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Cadillac Desert [Paperback]

Marc Reisner
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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There is a newer edition of this item:
Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water, Revised Edition Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water, Revised Edition 4.7 out of 5 stars (51)
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Book Description

Oct. 5 1987
Part One Of Two Parts

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.

The early settlers were lured by free land. But there was not enough water to sustain them, and they drifted on. Only the Mormons stayed, carefully tending a system of irrigation canals that tempered perpetual drought. Their success gave birth to federal aid programs, principally the Bureau of Reclamation. Without the bureau, without Hoover, Shasta and Grand Coulee, the West as we know it would not exist.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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From Publishers Weekly

In this stunning work of history and investigative journalism, Reisner tells the story of conflicts over water policy in the West and the resulting damage to the land, wildlife and Indians. PW stated that this "timely and important book should be required reading for all citizens."
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Dams ostensibly provide indispensable economic development through flood control, irrigation, and recreation. Goldsmith and Hildyard, with examples from throughout the world, demolish the common justifications for large dams. They advocate traditional irrigation as environmentally sound and economically beneficial. Reisner focuses more narrowly on North America in his portrayal of the personalities and agencies (e.g., Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), and the manipulation and deceit through which water policy in the United States has evolved. This policy, a form of financial vandalism of the future, has made us rich but our descendants insecure. Cadillac Desert describes serious, perhaps fatal threats to the miraculous desert civilization of the West. With different approaches, both volumes take effective aim at the vested interests that perpetuate unsound water resource development. Both volumes contain insights for the specialist and the wider public. James R. Karr, Smithsonian Tropical Research Inst., Balboa, Panama
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Written by a journalist, Reisner’s central argument in Desert Cadillac is that essentially the American west (past the 100th meridian) is a “semi-desert with a desert heart.” That agriculture and cities such as Los Angeles, San Diego, and Las Vegas have been able to exist solely because of a massive human effort to control and divert the water of the west.

Reisner’s focus, and almost case study type of approach, is on the state of California and the Colorado River. He points out that in the American west “water moves uphill, to money.” Quite literally, in the case of water from the Colorado River, it is pumped over the southern foothills of the Sierra Nevada, and across the Mohave Desert to Southern California. Reisner makes the point that most of the water (approximately 80%) is used for agricultural irrigation. As the soil of the American west has a high mineral and salt content, the effects of irrigation and runoff after a few years are often environmentally disastrous (e.g. Mono Lake).

Reisner’s detailed description of the damming and draining of the Colorado River is somewhat analogous to similar histories of the Columbia River Taylor), the Merrimack River (Steinberg), and the Fraser River (Evenden). While Reisner’s account is not necessarily an environmental history in the academic sense, it comes close. Reisner does a good job describing the American west’s unquenchable thirst for water. He describes in horrible detail the North American Water and Power Alliance (NAWAPA) plan hatched in the 1950s which sought to massively re-engineer rivers and waters from the Canadian Arctic Circle to Mexico. Fortunately, Canadians nationalists and Canadian and American environmentalists succeeded in blocking it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars BEST NON-FICTION BOOK EVER!!! June 22 1997
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I read the book in the late 80s and have made it the best non-fiction book I ever read. I was drawn to it by a review in the Smithsonian magazine; an equally great resource.
The book turned me on to the subject of H20 to the extent that I soon became involved in digging up information on the water supply in Los Angeles, where I lived at the time.
Water is the lifeblood of a civilization and this book makes it both interesting and entertaining. It also led me to several other books, one of which I will recommend as well: ENCOUNTER WITH THE ARCHDRUID by McPhee.

The only negative I can come up with on CADILLAC DESERT is that it didnt have enough maps or pictures...
And that he never came up with another book as interesting as this one; Oasis book was a dissapointment
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Water crisis, a continuing story everyone should know Oct. 19 2013
By Bayard C. Hillway - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The late Marc Reisner spells it out, how various interests, public and private, fell into a pattern of getting the American taxpayer to foot the bill for decades of water development projects, many unnecessary, that justified the continuing existence and expansion of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The financial books were virtually always cooked, showing that farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, for example, received a continuous flow of water, virtually free, somehow avoiding paying the fees indicated in the original development contract. The projects were often tied to members of Congress who could point to their bringing in federal money for jobs, and water for irrigation and development. Reisner tracks the inside deals, the blatant disregard for contractual promises, and the destruction of natural treasures and prime farm land under the philosophy that no river is a good river until every possible dam has been built. Reading Cadillac Desert informs and allows the reader to be able to understand the machinations still in play that largely benefit the few, who often become incredibly wealthy, at the expense of everyone else.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cadillac Desert Nov. 10 2011
By Randall C. Shaw - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Excellent book on the subject of water and corrupt bureaucracies (i.e. Bureau of Reclamation and Corps of Engineers). One of the most thoroughly researched books that I've read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BEST NON-FICTION BOOK EVER!!! June 22 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I read the book in the late 80s and have made it the best non-fiction book I ever read. I was drawn to it by a review in the Smithsonian magazine; an equally great resource.
The book turned me on to the subject of H20 to the extent that I soon became involved in digging up information on the water supply in Los Angeles, where I lived at the time.
Water is the lifeblood of a civilization and this book makes it both interesting and entertaining. It also led me to several other books, one of which I will recommend as well: ENCOUNTER WITH THE ARCHDRUID by McPhee.

The only negative I can come up with on CADILLAC DESERT is that it didnt have enough maps or pictures...
And that he never came up with another book as interesting as this one; Oasis book was a dissapointment
5.0 out of 5 stars THE bible on water use and conservation March 29 2014
By Howard Aldrich - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you're interested in water conservation and/or what's being done to the water table in parts of this country, this book is a MUST for you to read.
5.0 out of 5 stars An important book, especially now. March 27 2014
By lockedout - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Given the changing weather patterns, it's more important than ever that we learn both the science and the politics behind Western Water.
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