Fishman argues that companies must take proactive steps to manage their water use and contribute to broader conservation efforts. For marketing professionals, this theme underscores the importance of communicating corporate responsibility and sustainability initiatives to stakeholders and consumers.

5. Future Outlook and Policy Implications: Fishman provides a forward-looking perspective on the future of water, highlighting the need for robust policies and international cooperation. He stresses the importance of adopting a holistic approach to water management that includes economic, environmental, and social considerations. This comprehensive view is essential for professionals involved in strategic planning and policy development.

Critical Analysis

While "The Big Thirst" is an insightful and well-researched book, there are some areas where it might be critiqued.

1. Complexity and Accessibility: Fishman does an excellent job of explaining complex scientific and technical concepts in an accessible manner. However, some sections may still be challenging for readers without a background in environmental science or engineering. Professionals may need to supplement their reading with additional resources to fully grasp certain concepts.

2. Focus on Case Studies: The book relies heavily on case studies to illustrate points. While these examples are informative, they sometimes overshadow broader discussions on systemic issues and solutions. A more balanced approach might provide a clearer understanding of the overarching challenges and potential strategies.

3. Geographical Bias: Fishman’s focus on specific regions, particularly the United States, might limit the global applicability of some insights. Professionals working in different geographic contexts may need to adapt the lessons and strategies to their local environments and regulatory frameworks.

Implications for Procurement, Supply Chain, and Marketing Professionals

1. Procurement: Procurement professionals can benefit from Fishman's insights by prioritizing suppliers that adopt sustainable water practices. Understanding the water footprint of products and services can guide more informed purchasing decisions. Additionally, fostering partnerships with suppliers committed to water conservation can enhance overall supply chain sustainability.

2. Supply Chain: For supply chain managers, the book’s discussion on water scarcity and management is particularly relevant. Implementing water-efficient processes and technologies can mitigate risks associated with water shortages. Fishman’s emphasis on innovation can inspire supply chain leaders to explore cutting-edge solutions like water recycling and smart water management systems.

3. Marketing: Marketing professionals can leverage the book’s themes to build stronger brand narratives around sustainability and corporate responsibility. Communicating efforts to manage water resources responsibly can resonate with environmentally conscious consumers and enhance brand loyalty. Additionally, marketing campaigns that highlight a company’s commitment to water conservation can differentiate the brand in a competitive market.


"The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water" by Charles Fishman is an essential read for procurement, supply chain, and marketing professionals. The book’s detailed exploration of water’s critical role, the challenges of its management, and the innovative solutions available provides a comprehensive understanding of this vital resource.

Fishman’s insights into water scarcity, technological innovations, and corporate responsibility are particularly valuable for professionals seeking to develop sustainable practices and strategies. By integrating the principles outlined in the book, procurement and supply chain managers can enhance operational efficiency and resilience, while marketing professionals can craft compelling narratives that underscore their company’s commitment to sustainability.

While the book presents some complexities and focuses on specific case studies, its overall message is clear: water is a precious resource that requires careful management and innovative solutions. By adopting a forward-thinking approach to water management, professionals in procurement, supply chain, and marketing can contribute to a more sustainable and prosperous future.

In conclusion, "The Big Thirst" is a must-read for those looking to deepen their understanding of water’s role in the global economy and develop strategies that address the pressing challenges of water scarcity and management. By applying Fishman’s insights, professionals can drive significant improvements in their operations and enhance their contribution to environmental sustainability and corporate responsibility.