The West without Water (Paperback)

What Past Floods, Droughts, and Other Climatic Clues Tell Us about Tomorrow

By B. Lynn Ingram, Frances Malamud-Roam

University of California Press, 9780520286009, 280pp.

Publication Date: February 12, 2015

Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (8/1/2013)

List Price: 24.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


The West without Water documents the tumultuous climate of the American West over twenty millennia, with tales of past droughts and deluges and predictions about the impacts of future climate change on water resources. Looking at the region’s current water crisis from the perspective of its climate history, the authors ask the central question of what is “normal” climate for the West, and whether the relatively benign climate of the past century will continue into the future.

The West without Water merges climate and paleoclimate research from a wide variety of sources as it introduces readers to key discoveries in cracking the secrets of the region’s climatic past. It demonstrates that extended droughts and catastrophic floods have plagued the West with regularity over the past two millennia and recounts the most disastrous flood in the history of California and the West, which occurred in 1861–62. The authors show that, while the West may have temporarily buffered itself from such harsh climatic swings by creating artificial environments and human landscapes, our modern civilization may be ill-prepared for the future climate changes that are predicted to beset the region. They warn that it is time to face the realities of the past and prepare for a future in which fresh water may be less reliable.

About the Author

B. Lynn Ingram is Professor of Geography and Earth and Planetary Science at the University of California, Berkeley. Frances Malamud-Roam is an Associate Environmental Planner and Biologist at Caltrans, and visiting scholar in the Department of Earth and Planetary Science at the University of California, Berkeley.

Praise For The West without Water: What Past Floods, Droughts, and Other Climatic Clues Tell Us about Tomorrow

"A masterful portrait of how water shaped the American West. . . . Part detective story, part call to action, this book offers vital advice on how to fix the West's looming water crisis."

— Lee Billings

"Reads with the surprising velocity of a murder mystery and the intrigue of a rigorous, detective investigation."

— Lou Fancher

"Could California run dry? As the West endures its driest year on record, having enough freshwater isn't a given—nor has it ever been, despite society's efforts to conserve and control it. Ingram and Malamud-Roam share how climate change has historically parched the landscape of the West and will lead to extreme water crises in the not-so-far future. Their foresight makes a compelling case for reducing our water footprint."

— Stanford Magazine

"Given California's importance in our economy and culture and the intensity with which climate vagaries affect that state, 'The West without Water' is an important and timely addition to your library whether you live in California or not."

— Anne Jefferson

"An interdisciplinary, deeply researched, and well-written book."

— Water and Power

"This authoritative yet accessible overview of the accumulating paleo evidence concerning climate variability in the Western United States, especially over the past millennium or so, was published as California was undergoing a historic drought, so The West Without Water was timely, and continues to be... comprehensive."

— AAG Review of Books