Top positive review
David Owen succeeds in making very complex subject matter understandable to the average reader.
Reviewed in the United States on May 3, 2017
“Lake Havasu marks the beginning of the final and most complex stage of the transformation of the Colorado River from a natural stream into a dispersed and brachiating resource-distribution system. At the lake’s southern end, some water is diverted west, to Southern California, and some is diverted east to central Arizona, and some continues downstream to diversions further south. The lake was created in 1938 by the construction of the Parker Dam, a graceful concrete curve roughly 750 feet from end to end, topped by a blocky colonnade. The website of the Bureau of Reclamation describes Parker Dam as “one part of a system of storage and diversion structures built by Reclamation to control and regulate the once unruly Colorado River,” but it was really built to provide water for metropolitan Los Angeles, nearly 350 miles to the west.” – page 124
Being from the Northeast water shortages are happily one of the farthest things from my mind. Although I have heard about “water rights” in feature films and old TV westerns I knew precious little about the subject. Furthermore, I have always been fascinated about how the American Southwest was ultimately settled and the major role that water played in determining winners and losers. Who were the visionaries who saw the enormous potential of this once arid region and what role did politics play in determining how events unfolded? What obstacles had to be overcome? And just how does all of that water get to Southern California? As you might imagine this an extremely broad and complicated topic that presents a multiplicity of conflicting issues. David Owen is a staff writer for the New Yorker and the author of more than a dozen books. He has obviously done his due diligence and presents his findings in the thoughtful and informative new book “Where the Water Goes: Life and Death Along the Colorado River”. You will discover that the issues depicted here are ongoing and ever-changing. I simply could not put this one down.
It is certainly difficult for the average person to grasp the enormity of these issues without having at least a passing knowledge of the key components of the massive water diversion system that brings all of this water to central Arizona and southern California. In “Where the Water Goes” you will get a crash course in important places like Hoover Dam, Lake Havasu, Parker Dam, the Colorado River Aqueduct, Lake Powell, Imperial Dam, the Salton Sea and the Central Arizona Project and the role that each plays in getting the mission accomplished. You will also be introduced to terminology that will enhance your understanding of the issues involved. And in the final chapter called “What Is to Be Done?” David Owen offers some possible options to ease troublesome water scarcity both in the short run and in the long term.
I found “Where the Water Goes: Life and Death Along the Colorado River” to be a real eye-opener that really enhanced my knowledge of these most important issues. At several points along the way I enhanced my reading by viewing some YouTube videos. I would especially recommend a documentary made in the 1930’s called “Colorado River Aqueduct” which really helped me to visualize what was actually going on. “Where the Water Goes” would be an excellent choice for history buffs, those concerned about the environment and general readers alike. Very highly recommended!