A solid recommendation from some one whose opinion you trust can help whittle down that long list of books you are going to get around to reading some time. These two books fit into that category and they also come with the recommendation that they both should be read in quick succession in the following order.
CADILLAC DESERT by Marc Reisner is a non fiction book written way back in 1985. Despite the intervening years the self evident truths noted in this book still seem to be valid. “It is the story of the American West and the relentless quest for a precious resource: water. It is a tale of rivers diverted and dammed, of political corruption and intrigue, of billion-dollar battles over water rights, of ecological and economic disaster. In his landmark book, Cadillac Desert, Marc Reisner writes of the earliest settlers, lured by the promise of paradise, and of the ruthless tactics employed by Los Angeles politicians and business interests to ensure the city’s growth. He documents the bitter rivalry between two government giants, the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in the competition to transform the West. Based on more than a decade of research, Cadillac Desert is a stunning expose and a dramatic, intriguing history of the creation of an Eden–an Eden that may only be a mirage” — Amazon
“The definitive work on the West’s water crisis.” –Newsweek
A couple of things that came to mind while reading the book. Number one – Donald Trump may seem to be an aberration on the political landscape but as evidenced in this book, and other examinations of American political history it is obvious that the States is populated by numerous characters and personalities that are just as obnoxious, bizarre and just as destructive of the common good. Number two – Huge bureaucratic public organizations such as the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are susceptible to inappropriate political pressure that result in less than satisfactory outcomes. These two particular agencies have overlapping mandates that have led to massive over building of dams, the destruction of the west coast salmon runs, the depletion of water resources and the massive build up of salt concentrations in the lower reaches of many rivers. Number three – American interests have their eye on acquiring access to Canadian water, particularly free flowing rivers in British Columbia. This is important to keep in mind during the upcoming North American Free Trade Negotiations and the Renewal of the Columbia River Treaty. Southern California has tried, and failed, to get access to the few remaining free flowing rivers in Northern California, Oregon and Washington State and that should be a lesson for us. Also keep in mind that access to more water isn’t the answer. More access will only continue with the under valuation of the resources and perpetuate the ongoing problems.
The legacy of these some times well intentioned policies and projects is a time bomb just waiting to exploded. It is this time bomb that is explored in the second book —-
THE WATER KNIFE by Paolo Bacigalupi is set in the not to distant future and it is a dystopian novel of a possible outcome of the water policies out lined in Cadilac Desert. In the novel the south western states, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico are entering the end game of past policies and errors and now face serious conflicts over dwindling water resources.
“Three different characters try to navigate a water-starved Southwestern United States. The survival of different cities depends on their political clout and ability to claim senior water rights. Las Vegas is one of the big players, with Catherine Case and her goons destroying nearby competitors by undermining their water supply. Angel is one of those goons, and when someone in the area starts claiming they have traced down a game changing water allocation document, Case send him to investigate. Lucy is a future Pulitzer prize winning journalist who is willing to risk her life to uncover the shady dealings and murders behind the ongoing legal battle for control of the Colorado. It is her friend who initially claimed possession of what might be the most valuable document in America, but when he is found murdered, she has the story of a lifetime in her hands. Maria is a refugee from the now ruined state of Texas who lives hand to mouth, trying to stay out of the way of local gangs and save up enough to escape to one of the more hydrated states.” – Amazon.
Without giving too much away that is the thumb nail of the story. It is a story well worth reading. Not an absolute page turner but it is a good story with believable characters. The premise is not that much of a science fiction stretch and is entirely believable. The future of the region may not turn out exactly like this but it is sure to be some variant of a number of similar possibilities. I wouldn’t plan on buying real estate or relocating to the region any time in the near future.