Book Review: The Water Knife, Paolo Bacigalupi, 2015

The following book review is provided by Laura Spann, with the SWCD:

What would happen if the American Southwest experienced a prolonged drought in the very near future? How would the metropolitan water managers of Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles respond? What does compact curtailment look like in a world where water is not just power but survival? From our distant worries, Paolo Bacigalupi extrapolates an apocalyptic future in which the Southern Nevada Water Authority “water witch” Catherine Case will do anything--including sending hitmen and air attacks on water treatment plants--to ensure no junior users get a drop more than their water rights dictate. Blue Mesa Dam is bombed by Lower Basin water magnates, annihilating the Aspinall Unit, flooding Delta, and sending the State of Colorado’s allocation downstream. Nothing is off limits.

 The plot in short: a water lawyer in Phoenix has found the trump card to save the city but decides instead to shop it around to the highest bidders in California and elsewhere. Several hitmen, or “water knives,” catch wind of his plan, the resulting vortex of chaos pulls in a Texas refugee, a journalist, and a food vendor. If you are interested in the fate of the Colorado River and those who depend on it, this book will send chills down your spine. Bacigalupi has done enough homework on water issues to give western policymakers a cold splash in the face, and make us all think twice about taking clean drinking water for granted in the American Southwest. This book is available through the WIP lending library, as are a plethora of other water-related books.