Back to School Reading List

Oct 09, 2019

With the new school year now in full swing, there’s a great opportunity to expand our knowledge of current events and the environment around us—and therefore, the perfect chance to brush up on water in the Colorado River basin. In honor of this season of learning, here is a list of titles to broaden your understanding of the history of water in the West, the key issues and decisions we face today, and the steps we can take to address increasingly arid conditions. 

Fall colors on the Colorado River


Science be Dammed by Erik Kuhn & John Fleck 

“A reminder of the high stakes in the management—and perils in the mismanagement—of water in the western United States.”

This book dives into the fascinating history of the Colorado River, unearthing little-known studies that warned as  early as 1920 of the problems that could result from overuse. Kuhn and Fleck scrutinize the Colorado River Compact and reminds us of the need for water management choices to be informed by science.

This is just the latest title from John Fleck on conflict over water in the West. Revisit our interview with the author about his 2016 book Water Is for Fighting Over.

Down River by Heather Hansman 

“The Green River, the most significant tributary of the Colorado River, (…)Stopped up by dams, slaked off by irrigation, and dried up by cities, the Green is crucial, overused, and at risk, now more than ever.”

With each passing year, the Colorado River climate continues to increase in aridity, leaving the area in dry conditions. Hansman, a former rafting guide and environmental reporter, unwraps the truth behind the changing climate conditions and tense negotiations that will determine the future of water in the West. This is an important and compelling read that explores the human connection to the water sources that give us life.


Holy Water by Joan Didion

We often think of water as inherently available and unlimited, but with climate change’s increased effect on our key water sources, we must learn to manage how much water we use and find ways to conserve this finite resource. Written over 40 years ago, Holy Water takes us on water’s journey from rivers to our taps. That journey may have changed in the years since Holy Water was written, but the essay includes valuable observations on water management that remain true today.



What does a neo-noir Jack Nicholson movie have to do with water management? Turns out, a lot! In fact, writers still reference this classic story of high demand and dry conditions when discussing the recent challenges of allocating water among competing stakeholders in the West. Reflecting the continued importance of hydrating a large population and maintaining our agricultural industry, this film provides a more dystopian perspective on what can happen when our water sources are threatened.

Historically left out, Colorado River tribes call for more sway in Western water talks

Nov 12, 2019 -
Earlier this year, Arizona -- one of seven southwestern states that rely on the Colorado River -- was in the midst of a heated discussion about water. “It’s time to...