December 2010, Vol. 22, No.12

Water Volumes

Managing Without Growth — Slower by Design, Not Disaster

Peter A. Victor, Edward Elgar Publishing Inc., William Pratt House, 9 Dewey Court, Northampton, MA 01060, 2009, hardcover, 260 pp. $125, ISBN: 978-1-84720-078-5.

The main objective of this book is to explore the rationale for rich countries to continue with economic growth as a primary economic policy. The author wants the reader to think about rich countries managing without economic growth so that poor countries can enjoy the benefits of economic growth, which will make more of a difference to their well-being than people living in rich countries. The author believes that the biosphere cannot sustain the standard of living of rich countries as the expected population increases to 9 billion people by 2050.

This book has 11 chapters, each ending with a helpful conclusion. Chapter 1 discusses the economy of open systems in a biosphere, including the idea of progress, economic growth as progress, full employment, and sustainable growth. Chapter 2 explores the economies of an open system and the question of the capability of the environment to provide the material and accommodate the waste of growing economies without doing environmental harm. Chapter 3 focuses on the effect prices have on the economy.

Chapters 4, 5, and 6 discuss the limits of growth. In Chapter 4, the author discusses the material sources and energy inputs for growth. Chapter 5 focuses on what becomes of the materials and energy after they have been used and disposed of as waste. This chapter also includes a section on climate change and greenhouse gases. Chapter 6 assesses concerns about biophysical limits of growth through three approaches: system dynamics, net products of photosynthesis, and ecological footprint.

Chapter 7 explores the impact of humans on the environment and if what is produced and consumed can overcome the limits of growth. It also focuses on carbon and carbon dioxide releases.

Several scenarios are evaluated in Chapter 8, including growth and income. Chapter 9 discusses the various aspects of economic growth in Canada and its effect on unemployment, income inequality, and the environment, while chapters 10 and 11 discuss managing and developing policy without growth.

This book has a unique perspective about ecological economics. I would recommend it for those who have an interest in economics and the environment.


Timothy R. Banyai is managing engineer at Brown and Caldwell (Walnut Creek, Calif.).

Planning and Installing Sustainable Onsite Wastewater Systems

S.M. Parten, McGraw–Hill, 1221 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020-1095, 2010, hardcover, 436 pp., $69.95, ISBN: 978-0-07-162463-3.

If you are looking for practical information on how to construct an onsite wastewater treatment system, this book has all you could possibly need. The author states correctly that such onsite systems are sparsely described in the literature. They are often called “decentralized systems”(both terms are used in the book, but the subtle difference is explained), and it comes as no surprise that available information is less “centralized” than for large-scale wastewater treatment systems.

This book fills the gap. Any step in the process, from the point where the wastewater is fed to the primary treatment and through to effluent dispersal, is described in detail. The emphasis is on construction, although many aspects of operation also are covered. This would start with careful planning, taking into account aspects of sustainability, for example. This is stressed by the author, and detailed explanations and practical hints are given: Read this before you start!

The construction process is made clear in every possible way. One chapter is devoted to primary treatment and another to secondary and advanced treatment methods. These cover nearly all possible systems. Some systems that are deemed less important are mentioned but not described. Reasons are given for these choices, and sources for further information are referenced.

Step-by-step guidance is provided in particular for two nonproprietary methods, sand filters and subsurface-flow wetlands. The degree of detail in these chapters is impressive. Even the smallest points are addressed. To name one, wherever numbers are given, both SI (International System) and English units are always provided.

In addition to textual explanations and guidelines, photos of every stage of the construction process are provided so that the reader can actually see how things should look. The final chapter gives five examples of sites that have been developed in diverse circumstances: a youth camp, a single-family residence, an estate home development, a vacation home, and even a safari tent camp in Africa.

The author is an expert with more than 25 years of experience. The book will give you information to think about regarding construction of onsite systems, and even more, it is linked to a Web site where more supporting information can be downloaded. The book is described as a “must-have” for anyone wanting a practical reference guide for designing and constructing decentralized wastewater treatment systems, including the inspired generalist — I couldn’t agree more.


Bart Van der Bruggen is a professor in the University of Leuven, Belgium, Department of Chemical Engineering.


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