How right was Reisner?

Central Arizona Project. Source: Federal Bureau of Reclamation

It’s a cliche because it’s true: there’s no drier topic than water. In 1986, Marc Reisner, a former staff writer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, published what may be the most gripping book on the subject. Cadillac Desert begins from an airplane window looking down on land so dry that there appears no way that it could sustain the booming cities of the American Southwest, much less the agriculture that the US government had in mind when it formed the federal Bureau of Reclamation.

He then built the book with a succession of  free-standing chapters that read more like magazine pieces, most but not all of which were marveling and disgusted histories of the region’s most famous (and infamous) water projects.

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