Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains (Hardcover)

Staff Pick Badge
Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains By Lucas Bessire Cover Image
Usually Ships in 1-5 Days

Staff Reviews

A deep look into the complex problem of aquifer depletion in the Plains. A native of southwest Kansas, and an anthropologist by training, Bessire seeks to unravel why depletion continues despite many stakeholders actively working toward different outcomes.  He puts depletion in its historical context finding to it be the latest in a series of depletions- colonization, genocide, over hunting.  He also learns that despite many farmers seeking solutions, current economic structures reinforce the practice of depletion. Part memoir, he uses his grandmother’s research as a jumping off point; and despite a previously strained relationship, he leverages his father’s rights as a landowner to gain access to various water governing bodies and grows closer to him in the process.  At 180 pages this is a short but powerful book, I highly recommend it.

— Amy


Finalist for the National Book Award
An intimate reckoning with aquifer depletion in America's heartland

The Ogallala aquifer has nourished life on the American Great Plains for millennia. But less than a century of unsustainable irrigation farming has taxed much of the aquifer beyond repair. The imminent depletion of the Ogallala and other aquifers around the world is a defining planetary crisis of our times. Running Out offers a uniquely personal account of aquifer depletion and the deeper layers through which it gains meaning and force.

Anthropologist Lucas Bessire journeyed back to western Kansas, where five generations of his family lived as irrigation farmers and ranchers, to try to make sense of this vital resource and its loss. His search for water across the drying High Plains brings the reader face to face with the stark realities of industrial agriculture, eroding democratic norms, and surreal interpretations of a looming disaster. Yet the destination is far from predictable, as the book seeks to move beyond the words and genres through which destruction is often known. Instead, this journey into the morass of eradication offers a series of unexpected discoveries about what it means to inherit the troubled legacies of the past and how we can take responsibility for a more inclusive, sustainable future.

An urgent and unsettling meditation on environmental change, Running Out is a revelatory account of family, complicity, loss, and what it means to find your way back home.

About the Author

Lucas Bessire is associate professor of anthropology at the University of Oklahoma and the author of Behold the Black Caiman: A Chronicle of Ayoreo Life.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780691212647
ISBN-10: 0691212643
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication Date: May 18th, 2021
Pages: 264
Language: English