Cadillac Desert

Cadillac Desert

The American West and Its Disappearing Water

Book - 1993
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"The definitive work on the West's water crisis." --Newsweek

The story of the American West is the story of a 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.

This edition includes a new postscript by Lawrie Mott, a former staff scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, that updates Western water issues over the last two decades, including the long-term impact of climate change and how the region can prepare for the future.
Publisher: New York, N.Y., U.S.A. : Penguin Books, 1993.
Edition: Revised and updated
ISBN: 9780140178241
Branch Call Number: 333.91 REISNER
Characteristics: viii, 582 pages, [8] pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 22 cm.


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Apr 21, 2019

🌵📚 California has had abundant rainfall this year. Reservoirs are full and snowpacks are impressive. We’ve had so much rain that complaining about it has become de rigeur. So why am I reading this 30-year old treatise on “the American West and its disappearing water”? Partly because I recently spent a week in the Mojave desert where every inch of the landscape is a visceral reminder that water is precious, scarce, and fleeting—even when the desert flowers are in full bloom. And partly because our return trip brought us through the Central Valley, where water is the lifeblood of agribusiness that feeds us, and where bitter “water wars” have raged for decades on end. Marc Reisner’s landmark book is part history, part warning about California’s elaborate and unsustainable relationship with water. Updated several times since its first publication, Cadillac Desert also was made into a riveting documentary television series. A fascinating and searing examination of life’s most precious resource. 🌧

Jan 04, 2017

This is, and amazingly enough remains, a classic with regard to water and the west. Now almost 30 years old, it's a "must read" to ramp up a basic understanding of water allocation, and the framework for stresses that we've been facing for almost half a century.

Sep 30, 2011

A very readable essay about the precarious supply of fresh water in California by the man who wrote the script for the movie Chinatown. It is slanted towords the Cal. situation, but applicable to the entire US west of the Mississippi. Since 1950, usage of fresh-water has exceeded recoverable rainfall throughout all western US states.


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