Bitter Waters
West Texas author Patrick Dearen’s Bitter Waters meticulously charts the history of the Pecos River and its importance to the development of the American Southwest, including the ranchers who watered 20,000 head of cattle in the river near Odessa in 1885.
– Courtesy the Scharbauer Family Collection in the Archives of the Nita Stewart Haley Memorial Library, Midland, Texas –

In Patrick Dearen’s Bitter Waters: The Struggles of the Pecos River (University of Oklahoma Press, $29.95), the author documents the many challenges facing the Pecos, including over-appropriation, decreased flows, invasive species and stubbornly high salinity levels. Through exhaustive research and wide-ranging interviews with Pecos River authorities and river valley residents, Dearen explores varied opinions on sources of the river’s problems and possible solutions. Readers who want background on the Pecos River’s beauty, wildlife habitat, and historic significance should perhaps look elsewhere before delving into this book, which principally details the river’s value as a water source. That reservation notwithstanding, students of the Pecos and other western rivers will find Bitter Waters a worthwhile addition to their libraries.

Doreen Pfost, author of This River Beneath the Sky: A Year on the Platte

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