Climate models predict a continuation of the trends we’ve been seeing in many countries: heat waves happening more often and more intensely, longer and more severe droughts owing to decreased precipitation, wildfires as a consequence of long-term dry spells, and water stress for both urban and rural populations as well as for agriculture. Nowhere are these trends more in evidence than in the American West. The extraordinary engineering that has gone into making the West prosperous is at risk. (I blogged about the landmark history of water policy and politics in the West, Cadillac Desert, here in September.) Continue reading
I wrote about Cadillac Desert, the classic book about water in the American West, in September. Scores of millions of people depend on the waterworks that were built up over the 20th Century there, and many millions more benefit from the bounty of fruits and vegetables that grow there, much of it in California, where agriculture accounts for 80% of overall use. The story of Cadillac Desert, though, is that there has been a tremendous price paid for all that concrete, steel, energy, and the treasure needed to build and operate the waterworks. Environmental destruction has been catastrophic, lives were lost when dams broke, thousands of small farmers and their communities were destituted because the water too often benefited Big Ag, and the American taxpayer was bilked out of billions over time. Continue reading
That water flows toward power and money is, according to Marc Reisner in his magisterial book, Cadillac Desert, “the West’s cardinal law.” In every chapter, that sad fact is illustrated in abundance. The book, first published in 1986 and revised in a 1993 edition, put a new lens on the American West and the regional and national politics of water. It, like so many chronicles of the abuses of power, and the lies, arrogance, and destruction that accompany them, is both revelatory and maddening.
Dept. of Better Late than Never: A friend gave me the book more than 30 years ago. Continue reading