Out West Books staff suggestions for your next good read
As part of The Colorado Sun’s literature section – SunLit – we feature staff picks at bookstores statewide. >> Click here for more SunLit
Jthe bookstore of his week: Out West Books, 533 Main Street, Grand Junction
Downstream: Towards the Western Water Future
By Heather Hansman
University of Chicago Press
>> Purchase: contact [email protected]
From the publisher: The fights for Green River water and what will happen to it in the future are long-standing, intractable and only getting worse as the West gets hotter and drier and more more people depend on the river each year. As a former raft guide and environmental journalist, Heather Hansman felt inspired to see from a different perspective – of the river itself. So she embarked on a journey, in a one-man inflatable raft, to paddle the river from source to confluence and see what the experience could teach her. “Dendriver” is the story of this journey, a foray into the present – and the future – of water in the West.
From Marya to Out West Books: As a former Dinosaur National Monument state park ranger and avid river racer, I’ve always loved the Green River. Before reading this book, I hadn’t given much thought to what happens to water. It was just, you know, always there for nice river rides.
Heather Hansman’s time as a rafting guide piqued her interest and her journey on the river, along 730 miles of water from Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. It’s so wonderfully written that you’ll forget you’re reading non-fiction. The more time she spent on the river, the more she realized that her prejudices about dams being bad and harmful to the environment were “naive and unsubtle”.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to water problems in the West, no one answer that serves people, the environment and the river. Hansman’s book straddles the water controversies and now, more than ever, our water and our rivers are at risk.
>> To buy: Contact [email protected]
Where the Water Goes: Life and Death Along the Colorado River
By David Owen
Random penguin house
April 10, 2018
>> To buy
From the editor: The Colorado River is a critical resource for a surprisingly large part of the United States, and every gallon that flows through it is owned or claimed by someone. David Owen traces all that water from the headwaters of Colorado to its parched terminus, once a verdant wetland but now a million-acre desert. It takes readers on a downstream adventure, along a maze of waterways, reservoirs, power plants, farms, fracking sites, ghost towns and RV parks, through the place near the US-Mexico border where the river dries up.
From Marya to Out West Books: David Owen’s account of what is happening to the water in our Colorado River is an eye-opener and a must-read for all of us in the West. Like Hansman, Owens follows a river, in this case the Colorado, from its source in a snowdrift in Rocky Mountain National Park to the place along the US-Mexico border where the river dries up.
Owens’ book, too, informs us that there is no easy way to solve our water problems. You can’t just turn off all the fountains in Las Vegas and let all the golf courses in Phoenix dry up (or could you?….hmmm). Many people on Front Range, especially with the influx of new residents, don’t realize where their water comes from. Much of it comes from the West Slope and the Colorado River.
Since I see people watering their lawns in the middle of the day in July, I think they can’t understand conservation and probably moved here from places where water was plentiful. “Where the Water Goes” weaves its way beautifully through crazy old water politics, aging dams, arguing farmers and ranchers, and urban corridors so the river can allow us to live in this dry environment. Water is more crucial than ever and this book is a great introductory read. It should be compulsory to read to become a resident.
>> To buy
As Precious as Blood: The Western Slope in Colorado’s Water Wars, 1900-1970
By Steven C. Schulte
University of Colorado Press
January 15, 2020
>> To buy
From the publisher: The diversion of water from Colorado’s West Slope to meet the needs of the rest of the state has been a contentious issue throughout Colorado’s history. Colorado’s water source is in the snow that accumulates west of the Continental Divide, but the ever-growing population of the Front Range continues to need more municipal water. In “As Precious as Blood,” Steven C. Schulte examines the water wars between these two regions and how the western part of the state fits into Colorado’s overall water story.
From Marya to Out West Books: Beginning with John Wesley Powell, who predicted that “all great values in this land must eventually be measured in acre-feet,” Schulte’s account of western water politics and politics is truly a story. detailed, yet very readable, on how we arrived at today’s water laws. Legislators such as Delphus Carpenter and Edward Taylor in the late 1800s and early 1900s, while resolving local water disputes, realized they might have to defend Colorado’s water from the federal encroachment.
As a result, Colorado’s water laws have influenced those of most western states. Schulte includes in detail the reasoning and justification that prompted lawmakers to build multimillion-dollar dams and rehabilitation projects that divert much-needed water to the Front Range and elsewhere. The dispute over water in the West is clearly set out in this book.
>> To buy