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Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water Hardcover – January 8, 1990


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Editorial Reviews

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

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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 590 pages
  • Publisher: Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd (January 8, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0436410508
  • ISBN-13: 978-0436410505
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.2 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,939,777 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bayard C. Hillway on October 19, 2013
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 22, 1997
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Randall C. Shaw on November 10, 2011
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.
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A really excellent dissertation on the history of US water and the institutions that control it. The writing is very good and even occasionally witty - surprising for such a studious subject. It is explanatory, without ever being boring - I literally couldn't put it down. The sad part is that the author died so young and we were deprived of more of his insights. Carol Raizin
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By Ron Veelik on June 1, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
They sell this book around the South West (think Four Corners Area) in stacks at Book Stalls, News Stands, Mini-Markets, Gas Stations . It selsl well, you see folks sitting reading it, We talk about the issues in the book.
Man is living in a place that he was not meant to inhabit. The South West. that takes water, moving water costs money. Takes water away from other areas. This should be required reading for any one living in Southern California.
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