The most comprehensive–and comprehensible–book on contemporary water issues, A Thirsty Land The Making of an American Water Crisis delves deep into the challenges faced not just by Texas but by the nation as a whole, as we struggle to find a way to balance the changing forces of nature with our own ever-expanding needs. Part history, part science, part adventure story, and part travelogue, this book puts a human face on the struggle to master that most precious and capricious of resources, water. Seamus McGraw goes to the taproots, talking to farmers, ranchers, businesspeople, and citizen activists, as well as to politicians and government employees. Their stories provide chilling evidence that Texas–and indeed the nation–is not ready for the next devastating drought, the next catastrophic flood. Ultimately, however, A Thirsty Land delivers hope. This deep dive into one of the most vexing challenges facing Texas and the nation offers glimpses of the way forward in the untapped opportunities that water also presents.
Seamus McGraw is the author of several books, including The End of Country: Dispatches from the Frack Zone, and Betting the Farm on a Drought: Stories from the Front Line of Climate Change. His latest book, A Thirsty Land: The Making of An American Water Crisis, is out now. Seamus has been a regular contributor to many publications, including the New York Times, Huffington Post, Playboy, Popular Mechanics, Reader’s Digest, and Radar, among others. He has received the Freedom of Information Award from the Associated Press Managing Editors, the Golden Quill Award, as well as honors from the Casey Foundation and the Society of Professional Journalists.
As a changing climate threatens the whole country with deeper droughts and more furious floods that put ever more people and property at risk, Texas has become a bellwether state for water debates. Will there be enough water for everyone? Is there the will to take the steps necessary to defend ourselves against the sea? Is it in the nature of Americans to adapt to nature in flux?
Testing the Waters in Texas– “Whoever figures out how to save Texas might just save the rest of us in the process.”– BostonReview
In A Thirsty Land The Making of an American Water Crisis”, Texas, writes journalist McGraw (Betting the Farm on a Drought: Stories from the Front Lines of Climate Change, 2015, etc.), sits at the same latitude as the Sahara and has much of that desert region’s aridity—so much so that in any given year, “it is more likely that a significant drought will occur somewhere than it is that the average amount of rain will fall.” If that formulation makes your head hurt, imagine how a Texas farmer or rancher feels, especially given the state’s right-of-capture water law, which essentially says you can extract all the water that sits underneath the land you own, even if that action dries up your neighbor’s well. In one instance, a farmer in arid West Texas is growing rice, knowing that it’s a wetlands crop better suited to the Gulf Coast, to make a point that the system of water rights is irrevocably broken. McGraw traveled the length and breadth of the Lone Star State talking with people whose livelihoods are directly contingent on the flow of water, a problem that will soon confront Americans everywhere given the trends of climate change. In that sense, as so often, Texas is a bellwether. Houston, as he observes, has fine drinking water, but that came about because the formerly poorly used Trinity River, which flows a couple of hundred miles from Dallas southward, was heavily regulated under the terms of a water regime that has been in place since the 1950s and reinforced under the terms of the U.S. Clean Water Act. In our current anti-regulatory climate, the water may get dirtier in the coming years. It’s a wait-and-see thing, in other words, but in the meantime, McGraw’s fine book serves as a useful guide. —Kirkus Reviews