cover image Downriver: Into the Future of Water in the West

Downriver: Into the Future of Water in the West

Heather Hansman. Univ. of Chicago, $25 (248p) ISBN 978-0-22643-267-0

In an energizing mix of travelogue and investigative journalism, Hansman, a raft guide and environmental reporter, provides a straightforward elucidation of the mind-bogglingly complicated subject of water rights in the American West. To educate herself, she embarked on a 730-mile journey, mostly solo, down the Green River, going in an inflatable packraft from Wyoming to Utah. “The largest... and least developed tributary of the Colorado River,” the Green provides Hansman’s model for studying the past, present, and future of regional water management, all in light of looming climate change that promises variability, extreme weather, and less water. While recounting her journey, Hansman presents the people and industries affected, as in an interview with the manager of an overstretched Wyoming water treatment plant, who ominously begins by telling her, “Welcome to the land of not green.” She also discusses how the shift away from agriculture to industry throughout the West can cause problems in a water-management system originally geared toward the former. Travel enthusiasts will appreciate Hansman’s descriptions of her rafting exploits, love of wildlife, and admiration for the power of water, while policy advocates will mull over her thought-provoking insight into the West’s water conundrum.[em] (Mar.) [/em]