Where the Water Goes: Life and Death Along the Colorado River

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An eye-opening account of where our water comes from and where it all goes.

The Colorado River is an essential resource for a surprisingly large part of the United States, and every gallon that flows down it is owned or claimed by someone. David Owen traces all that water from the Colorado’s headwaters to its parched terminus, once a verdant wetland but now a million-acre desert. He takes readers on an adventure downriver, along a labyrinth of waterways, reservoirs, power plants, farms, fracking sites, ghost towns, and RV parks, to the spot near the U.S.–Mexico border where the river runs dry. 

Water problems in the western United States can seem tantalizingly easy to solve: just turn off the fountains at the Bellagio, stop selling hay to China, ban golf, cut down the almond trees, and kill all the lawyers. But a closer look reveals a vast man-made ecosystem that is far more complex and more interesting than the headlines let on.

The story Owen tells in Where the Water Goes is crucial to our future: how a patchwork of engineering marvels, byzantine legal agreements, aging infrastructure, and neighborly cooperation enables life to flourish in the desert —and the disastrous consequences we face when any part of this tenuous system fails.

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About the author

David Owen is a staff writer for The New Yorker and the author more than a dozen books. He lives in northwest Connecticut with his wife, the writer Ann Hodgman.


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Additional Information

Publisher
Penguin
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Published on
Apr 11, 2017
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9780698189904
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / Earth Sciences / Hydrology
Technology & Engineering / Environmental / Water Supply
Travel / United States / West / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Look out for David Owen's next book, Where the Water Goes.

A challenging, controversial, and highly readable look at our lives, our world, and our future.

Most Americans think of crowded cities as ecological nightmares, as wastelands of concrete and garbage and diesel fumes and traffic jams. Yet residents of compact urban centers, Owen shows, individually consume less oil, electricity, and water than other Americans. They live in smaller spaces, discard less trash, and, most important of all, spend far less time in automobiles. Residents of Manhattan—the most densely populated place in North America—rank first in public-transit use and last in percapita greenhouse-gas production, and they consume gasoline at a rate that the country as a whole hasn’t matched since the mid-1920s, when the most widely owned car in the United States was the Ford Model T. They are also among the only people in the United States for whom walking is still an important means of daily transportation.

These achievements are not accidents. Spreading people thinly across the countryside may make them feel green, but it doesn’t reduce the damage they do to the environment. In fact, it increases the damage, while also making the problems they cause harder to see and to address. Owen contends that the environmental problem we face, at the current stage of our assault on the world’s nonrenewable resources, is not how to make teeming cities more like the pristine countryside. The problem is how to make other settled places more like Manhattan, whose residents presently come closer than any other Americans to meeting environmental goals that all of us, eventually, will have to come to terms with.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
Look out for David Owen's next book, Where the Water Goes.

The Conundrum is a mind-changing manifesto about the environment, efficiency and the real path to sustainability.

Hybrid cars, fast trains, compact florescent light bulbs, solar panels, carbon offsets: Everything you've been told about living green is wrong. The quest for a breakthrough battery or a 100 mpg car are dangerous fantasies. We are consumers, and we like to consume green and efficiently. But David Owen argues that our best intentions are still at cross purposes to our true goal - living sustainably and caring for our environment and the future of the planet. Efficiency, once considered the holy grail of our environmental problems, turns out to be part of the problem. Efforts to improve efficiency and increase sustainable development only exacerbate the problems they are meant to solve, more than negating the environmental gains. We have little trouble turning increases in efficiency into increases in consumption.

David Owen's The Conundrum is an elegant nonfiction narrative filled with fascinating information and anecdotes takes you through the history of energy and the quest for efficiency. This is a book about the environment that will change how you look at the world. We should not be waiting for some geniuses to invent our way out of the energy and economic crisis we're in. We already have the technology and knowledge we need to live sustainably. But will we do it?

That is the conundrum.




From the Trade Paperback edition.
Look out for David Owen's next book, Where the Water Goes.

A challenging, controversial, and highly readable look at our lives, our world, and our future.

Most Americans think of crowded cities as ecological nightmares, as wastelands of concrete and garbage and diesel fumes and traffic jams. Yet residents of compact urban centers, Owen shows, individually consume less oil, electricity, and water than other Americans. They live in smaller spaces, discard less trash, and, most important of all, spend far less time in automobiles. Residents of Manhattan—the most densely populated place in North America—rank first in public-transit use and last in percapita greenhouse-gas production, and they consume gasoline at a rate that the country as a whole hasn’t matched since the mid-1920s, when the most widely owned car in the United States was the Ford Model T. They are also among the only people in the United States for whom walking is still an important means of daily transportation.

