Cadillac Desert

Cadillac Desert Summary

"The definitive work on the West's water crisis." --Newsweek

The story of the American West is the story of a relentless quest for a precious resource: water. It is a tale of rivers diverted and dammed, of political corruption and intrigue, of billion-dollar battles over water rights, of ecological and economic disaster. In his landmark book, Cadillac Desert, Marc Reisner writes of the earliest settlers, lured by the promise of paradise, and of the ruthless tactics employed by Los Angeles politicians and business interests to ensure the city's growth. He documents the bitter rivalry between two government giants, the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in the competition to transform the West. Based on more than a decade of research, Cadillac Desert is a stunning expose and a dramatic, intriguing history of the creation of an Eden--an Eden that may only be a mirage.

This edition includes a new postscript by Lawrie Mott, a former staff scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, that updates Western water issues over the last two decades, including the long-term impact of climate change and how the region can prepare for the future.

Book Reviews

ken brischke

Cadillac Desert5 star

Great historic summary of the development of both the Bureau of Reclamation and Army Corps of Engineers and their ruthless competition to out compete each other to construct mostly worthless dams on the rivers of the US west whether or not they had any return on value. Interesting background about how little politicians know about anything, but will support projects in their districts no matter if right or wrong. It’s how this country has gotten into the mess it is in now. This book amplified how important it is that no matter how important we think constructing a major project, we need to look very carefully for all the negative issues to ensure the project does no harm.55


Incredible book - An amazing true story...5 star

An amazing story, a gifted writer and historian, a tale that all should know. This book will blow your mind and challenge your heart.55

Other Books by Marc Reisner & Lawrie Mott

Overtapped Oasis


Overtapped Oasis

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