Desert alluvial fansMarc Reisner, Cadillac Desert,     Introduction


Desert, semi desert, call it what you will.



The point is that despite heroic efforts and many billions of dollars, all we have managed to do in the arid West is turn a Missouri-size section green–and that conversion has been wrought mainly with nonrenewable groundwater.”

p. 5.




quadruple the amount of desert that has been civilized and farmed, and now the same people say that the future of a hungry world depends on it, even if it means importing water from as far away as Alaska.”

p. 5.

“The holiness of the blooming desert.”


$300.00  / acre foot of water is the cost to desalinate

    $3.50 / acre foot is what upstream farmers pay for the water


Salinity increased due to evaporation exceeding precipitation in a desert


San Joaquin valley “the most productive farming region in the entire world.”


Is now threatened by increasing salinity or an alkali condition of the soil, because evaporation of water exceeds rainfall and leaves accumulated salts behind in the soil; now unfit for farming.


High plains aquifer problem.


Ogallala aquifer


“There, the pumping of groundwater is regulated. But the states have all decided to regulate their groundwater out of existence.”


There may be 50 years of groundwater left in seven states.

p. 10 .

“In the West, lack of water is the central fact of existence, and a whole culture and set of values have grown up around it.”

 p. 12.


“In the west it is said, water flows uphill toward money.”

p. 12.


“But when you consider our balance-of-payments deficits, you have to remember that we send $100 billion out of this country each year just to pay for imported oil. The main thing we export is food. The Ogallala region produces a very large share of our agricultural exports.”

p. 13

50,000 major dams in the USA.


logic and reason have never figured prominently in the scheme of things.”

p. 14



“The annual precipitation there is seven inches, an amount that Florida and Louisiana and Virginia have received in a day (or coastal California this last month[1]). But even though gambling and prostitution are legal around Reno, water metering, out of principle, was for a long time against the law.”

p. 14.



Sixty years of El Nino rainfall patterns in Southern California.

book Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert, 1986.

[1] According to NWS data, Downtown Los Angeles (USC) received 4.58 inches of rain from the series of storms, bringing its water year total to 9.71 inches, which is 3.57 inches above normal for the date.