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UC Merced


Project Overview

UC MERCED'S COMMON READ PROGRAM is designed to enchance the campus's already strong sense of community, as well as to provide an introduction to academic life. This book, in whole or part, is required reading in general education and writing courses (Core 1, Writing 10) and recommended reading in other first-year classes. It is the subject of university-wide events, including a film series, faculty symposium and guest lectures. We encourage you to share the book with your family and friends, and seek opportunities to discuss the text outside of class. Most of all, we hope you enjoy reading the book and making it a part of scholarly inquiry at UC Merced.

The West Without Water examines current water crises in the context of western North American climate patterns from the Holocene era to the present. With a balanced cross-disciplinary perspective representative of today’s best nonfiction science writing, the authors tell the story of the American West’s “climate detectives,” punctuating their survey with tales of the region’s great droughts and floods and descriptions of challenges its people have faced over thousands of years. As the book’s dust jacket tells us, in begging questions about what constitutes “normal” climate in the West, Ingram and Malamud-Roam show that while we “may have temporarily buffered [ourselves] from harsh climatic swings by building dams and reservoirs and by making other changes to the natural landscape, [we] may be unprepared for the effects of climate changes that are occurring now and may continue for hundreds of years into the future. The authors argue that it is time to face the realities of the past and prepare for a future in which fresh water may be less reliably available.”

Lynn Ingram is Professor of Earth and Planetary Science at UC Berkeley. Her research assesses how climates and environments have changed over the past several thousand years, with the geochemical and sedimentologic analysis of aquatic sediments and archaeological deposits.

Frances Malamud-Roam is Associate Environmental Planner and Biologist at Caltrans and visiting scholar in the Department of Earth and Planetary Science at UC Berkeley. She has been a geographer for over twenty years, with an emphasis on records of environmental change.