Where the Water Goes Book Summary - Where the Water Goes Book explained in key points

Where the Water Goes summary

David Owen

Brief summary

Where the Water Goes by David Owen takes the reader on a journey to understand the complex water systems in the Western United States and the interconnectedness of cities, agriculture, and the environment.

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Table of Contents

    Where the Water Goes
    Summary of key ideas

    The Beginning: The Colorado River

    In Where the Water Goes, David Owen takes us on a fascinating journey along the Colorado River. The river, he explains, is a lifeline across the southwestern United States, traversing through seven states and two countries. The Colorado is responsible for supplying water to over 40 million people and irrigating approximately 5.5 million acres of land.

    Notably, the river demonstrates how human intervention has altered the natural course of this once wild waterway to cater to urban, agricultural, and environmental needs. Owen highlights the Hoover Dam, one of the most dramatic illustrations of our manipulation of the Colorado, turning a section of the river into a massive reservoir named Lake Mead.

    The Middle: Water Politics and Distribution

    As we continue downstream, Owen uncovers the complex system governing the distribution of the Colorado River's water. He details the historic Colorado River Compact of 1922: an agreement among seven states that apportioned the river's flow based on unfounded and overly optimistic estimates. With the realization that the river cannot support everyone's needs, conflicts between states, between urban and agricultural users, and between humans and the environment have become increasingly rife.

    The author also discusses the significant environmental impacts of our utilization of the river’s resources. Once a mighty watercourse, the Colorado River today rarely reaches the sea, with its final stretches becoming bone-dry. The river's delta, once a lush wetland, is now a desolate desert, and Lake Mead's water level steadily drops due to over-usage and climate change impacts.

    The End: The Future of Colorado River

    Approaching the concluding part of Where the Water Goes, Owen offers insightful perspectives on the future of the Colorado River. He suggests that the solution doesn’t lie in finding new sources of water, but in managing the demand. He urges for mindful water conservation, more effective agriculture irrigation methods, and sensible urban water management policies.

    Owen also stresses the importance of understanding the inherent value of rivers beyond their utilitarian functions. Rivers are ecological treasures that support diverse species of wildlife and contribute to the health of our planet. He underscores the need for us to respect the limits of our rivers and to strive to use their waters in a sustainable way.

    Concluding Thoughts

    In the final analysis, Where the Water Goes is more than just a journey along a river. It serves as a stark reminder of our complicated relationship with water and the consequences of treating this precious resource as an unlimited commodity. Owen leaves us with valuable insights into understanding and addressing the critical water challenges of our time.

    We are provoked to reconsider our water uses, policies, and practices. Even the choices we make daily—what food we eat, what products we buy, the energy we consume all involve water in some way. The narrative of the Colorado River urges us to be mindful of these choices, and in doing so, keep the river's story flowing.

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    What is Where the Water Goes about?

    Where the Water Goes (2017) by David Owen explores the complex water system in the Western United States, focusing on the Colorado River and its role in sustaining the region. Owen delves into the history, politics, and economics of water usage, offering a thought-provoking examination of this precious resource and the challenges it faces.

    Who should read Where the Water Goes?

    • Anyone curious about the complex and controversial topic of water usage and management
    • People seeking a deeper understanding of the environmental impact of human activities related to water
    • Readers interested in exploring the connections between water, politics, economics, and society

    About the Author

    David Owen is a renowned author who has extensively written on environmental topics and the impact of human activity on the world around us. He has written several books, including Where the Water Goes, in which he explores water use and management in the American West. Owen's comprehensive research and engaging storytelling shed light on the complex issues surrounding water resources, making his work highly acclaimed in the realm of environmental literature.

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