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'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.  

"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"

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)