Where the Water Goes - David Owen
With every drop of the Colorado River allocated—or, more truthfully, over-allocated—the wild force that carved out the Grand Canyon is really more of a tightly-managed “fourteen-hundred mile long canal.” Running from the Rocky Mountains to a formerly lush, and now dry, river delta between Baja and Sonora, the Colorado is the faucet that waters the towns, cities, parks, mines, vineyards, and fields of seven states and parts of Mexico. Owen tours many of these communities, farms, and RV campsites, showing the diverse and often competing uses of the water. He also charts the Law of the River, a Byzantine set of rules and laws that apportions more “paper water” than there is “wet water” to cover. The situation has always been bad and is getting worse, but probably not in the ways you might think. Green-minded Denver, for instance, is more sprawling than Los Angeles. Las Vegas isn’t the ecological folly it’s often accused of being, nor is farming in a desert necessarily illogical. Overturning assumptions, and revealing little known facts about the hellish conditions for workers on the Hoover Dam or 1960s experiments with a kind of nuclear fracking, Owen covers a lot of fascinating physical, historical, legal, and cultural ground. But his main point is that “water issues are never only about water.” Even if we’re conscious of our “water footprint”—and few of us are in any meaningful way—it’s the overall “resource footprint” we have to consider, a fiercely complicated proposition.