“Water is for Fighting Over” – on the shelves in September

Water is For Fighting Over: and other Myths about Water In the West, by John Fleck, Island Press, September 2016

Water is for Fighting Over: and other Myths about Water In the West, by John Fleck, Island Press, September 2016

My life’s kind of a blur right now, but the official Island Press announcement of my book, along with the unveiling of its cover, is a thing that has just happened, so let me pause and catch my breath.

People familiar with my frequent ranting about how Mark Twain never said the thing about whiskey and water (see here, here, and here) may be puzzled over the title. Here’s the essence of the message, as cribbed from the Island Press book summary:

When we think of water in the West, we think of conflict and crisis. In recent years, newspaper headlines have screamed, “Scarce water and the death of California farms,” “The Dust Bowl returns,” “A ‘megadrought’ will grip U.S. in the coming decades.” Yet similar stories have been appearing for decades and the taps continue to flow. John Fleck argues that the talk of impending doom is not only untrue, but dangerous. When people get scared, they fight for the last drop of water; but when they actually have less, they use less.

Having covered environmental issues in the West for a quarter century, Fleck would be the last writer to discount the serious problems posed by a dwindling Colorado River. But in that time, Fleck has also seen people in the Colorado River Basin come together, conserve, and share the water that is available. Western communities, whether farmers and city-dwellers or US environmentalists and Mexican water managers, have a promising record of cooperation, a record often obscured by the crisis narrative.

In this fresh take on western water, Fleck brings to light the true history of collaboration and examines the bonds currently being forged to solve the Basin’s most dire threats. Rather than perpetuate the myth “Whiskey’s for drinkin’, water’s for fightin’ over,” Fleck urges readers to embrace a new, more optimistic narrative—a future where the Colorado continues to flow.

As I’ve written before, I’m dyin’ to share it with y’all.


  1. John, just reading this blog post now, and I thought you would appreciate the title of a presentation I gave a few years back:

    “Whiskey is for drinking… and water is for growing an enormous (although unknown exactly) amount of cattle feed. And for watering blue grass lawns. And for moving long distances in huge pipelines. And, occasionally, explicitly for the benefit of riparian ecosystems. But only if those other things are satisfied first.”

    It’s relatively long for a title, but helps move away from the fighting narrative.

    Looking forward to your book!

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