The romance of water is actually quite an epic, featuring the “”sly and pitiless war of attrition between water and land,”” the obscure secrets of complex evolution in the Cambrian seas, and the incessant interaction with man, who has “”sought it out, striven with it, worshipped it, and with the aid of technology, tamed it.”” From Thales who viewed it as “”the beginning of all,”” to the alchemists who studied it in their cauldrons and retorts, to Henry Cavendish who revealed it is “”dephlogisticated air combined with phlogiston,”” man has endeavoured to plumb the mystery of H2O. Wendt’s aim is to thumb through the history of H2O, as ocean, river, and lake; as shaper of the earth’s face, incubator of life, nourisher of growth, carrier of commerce, and source of power. In the process he dips into geology, biology, oceanography, hydrology, and even astrophysics, dripping information on everything from whaling to dam-building. For all its eclecticism, the book maintains a surprising flow. In fact, what it most resembles is a vastly expanded encyclopedia article that, depending on the reader’s depth of interest, will either slake the thirst or whet the whistle.