Jun 1, 2012
Dam Nation: How Water Shaped the West and Will Determine Its Future
(Globe Pequot Press)
“No one reading this book will ever look at a glass of water the same way again—especially if they live in the West. . . . Stephen Grace presents an engaging, easily palatable crash-course in the complex history of water in the West. . . . The text is thoroughly researched and documented . . . but the book doesn’t preach and is not a dry, academic tome. The author encourages readers to use his text not as the final voice, but as a springboard to their own paths of awareness—and to appreciating this life-sustaining resource.”
“A concerned, observant ‘citizen of the West’ spins tales of our chronic mismanagement of the only natural resource for which there’s no alternative: water. . . . Grace has . . . traveled widely and read broadly. He effectively, even humorously at times, captures the highlights of the West’s liquid history: the engineering wonders (and unintentional consequences) of New Deal–era dam projects; the tortuous web of law, regulations, treaties and compacts that govern Western water rights; and the political, bureaucratic and industrial power grabs that have accompanied all reclamation projects. The author covers a lot of territory: geologist John Wesley Powell’s prescient observations and recommendations for watershed communities; the hydro-skullduggery that accounts for the city of Los Angeles; the winding tale of the Colorado, “the world’s most heavily litigated river”; the ongoing depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer; the rise and demise of the Bureau of Reclamation; the industrial and agricultural tainting of our water; and our meager efforts to conserve or create more by desalination and cloud seeding. . . . Though squarely on the side of environmental prudence, Grace is neither preachy nor accusatory in his descriptions of an impending tragedy and the need for action.
—Kirkus ReviewsGlobe Pequot Press is proud to announce the release of Dam Nation: How Water Shaped the West and Will Determine Its Future by Stephen Grace. During the frenzied days of early emigration and expansion in the West, running out of water was rarely a concern, and the dam-building fever that transformed the map of the region in the twentieth century filled empty spaces with cities and farms. Today, metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Denver are desperate with thirst. These cities are growing explosively, but water supplies are dwindling. Scientists agree that the region is heating up and drying out, leading to future water shortages that will expose the startling fragility of civilization in the western U. S. Dam Nation looks first to the past, to the stories of explorers venturing into a forbidding wilderness, gold miners and farmers devising arcane laws to govern water use, and pioneers struggling to settle the “Great American Desert.” Next, it delves into an era of technological mastery that fulfilled the nation’s dream of taming wild rivers, and finally it tackles the ongoing legal and moral battles over water in the West. Author Stephen Grace weaves the facts into a compelling narrative that informs, entertains, and tells an important story.
Stephen Grace is a novelist and the author of a narrative nonfiction book about urbanization in China. He is also the author of several books on Colorado, including a collaborative project with the Library of Congress about the state’s historical cartography. He has been employed as a Mississippi riverboat deckhand, a neuropsychological research assistant, a whitewater rafting guide, and a travel industry professional designing and leading trips on five continents. A resident of Boulder, Colorado, he spends his free time exploring the mountains and rivers of the West.