Book Reviews

Dan Beard … has an axe to grind.  He thinks our policy is deeply misguided, and he offers some specific ideas about how to fix it.  You may not agree with everything he says, but you will almost certainly come away with a deeper understanding of why water policy needs more attention, just in time for us to confront the serious challenges that climate change is posing for how we manage water.  Think of it as a compact (under 150 pages) supplement to and update of Marc Reisner’s epic Cadillac Desert, one that focuses laser-like on the real politics of western water.  Written in an accessible style, without jargon, it’s fun to read, at least when your blood is not boiling.   John D. Leshy, Harry D. Sunderland Professor of Law, University of California Hastings College of the Law, San Francisco

“I highly recommend Deadbeat Dams.  As former Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, Dan Beard is an authoritative voice who has penned a seminal book in America’s river restoration movement that all environmentalists should read.  After reading Deadbeat Dams, join me in grabbing a sledge hammer, going down to your neighborhood river, and turning this book’s message into action!”   Gary Wockner, Executive Director, Save The Poudre and Save The Colorado

Deadbeat Dams is a courageous book and much needed caveat published just when the dam builders are starting their latent cataclysmic assault on the rivers of the American West.  As a former Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation appointed by President Clinton, Dan Beard’s voice and leadership are needed more than ever to protect and restore rivers, and to end the dam builder schemes to engineer America’s living rivers into concrete plumbing systems.  Dams kill rivers – Deadbeat Dams restores rivers and our hope for a sustainable future”   Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Waterkeeper Alliance

“A rare and captivating inside view of a giant federal water project agency by its former commissioner.  Beard’s convincing case should attract the support of many conservatives and liberals who want to get rid of government waste.  Beard punctures the bubble of California water barons as he shows how they perpetually “farm” governments for subsidies.  With growing concern about water supplies, Beard shows ways to scrap wasteful practices of the past and move to a new approaches.  This book has the potential to change the global approach to water: Beard shows the cost-effectiveness and environmental benefits of new approaches to water problems, especially the astonishing results achieved in the Western United States when these better approaches have been implemented.”   Dr. Brent Blackwelder, President Emeritus, Friends of the Earth

“Unless you are a member of what Dan Beard so aptly calls the Water Nobility, the more you learn about Western water policy, the madder you’ll get.  Deadbeat Dams makes it easy to learn enough not just to get mad, but start asking for change.  It’s a smart and easy read that lays out the weird combination of inertia, politics, self-interest, and hypocrisy that has allowed Western water policy to waste billions of taxpayer dollars, squander water resources, and simply defy common sense for decades.  Better yet, it gives a roadmap for fixing the problems!”   Ryan Alexander, President, Taxpayers for Common Sense

“When a former Commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation calls for abolishing the agency and tearing down one of its most iconic dams, you realize this is not just another book about water in the West.  With a passion seldom matched in nonfiction writing, Dan Beard uses his decades of experience at the Interior Department and on Capitol Hill to forge a withering critique of the dam-building era of American history.  An advocate for the environment and for federal taxpayers, Beard calls for an independent commission to recommend which water projects get funding.  His clear-eyed and firm-resolve message deserves careful consideration.”   Robert Glennon, author of Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What To Do About It.

“In Deadbeat Dams, Beard delivers a perfect primer on where we are in Water in the West, the Bureau of Reclamation, and how the region’s ‘water nobility’ continues to — mostly under the radar — bamboozle the American public for billions in subsidies, while squandering the best of our nation’s natural heritage. Sadly, Congress and most President’s have been nothing if not complicit in this ongoing raid.”
“This book should be a ‘must-read’ for any environmentalist, taxpayer advocate or just plain citizen who cares about the future of the nation’s natural resources. It’s told much through relating his personal experiences with the many players involved. Having “been there” in the heart of the political beast for much of his career, former Commissioner Beard just lays it out that corruption in the western water “system” is as deep as the Western canyons it drowns. Rooting the corruption out will only come through basic change and the book lays out the notions and principles needed to guide reforms into the 21st Century.”  David R. Conrad, long-time water activist with the National Wildlife Federation
“Beard is an expert whose words should be heeded. In just a hundred and forty insightful pages, Beard argues for a radical, logical rethinking of water resources issues and policies. That’s not an oxy­moron. Beard’s ideas may sound radical, but they are absolutely logical—common sense, twenty-​​first century solu­tions to America’s water problems…Needless to say, this Edward Abbey enthu­siast happily embraces what Daniel Beard has written. I do so, however, by insisting that any rea­sonable tax­payer or any American citizen cog­nizant of water resource issues will find Deadbeat Dams provocative and sound. Beard wisely bal­ances the needs of agri­culture against the needs of urban dwellers, and sug­gests many con­ser­vation mea­sures that might be taken by both farmers and city folk. In sum, Deadbeat Dams is a book of common sense, full of ideas that every one of us ought to con­sider.” Ann Ronald, Blog “Bookin With Sunny.”