Mark Arax is from a family of Central Valley farmers--a journalist with deep ties to the land, who has watched as the battles over water have intensified even as the state lurches from drought to flood and back again. In The Dreamt Land he travels the state to explore the century-old water distribution system that is straining to keep up with California's relentless growth.
This is a heartfelt, beautifully written book about land and the people who work it, from the gold miners to the ranchers to the small farmers and today's big ag. Since the beginning, Californians have redirected rivers, drilled ever-deeper wells, and built higher dams, pushing the water supply past its limit. The Dreamt Land weaves memoir, history and deep reportage to confront the "Golden State" myth. It brings to life the enterprising figures who have made a fortune off the dirt, and used that wealth to increase their draw of water, as well as the workers left behind in the sun and the fatigued earth that keeps sinking. It's a story of politics and hubris in the arid West, but above all it's about the unceasing human will to make things happen and to reach beyond, even as the perils become more stark.