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.


From the Hardcover edition.
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4.7
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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.
Jack Nicklaus once said of the incomparable Tiger Woods (echoing a comment made about Nicklaus by Bobby Jones), "He plays a game with which I am not familiar." David Owen, however, plays a game with which we are all very familiar: He plays in a weekly foursome, takes mulligans off the first tee, practices intermittently at best, marks his ball on the green with his lucky coin (until the luck wears out and another trinket is deemed to have better karma), wore a copper wristband because Seve Ballesteros for reasons beyond understanding said to, and struggles for consistency even though his swing is consistent -- and mediocre. He bets, he wins, he loses, he agonizes, he dreams.

Hit & Hope is as pure a definition of the game of golf as anyone has ever devised. Through the essays in this book, acclaimed columnist and author Owen takes the mundane aspects of the game and our approach to it and stands them on their head, turns them inside out, and lays our follies bare for all the world to see (all the world except ourselves, of course). He does for American golfers what P. G. Wodehouse did for our English cousins, or Jacques Tati did for humanity at large: He finds humor and nobility in our essential silliness, as expressed in our pursuit of a little white ball over a vast (but not vast enough to contain our slices) greensward.

Funny, candid, and thoughtful, Hit & Hope is an invaluable addition to any duffer's bag and the truest commentary on how -- and why -- the rest of us play golf.
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