News 88.9 KNPR
Classical 89.7 KCNV

member station


'The Water Knife' Envisions Dystopian Drought Effects


The Water Knife

Author Paolo Bacigalupi envisions a world where water scarcity leads to a lot more than lawn watering restrictions

Imagine a world where the Southwest's drought rages on.

Water becomes increasingly more expensive, and a luxury for the wealthy.

A cottage industry pops up to find new sources of water, at any cost.

That's the kind of dystopian world Paolo Bacigalupi imagines in his new novel "The Water Knife."

Bacigalupi told KNPR's State of Nevada that he was inspired by many things, but the real moment when he decided to write the novel was when he was in Texas in 2011 during the severe drought.

I wasn't standing a drought, he said, What I was actually doing was time traveling.

He said what was happening in Texas, and what is happening now in many parts of the Western United States, had been predicted by climate scientists. 

"This was the new normal," Bacigalupi said.

The writer said water use has always been the center of battles, especially in the Southwest.

"We always have conflicts over water and how much water we have and what's the highest use of it and who owns it and where are we going to focus it," Bacigalupi said.

He pointed to the debate over urban use versus agriculture of water in California.

Bacigalupi said he gets inspiration to write from what is going on around him and then pushes it further.  

Support comes from

"It is actually looking at some trend or some present moment and asking again and again, 'well, let's extrapolate this out. Let's make it worse. Let's make it bigger,'" he said.

When he asks those questions, he is trying to "provide context for our present moment."

Right now, water still runs out of the tap and until it doesn't, Bacigalupi said water scarcity will remain an abstract concept from many. 

From NPR Book Review: 'The Water Knife' Cuts Deep 

(Editor's note: This story originally aired May 2015)


Paolo Bacigalupi, author, "The Water Knife"

You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for.  If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.

More Stories

Summer reading list
KNPR's State of Nevada