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Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water, Revised Edition [Kindle Edition]

Marc Reisner
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (192 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $19.00
Kindle Price: $11.99
You Save: $7.01 (37%)
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

"Beautifully written and meticulously researched."—St. Louis Post-Dispatch. This updated study of the economics, politics, and ecology of water covers more than a century of public and private desert reclamation in the American West.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The definitive history of water resources in the American West, and a very illuminating lesson in the political economy of limited resources anywhere. Highly recommended!

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.

Product Details

  • File Size: 5369 KB
  • Print Length: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Revised edition (June 1, 1993)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001RTKIUA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,411 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
124 of 132 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential History February 4, 2002
By xaosdog
Format:Paperback
I am somewhat ashamed to have read this book only recently. I should have read this one years ago.
Well, better late than never, and I am pleased to report that it deserves its enduring reputation.
...But let me assume that I am writing this "review" for an audience that is neither familiar with Reisner's book nor aware of the role water development has played in every aspect of the history of the American West, particularly of California.
Briefly, the history of water development contains the whole story of the West, from start to present. Early modern irrigation worked miracles and opened to the plow land previously unavailable for agriculture -- land that now feeds the nation and much of the world. If it were not for these early, massive hydro-projects, not one of the great cities of the West would be even conceivable, millions upon millions of people would and could never have considered settling the western half of the continent. Of course, there was a massive cost accompanying all of these benefits, measurable in human as well as environmental terms, but in those days the cost-benefit analysis was easy.
Building upon early irrigation successes, two government agencies -- the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers, may they both live forever in infamy -- garnered unto themselves massive power and independence, which they used to keep on building dam after dam after dam. The problem was not so much (at the time the dams were built) that the environmental costs were higher with every dam, until there now remains no wild river beyond the hundredth meridian of any significance whatsoever, precious little habitat for migratory birds, mass extinctions, etc., etc., tragically etc.
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115 of 123 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be Required Reading December 2, 2000
Format:Paperback
I enthusiastically told friends that I was reading a book about "water development in the West" and they blankly would stare back and ask "Why"? Well, I discovered that the story of moving people and water into the West where humans really have no natural right living is quite entertaining. Reisner is the perfect storyteller and he permeates this real drama of pure will, deceit, graft, engineering prowess and the pork barrel with a subtle sarcastic wit I could read all day. He makes a real effort to keep his personal views out of the picture and rely on interviews and statistics. Even though it seems that he likely sees most large water projects as foolhardy and boondoggles he presents both sides - for example highlighting how one of the massive Comubia River dams had the unexpected value of helping us win WWII through power generation. I read this for a book club and the four of us (all California natives) used it as a springboard for literally hours of conversation. This should be required reading for anyone who claims to be an informed citizen living in the American West.
There is also an excellent PBS companion 4 video series of the same name which I found available at my library (or sold through Amazon.com packaged with Chinatown) which I would HIGHLY recommend. It adds a lot thorough interviews, footage of a dam failing, and beautiful scenery that lets you appreciate the natural beauty at stake when considering these large water projects.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most illuminating books I have read in a while September 1, 2001
Format:Paperback
"Cadillac Desert" is one of those books that causes a person to seriously question "the system" (no matter your ideological affiliation). The book exposes the blantant contradictions and hypocrisy that have permeated the history of the West (which history is the history of water and it being reigned in). Take my own situation for example: Over the last couple of weeks I found myself agreeing page after page with the authors' points of view. During those same weeks when I was reading the book and agreeing with the author, I was swimming in, showering in, watering my lawn with, and drinking the very water the author condemned. As if that wasn't bad enough I reflected on my former years when I worked every summer on the family farm which was sustained by CAP and reclamation water. Ouch!!!
My reading this book can basically be translated into the author, Marc Reisner, slapping me in the face and chewing me out and me just sitting there unable to defend myself. The book sets forth examples that are virtually impossible to argue against. However, one point Mr. Reisner failed to mention is the importance agriculture plays in our national security and our ability as a nation to sustain ourselves. This point, though, hardly justifies the irrational decisions made buy both the Bureau of Reclamation and the Corps of Engineers. I mention it here as a kind a weak punch from the canvas in an attempt to justify my existence after being so brutally beaten down by facts and the exposure of the blatant hypocrisy perpetuated by so-called "ideological purists" (which come from both sides of the aisle). The author said it best by stating that when it comes to water there are no Republicans and Democrats, and there are no liberals or conservatives.
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52 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading May 28, 2000
Format:Paperback
Cadillac Desert should be required reading for every American. On the surface it tells the story of water development and conservation (or lack thereof) in the American west in particular and the nation in general. Throughout the book however, you are given an understanding of how our government actually works. I always wondered why a company in California will contribute heavily to a congressman from New York. Now I know. I also know why our government will spend so much tax money on seemingly wastful projects. Anyone interested in engineering will be fascinated by the construction of the huge dams. Marc Reisner also relates some of the disasters that resulted from poorly constucted or situated dams. This book is well researched and well written and for a book with so much technical information, quite easy and enjoyable to read. Anyone interested in water conservation, irrigation, American government, American history, engineering feats or development of the American west will love this book
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read, again.
I think this is a great primer on environmental issues in general and, of course, water in particular. Read more
Published 3 days ago by Field Trip Mom
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read
Between this book and the "King of California" a very concise history of water in the lands west of the Mississippi and then west of Sierra Nevada Mountains is painted and... Read more
Published 5 days ago by James Arnold
5.0 out of 5 stars Must-read for any resident of the western half of the ...
Must-read for any resident of the western half of the US -- & any leader for making policy that affects the Western US.
Published 8 days ago by T. J. Lindberg
4.0 out of 5 stars fascinating but unnecessarily verbose
This is an incredible book and completely opened my eyes. As a northern Californian I only had a faint idea of the water politics in my state, but now I understand a lot more. Read more
Published 8 days ago by Lauri Takacsi-Nagy
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read
Reisner's meticulously researched story of dam building and irrigation projects is a classic. His detailed expose' of corporate welfare on a grand scale is a must read for anyone... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Dewey W Fuller
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
The "Atlas Shrugged" of works on water.
Published 1 month ago by Roger Swanson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fascinating history. Well written and engaging
Published 1 month ago by Tim Frazier
5.0 out of 5 stars Should Be Required Reading In the Western States!
This book should be required reading for every high school student in the Western United States. It is key to understanding how these states obtained the water that transformed... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Polly Girl
5.0 out of 5 stars The art of making a "dry" subject a tremendous read
I very much enjoyed this book. The author rings the subject with tremendous history of our country and the west how it has been won and lost. Enlightening.
Published 2 months ago by Kyra
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read for anyone living west of Kansas
This is truly a classic. As we are going through the most severe drought in years, now seemed like a good time to reread this book. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Alison K. Rempel
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