The State of Water: Understanding California’s Most Precious Resource

The State of Water: Understanding California’s Most Precious Resource
Hardcover, 5 x 7, with 40 full-color images, 144 pages.
ISBN: 9781597144698.

By Obi Kaufmann

Obi Kaufmann, author of the best-selling California Field Atlas, turns his artful yet analytical attention to the Golden State’s single most complex and controversial resource: water. In this new book, full-color maps unravel the braided knot of California’s water infrastructure and ecosystems, exposing a history of unlimited growth in spite of finite natural resources—a history that has led to its current precarious circumstances. But this built world depends upon the biosphere, and in The State of Water Kaufmann argues that environmental conservation and restoration efforts are necessary not only for ethical reasons but also as a matter of human survival. Offering nine perspectives to illustrate the most pressing challenges facing California’s water infrastructure, from dams to species revitalization, Kaufmann reveals pragmatic yet inspiring solutions to how water in the West can continue to support agriculture, municipalities, and the environment. Interspersed throughout with trail paintings of animals that might survive under a caring and careful water ethic, Kaufmann shows how California can usher in a new era of responsible water conservation, and—perhaps most importantly—how we may do so together.


“Equal parts pragmatism and whimsy, this exploration of water in California by the artist-naturalist Obi Kaufman is a delight from start to finish. A kind of scientific wonder cabinet, this splendidly illustrated reference manual has something for anyone interested in water in the Golden State. From sturgeon and river otters to vernal pools and diversion dams, The State of Water offers fresh new ways of thinking about California's waterscape that replenish and revitalize the groundwater of our aquatic imagination.” Michael Kowalewski, Lloyd McBride Professor of English & Environmental Studies, Carleton College
“Obi Kaufmann dives fearlessly and joyfully into the maelstrom that is The State of Water in California. Luscious illustrations reveal that joy, accompanied by text that faces historic challenges and a troubled future head on. This is not a book with a political agenda, other than 'to point out our agreements over our differences,' yet Kaufmann's concern for moral integrity points toward better ways we might compete for out limited water resource. With words and images the book affirms that 'water is life.' Let's lift a glass of the precious stuff to the hope that every Californian will read The State of Water.” David Carle, author of Introduction to Water in California and Water and the California Dream
“Invites paddling around until you discover something fascinating, which you do, often. And of course, there are the illustrations. Kaufmann’s watercolors shimmer with delicacy and drama.” Peter Fish, San Francisco Chronicle
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About the Author

Obi Kaufmann

Obi Kaufmann

Obi Kaufmann is the author of The California Field Atlas (2017, #1 San Francisco Chronicle Best Seller), The State of Water: Understanding California’s Most Precious Natural Resource (2019), and The Forests of California: A California Field Atlas (2020)The Coasts of California (2022), and The Deserts of California (2023) all published by Heyday. When he is not backpacking, you can find the painter-poet at home in the East Bay, posting trail paintings at his handle @coyotethunder on Instagram. His speaking tour dates are available at, and his essays are posted at

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the page above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


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