by Ann Willis
Editor’s note: The survey link is now closed. Thank you to all who participated! If you have feedback, feel free to comment directly on this post. A. Willis 9/22/2016
As the water year comes to an end, we are curious about what topics California Waterblog readers would like to see addressed. Were there water issues you wish we’d written more (or less) about? Take our 5-minute survey to help us understand how we might improve the California Waterblog.
In the meantime, here are some recommended reads for everyone from water wonks to people who simply love the West.
California Rivers and Streams by Jeffrey Mount – Perfect for water wonks who want to improve their understanding of basic stream processes with a book that doesn’t require an advanced degree to engage them. Mount, a senior fellow at the PPIC Water Policy Center, emeritus professor at UC Davis in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and founding director of the Center for Watershed Sciences, writes a seminal book that helps readers make the connection between physical and biological stream processes and how land use practices affect them.
Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner – A must-read for those looking to put current water policy into context of the development of the West. Arguably the quintessential book on the American West and its transformation through the “reclamation” of its water. The formidable personalities of William Mulholland and Floyd Dominy, who dominated this era of development, will leave an impression long after the last page of this book. Reading this book will transform any experience throughout California, including Owen’s Valley to Yosemite and its submerged sister, Hetch Hetchy, and give fuller insights to its current water conflicts.
The Secret Knowledge of Water by Craig Childs – “There are two ways to die in the desert: thirst and drowning.” Adventurers at heart and Ecogeomorphology alums will appreciate the inspiration of Childs’ explorations to find water in its natural, elusive desert habitat and its power for extremes. People who love the extreme remoteness of the West will also appreciate Childs’ description of its landscapes. Perhaps his most haunting passages are his descriptions of the midnight shuffle of feet as border crossers make the dangerous trek north, guided by water more than general direction.
All the Wild That Remains by David Gessner – This parallel biography of Edward Abbey and Wallace Stegner is recommended for those who are water wonks by day, but moonlight as readers, writers, and people whose souls are nourished by the landscape and human experience of the West. Gessner considers the contrasting philosophies of each iconic figure in the context of the current drought, as well as provides insightful histories of how each man developed into his ultimate archetypal personality. Also recommended, of course, is anything by these two authors, who grappled with the soul of the West through their writing. Desert Solitaire by Abbey and Angle of Repose by Stegner are great places to start for those who are unfamiliar with the iconic place each author holds in Western literature.
Ann Willis is a staff research associate at the Center for Watershed Sciences and editor of the California WaterBlog. Her conversion from an East Coast elitist to Western water scientist began with Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose.