This book is an account of how water has shaped human society from the ancient past to the present. Far more than oil, the control of water wealth throughout history has been pivotal to the rise and fall of great powers, the achievements of civilization, the transformations of society's vital habitats, and the quality of ordinary daily lives. Today, freshwater scarcity is one of the twenty-first century's decisive, looming challenges, driving new political, economic, and environmental realities across the globe. In this book, the author offers a narrative portrait of the power struggles, personalities, and breakthroughs that have shaped humanity from antiquity's earliest civilizations through the steam-powered Industrial Revolution and America's century. It is an account of man's most critical resource in shaping human destinies, from ancient times to our dawning age of water scarcity. Water in Ancient History. The indispensable resource ; Water and the start of civilization ; Rivers, irrigation, and the earliest empires ; Seafaring, trade, and the making of the Mediterranean world ; The Grand Canal and the flourishing of Chinese civilization ; Islam, deserts, and the destiny of history's most water-fragile civilization -- Water and the Ascendancy of the West. Waterwheel, plow, cargo ship, and the awakening of Europe ; The voyages of discovery and the launch of the oceanic era ; Steam power, industry, and the Age of the British Empire -- Water and the Making of the Modern Industrial Society. The sanitary revolution ; Water frontiers and the emergence of the United States ; The canal to America's Century ; Giant dams, water abundance, and the rise of global society -- The Age of Scarcity. Water: the new oil ; Thicker than blood : the water-famished Middle East ; From have to have-not : mounting water distress in Asia's rising giants ; Opportunity from scarcity: the new politics of water in the industrial democracies.