When the World Runs Dry

Earth’s Water In Crisis

What would you do if you turned on the faucet one day and nothing happened? What if you learned the water in your home was harmful to drink? Water is essential for life on this planet, but not every community has the safe, clean water it needs. In When the World Runs Dry, award-winning science writer Nancy Castaldo takes readers from Flint, Michigan, and Newark, New Jersey, to Iran and Cape Town, South Africa, to explore the various ways in which water around the world is in danger, why we must act now, and why you’re never too young to make a difference.


Algonquin Young Readers

Audio Book now available through Workman Audio

Honors and Awards:

Book Extensions:

Alice Brown Otter speaks at the 7th Fire Drill Friday in Washington, DC 2019

Behind the Book:

This was a tough one to write, but so worth it. I got to see people impacted by very difficult challenges rise to the occasion and help others. Every voice matters, from the Standing Rock teens who ran across the country to raise theirs to the Flint moms who supported the Hoosick moms miles away. In the end, I watched so many people show up. That’s what it is all about – just showing up for our families, our communities, each other, whether in a classroom or a ballot box. The water crisis impacts everyone. I hope that this book becomes a tool in the toolbox for teens working for a better future.

“The book is impeccably researched and sourced, but its real strength is the number of case studies (mostly drawn from the U.S.) used to illustrate the crises’ devastating impact on individuals and communities, especially those of poorer and minority groups. … This book holds substantial value as a classroom text…” —Booklist 12/1/21

“Explanations are concise, and topical organization supports both individual reader investigation and curricular use … A hard look at reality, however, is a necessary place to start addressing a problem, and the comprehensive view this book offers is fundamental to global citizenship.” —The Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books

“This is the book to read if you want to go from depressed to fired-up and ready for action.” —Audubon Magazine 12/16/21

“In this comprehensive nonfiction volume by Castaldo…The author successfully contextualizes the water crisis as something that affects everyone, with tacit acknowledgment of Indigenous peoples and their communities, as well as those in Flint, Mich., and citizens in Chennai, India; Cape Town, South Africa; and Kenya who suffer from water toxicity or scarcity.The narrative balances wide-ranging information with accessible prose…Black-and-white photos, plentiful subheads, quotations, and inset boxes add context and visual interest to this invaluable tome that underscores an imperative crisis.” –Publishers Weekly 1/19/22

“Jesse Vilinksy narrates this comprehensive look at worldwide water crises…This audiobook will change listeners’ understanding of water.”–AudioFile June 2022

“This refreshingly (no pun intended) readable and engrossing book on the state of the world’s water supply is an important read.” –Youth Services Review ***** 5 -star review

“A wake-up call to readers about the facility of something many of us take for granted.” – Horn Book Magazine