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Episode Info: Heather Hansman is a freelance writer and editor whose work explores the intersection of science, adventure, and culture. Her new book Downriver: Into the Future of Water in the West should be required reading for everyone who enjoys this podcast—it strikes the perfect balance of being entertaining and educational while examining all sides of the many issues facing the West's water supply. There are few topics in the West as divisive and emotional as water, and in her book, Heather provides a balanced overview of all the issues, delving deep into the substance of water-related arguments, without crossing over into the mind-numbing jargon that defines most water-related writing. The book follows Heather's 730-mile float down the length of the Green River, starting at the base of Wyoming's Wind River mountains and ending at the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers in Utah. Along the way, she meets with a wide range of western water stakeholders—ranchers, farmers, river guides, government employees, scientists, conservationists, and more—and digs into their sometimes competing interests fighting for their shares of water in the West. But the book is far from an academic examination of water law—Heather paddled two-thirds of the river completely alone, so there is also a compelling adventure narrative that runs throughout the book. To understand most of the challenges facing the West, you need to understand water, and this episode is a perfect place to start. Heather and I start our conversation by laying out some of the basics around water—terminology that you may have heard thrown around but never truly understood. She explains how water in the West is a property right separate from land, and she explains some of the common language used when discussing water. We chat about why the Colorado River is over-allocated, and how transbasin diversions have transformed much of the West into a very large and complex plumbing system. For the second half of the conversation, we discuss Heather's professional path as a writer, journalist, and former river guide. We talk about why she moved west, her first gig as a professional writer, and some of the tricks of the trade she uses to force herself to write. And as usual, we discuss favorite books, films, and favorite locations in the West. As a guy who spends much of my day working with water and water rights, I can't thank Heather enough for writing this book. I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did! More episode notes: TOPICS DISCUSSED: 4:15 - Events leading to writing the book 7:30 - Overview of the river trip 11:00 - Women pursuing adventure for adventure's sake 15:00 - Water as a private property right 16:30 - What does “over-allocation” mean? 19:20 - How do we overcome water shortages? 20:30 - Transbasin diversions and the West’s plumbing system 23:00 - Ins-and-outs of dams 26:00 - Importance o...
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