The American West at Risk: Science, Myths and Politics of Land Abuse and Recovery
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We don't need any more straws going down there 'cause we're already doing a pretty good job of sucking it dry, said farmer Dan Errotabere, who has dug three wells as deep as 1,200 feet to irrigate his tomatoes, almonds and garlic in recent years. We're using this water as a last resort, but pretty soon we're going to need a policy to protect ourselves from ourselves.
- Dan Errotabere, Central Valley farmer, December 2009

The US is exporting one third of its water in the form of products that consumed that amount of water.
- Fred Pearce, When the Rivers Run Dry

The West's natural water-delivery system is breaking down under the strain of rising temperatures, upsetting a fragile truce between people and the dry land they inhabit.
- The Arizona Republic, November 26, 2007

Water dries up in arid country but controversy over it, never.
- Sam Bingham, The Last Ranch

The science of hydrology would be relatively simple if water were unable to penetrate below the earth's surface.
- Harold E. Thomas, quoted by R.C. Heath, Basic Ground-Water Hydrology, U.S. Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 2220, p. 1

To protect your rivers, Protect your mountains.
- Emperor Yu, China 1600 B.C. Emperor Yu was highly revered by the people of ancient China for "taming" the major rivers like the Yellow. The floods were very damaging and he apparently saw the connection between channel depth and river flow. So, he instituted a program of "dredging" to clear channels of excess sediment. He also, if we are to believe the quote, saw the connection between sediment eroded in the mountains and excess siltation and shoaling in the lowlands.

The Rio Grande is the only river I ever saw that needed irrigation.
- Will Rogers (quoted in U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1162, 1998, p. 6)

Water development in the American West bears the bright and ironic imprint of the prodigal waste of an assertedly precious resource.
- Charles F. Wilkinson, Crossing the Next Meridian

But reality has a way of forcing its way into human consciousness, and sooner or later we must acknowledge that our relationship to water is intimate, complex, and primal: if we abuse it, we inevitably suffer the consequences. Remove trees from the watershed, and the river below floods; deplete aquifers, and the land above subsides; pollute or obstruct the river, and the effects flow all the way to the sea. We must accomodate ourselves to the water, not the other way around. Neither the pollution of our air and soil nor the destruction of wilderness nor even the probable extinction of a majority of the earth's creatures with the threat of catastrophic climate change has prompted us to change our behavior. Now it is the turn of water, the very foundation of life, to teach us to be good animals.
- Jacques Leslie, Harper's, July 2000

Out West, God made plenty of whiskey to drink, but only enough water to fight over.
- Mark Twain

You are what you don't excrete and the watershed is the rest.
- "Ancient" ecological mantra. (Brock Dolman, Occidental Arts and Ecology College, 2006)


The American West at Risk: Science, Myths and Politics of Land Abuse and Recovery

The American West At Risk summarizes the dominant human-generated environmental challenges in the 11 contiguous arid western United States - America's legendary, even mythical, frontier.

It now faces depletion of many of these resources, and potentially serious threats to its few "renewable" resources.

Purchase Here at Oxford Press



Dr. Howard G. Wilshire, Geologist; Dr. Jane E. Nielson, Geologist; Richard W. Hazlett, Geologist

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