The hydrologic cycle – where are the people?

Jamie Linton’s book, What is water?, provides a critique of the way that the hydrologic cycle is presented as an abstract way of understanding water that rarely, if ever, includes humans. Here is the “hydrologic cycle” as it is presented on the Environment Canada website:


To try and counter the idea that humans somehow exist apart from nature, many theorists now posit something called the “hydrosocial cycle” – which is a term designed to direct us to the fact that water cycles through social spaces: our homes, cities and so on. Further, it helps attune us to the way that our growing impact on the planet makes the Earth a sort of social space as well. Ultimately, there are not any non-social spaces in a human dominated planet.

Anyways, I have my comings and goings with the “hydrosocial cycle” and, as I work on a paper I am presenting this spring, I recalled another way of presenting water without people (UPDATE FEB 16, 2014: You can now read my paper here, which shows Jamie Linton has the history quite wrong. UPDATE 2017: If you read my book, you will see Linton is wrong on virtually every key historical point about America and “modern water”). It was one developed by the World Economic Forum. Take a look at the video below and note that while it begs consideration of the way we value water, in economic terms, there is nothing particularly “social” about it either even though it uses the language of “crisis” to motivate the audience.