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Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water





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About the book:

The story of the American West is the story of the relentless quest to control and allocate nature's most common, and the West's most precious, resource: water. Cadillac Desert recounts this dramatic saga: from the earliest settlers lured by promises of paradise, to John Wesley Powell's advocacy of cooperative irrigation projects; from the ruthless tactics employed by Los Angeles to raid watersheds hundreds of miles away to sustain its phenomenal growth, to the federal government's entry into the water business. Despite the stupendous growth of the Bureau of Reclamation, the ideal embodiment of FDR's public works program during the 1930s and 1940s that was responsible for the creation of the Hoover, Shasta, and Grand Coulee dams, magnificent engineering feats that created jobs for hundreds of thousands, transformed arid expanses into fertile soil, and generated enough cheap hydroelectricity for towns to burgeon into cities, the West's water shortage has only worsened. The portrait of the future the West faces is a bleak one: Over the next fifty years, millions of acres of America's most productive farmland will be abandoned due to the exhaustion of groundwater reserves; within centuries, perhaps within decades, hundreds of reservoirs will silt up, turning to mud and renewing the danger of floods; and more and more soil and irrigated water is being contaminated by salt, the downfall of nearly every previous desert civilization. The natural resources of the West, sparse to begin with, have been stretched, exploited, and depleted. How much longer can the gold-plated civilization we have built be sustained? Cadillac Desert is the meticulously researched and documented stunning, compulsively readable history of one of America's most impressive achievements -- the creation of an Eden out of inhospitable desert -- and how it may prove to be a disaster of unimaginable proportions.

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