California’s record-setting drought, now in its fourth year, has helped train a lens on water issues nationwide. Our latest episode, “High and dry: A deep dive into the water crisis,” investigated the myriad challenges surrounding access to water in California, Texas, New York and Arizona.
In the episode, host Al Letson talked with Paolo Bacigalupi, author of “The Water Knife,” a book about a dystopian future short on water. We also spoke with Elie Elhadj, a Saudi banker turned water detective who put together a now seminal report – “Camels Don’t Fly, Deserts Don’t Bloom” – that exposed the secrets of Saudi Arabia’s mysteriously disappearing water.
That got us thinking: What’s your favorite writing and reporting about water? We’ve been using the hashtag #WaterReads on Twitter to solicit your suggestions. Here are our top picks so far:
The story: “Massive Central Texas pipeline project runs into turbulence,” from the Austin American-Statesman
The gist: A proposed 142-mile water pipeline encounters challenges at both ends – from environmentalists, who say it will draw down the water table; and from critics who say San Antonio hasn’t been sufficiently transparent about costs.
Key quote: The city and water utility “are trying to sell it as a done deal. That’s about to blow up into a big fight.” – Bill Bunch, director of the Austin-based Save Our Springs Alliance
— Asher Price (@asherprice) October 5, 2015
The story: “City’s Elite Gain Notice as Its Biggest Water Users,” from the Los Angeles Times
The gist: Near the end of California’s five-year drought in 1991, some San Diego residents were using between 3,000 to 10,000 gallons of water per day. The average household used 349.
Key quote: “When you’ve spent this much time and money on landscaping, you can’t just walk away from it. Besides … you could have five tract houses on a lot this size. So, in a way, we’re really using less water than could happen otherwise.” – Margaret Casey, owner of a 3-acre La Jolla home that used 6,515 gallons of water each day
— Reveal (@reveal) October 5, 2015
The story: “San Diego Floats a Surprising Question: Do We Really Need to Keep Saving Water?” from Voice of San Diego
The gist: In San Diego, local water agencies are asking the state government when residents can cease their conservation efforts, provided that “more normal” rainfall and snowfall return.
Key quote: “While the evidence strongly suggests changing climate conditions, that shouldn’t mean current statewide emergency conditions are the new normal by which policy is set.” – Mike Lee, spokesman for the San Diego County Water Authority
— vieille femme (@vieillefemme) October 7, 2015
The story: “Where Chinatown Began,” from Vogue
The gist: Since 2001, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has used billions of gallons of water – and spent more than a billion dollars – to control dust storms in the Owens Valley, where the Los Angeles Aqueduct drained much of the water. But as California’s drought worsens, locals say the city is trying to back out of its restoration agreement.
Key quote: “The city has accepted its responsibility. We took the water.” – Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti
— Josh Boissevain (@joshboissevain) October 20, 2015
The story: “Climate of doubt,” from Aeon Magazine
The gist: During California’s historic drought, desperate farmers are turning to “dowsers” – water-finding specialists who resort to unconventional means. But critics are quick to point out that there’s very little science involved.
Key quote: “Geologists get a black‑and‑white printout that goes hundreds of feet down and shows you the layers of rock and openings where water might be … But they can’t actually tell you if there’s water.” – Sharron Hope, dowser
— Lois Parshley (@LoisParshley) October 12, 2015
The story: “How a Town in California Is Trying to Survive Without Water,” from Time magazine
The gist: In a rural California region twice the size of Delaware, more than 5,000 citizens live without running water. It’s all thanks to the state’s drought.
Key quote: “There’s gonna come a time when people are stealing the water. Like, stealing. That’s why they put that lock on there.” – Sebastian Leon-Mejia, East Porterville resident
The story: “Israel’s revolutionary water management methods aren’t going to be enough to solve California’s devastating drought,” from Business Insider
The gist: Facing a seven-year drought, Israel staved off severe water scarcity issues by turning to desalination, an energy-intensive process in which ocean water is converted to fresh water. Could the same process succeed in California?
Key quote: “We were in a situation where we were very, very close to someone opening a tap somewhere in the country and no water would come out.” – Uri Schor, spokesman and education director for the Israeli Water Authority
— Christopher Woody (@chrstphr_w) October 20, 2015
We’ll continue to share great reporting and writing on water-related issues, so keep your picks coming. Share your favorite links on Twitter using the hashtag #WaterReads.