A long look at water

Next year’s Book in Common focuses on an all-important topic

We’re excited that the Book in Common next academic year, as announced this week by the presidents of Butte College and Chico State, will be Robert Glennon’s Unquenchable, a wide-ranging and highly readable look at the liquid that means as much to life on earth as air does.

As the press release announcing the selection notes, “water is a particularly vexing issue in California and in the North State in particular. In many ways, the wise management of water is the most important issue facing communities across the North State.”

Vexing is right. California has the most complex water system in the world, and its physical intricacy is exceeded only by the legal convolution of the various rules, regulations and historic water rights surrounding it, not to mention the political complexity created by the competing interests—farmers, city dwellers, environmentalists—who fight over it.

One thing we know for sure: There isn’t enough water to meet our needs, much less our desires. As a comprehensive new study of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta suggests, the operant watchword for state water supplies is “scarcity.”

According to The Sacramento Bee, the comprehensive study, by the National Research Council, concludes that “there is no easy fix, only hard choices, if California wants to restore fish species and still satisfy its water demands.”

Only by working together will the people of California be able to solve their water woes. Next year’s Book in Common will be helpful in enabling us as a community to develop greater accord on the best path forward. We urge our readers to read the book and participate in the workshops and other events.