These achievements are not accidents. Spreading people thinly across the countryside may make them feel green, but it doesn’t reduce the damage they do to the environment. In fact, it increases the damage, while also making the problems they cause harder to see and to address. Owen contends that the environmental problem we face, at the current stage of our assault on the world’s nonrenewable resources, is not how to make teeming cities more like the pristine countryside. The problem is how to make other settled places more like Manhattan, whose residents presently come closer than any other Americans to meeting environmental goals that all of us, eventually, will have to come to terms with.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
Look out for David Owen's next book, Where the Water Goes.

The Conundrum is a mind-changing manifesto about the environment, efficiency and the real path to sustainability.

Hybrid cars, fast trains, compact florescent light bulbs, solar panels, carbon offsets: Everything you've been told about living green is wrong. The quest for a breakthrough battery or a 100 mpg car are dangerous fantasies. We are consumers, and we like to consume green and efficiently. But David Owen argues that our best intentions are still at cross purposes to our true goal - living sustainably and caring for our environment and the future of the planet. Efficiency, once considered the holy grail of our environmental problems, turns out to be part of the problem. Efforts to improve efficiency and increase sustainable development only exacerbate the problems they are meant to solve, more than negating the environmental gains. We have little trouble turning increases in efficiency into increases in consumption.

David Owen's The Conundrum is an elegant nonfiction narrative filled with fascinating information and anecdotes takes you through the history of energy and the quest for efficiency. This is a book about the environment that will change how you look at the world. We should not be waiting for some geniuses to invent our way out of the energy and economic crisis we're in. We already have the technology and knowledge we need to live sustainably. But will we do it?

That is the conundrum.




From the Trade Paperback edition.
Most parents do more harm than good when they try to teach their children about money. They make saving seem like a punishment, and force their children to view reckless spending as their only rational choice. To most kids, a savings account is just a black hole that swallows birthday checks.
David Owen, a New Yorker staff writer and the father of two children, has devised a revolutionary new way to teach kids about money. In The First National Bank of Dad, he explains how he helped his own son and daughter become eager savers and rational spenders. He started by setting up a bank of his own at home and offering his young children an attractively high rate of return on any amount they chose to save. "If you hang on to some of your wealth instead of spending it immediately," he told them, "in a little while, you'll be able to double or even triple your allowance." A few years later, he started his own stock market and money-market fund for them.
Most children already have a pretty good idea of how money works, Owen believes; that's why they are seldom interested in punitive savings schemes mandated by their parents. The first step in making children financially responsible, he writes, is to take advantage of human nature rather than ignoring it or futilely trying to change it.
"My children are often quite irresponsible with my money, and why shouldn't they be?" he writes. "But they are extremely careful with their own." The First National Bank of Dad also explains how to give children real experience with all kinds of investments, how to foster their charitable instincts, how to make them more helpful around the house, how to set their allowances, and how to help them acquire a sense of value that goes far beyond money. He also describes at length what he feels is the best investment any parent can make for a child -- an idea that will surprise most readers.
Earl Woods, the father of young Eldrick "Tiger" Woods, was widely ridiculed in 1996 when, in an article anointing his son as Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year, he likened Tiger's potential impact to that of a messiah. This unseemly proclamation appeared to embody all the worst elements of the dreaded sports-parent who seeks financial windfall and personal validation by pushing his child to excel on the diamond, the gridiron, the court, or the fairways. But in light of all we know now about Tiger Woods, David Owen asks in The Chosen One, who is to say that it wasn't Tiger's transcendent greatness all along that induced his father to guide him, rather than the father pushing the son?
Not since the dawn of competitive tournament golf has anyone distanced himself from the rest of the world the way Tiger has. He is the best there is at nearly every aspect of the game: the longest driver, the strongest iron player, the most creative around the greens, and so sharp a clutch putter that when he putts well the tournament is over, and when he putts badly he often wins anyway. He is a breakthrough athlete in a sport remarkably resistant to them; in every tournament, Tiger has to beat a hundred-plus competitors, any of whom can take away a title with a four-day hot streak. When Michael Jordan won all his back-to-back championships, each night he only had to beat one team.
Tiger is also a breakthrough athlete as one of the first true multicultural icons. There are African-American, Asian, Native American, and Caucasian elements to his roots; he carries with him parts of so many ethnicities that he not only shatters stereotypes but renders the whole notion of racial classification irrelevant. It is ironic that such an athlete would emerge in golf, America's most tradition-bound and racially insensitive sport.
In The Chosen One, gifted essayist David Owen ponders the social, economic, and athletic implications of this amazing young man. We are only beginning to see all the ways that Tiger Woods might reshape the world. Owen's thoughtful, incisive, elegant, and provocative work examines this phenomenon unlike any the fields of play have ever seen, in a book that will stand alongside John McPhee's A Sense of Where You Are (about Princeton forward Bill Bradley) among the classic works of sports philosophy.
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