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Literature / The Tamarisk Hunter

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This is a Short Story written by Paolo Bacigalupi and published by First Country News. It deals with a "tamarisk hunter", a person who against money and a water bounty eradicates tamarisk trees in the Colorado River basin to reduce their water consumption.

Originally published here. The Water Knife is set into the same universe.


"The Tamarisk Hunter" provides examples of:

  • After the End: Lolo encounters a town that has been abandoned and is being buried by sands and overrun by tumbleweeds.
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  • Apocalypse How: Somewhere between class O and 1, so compared with other stories in the collection, pretty tame. The unending drought "Big Daddy Drought" along with the loss of water rights have destroyed much of the Southwestern US, but the life continues elsewhere just like ever.
  • Boring, but Practical: The eventual way of fighting the Water Rights War by Californians - just bombard every single water treatment plant, leaving defenders with nothing to defend.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: The events surrounding Lake Havasu City are referred to in-story, but beyond involving water and possibly the destruction of a water plant, it's not clear what they were.
  • Determined Homesteader: A non-western example. People like Lolo are (somewhat derogatively) called "water ticks" - obsessive homesteaders that hold to their piece of dirt and use every single opportunity to increase their water bounty, allowing them to farm. And there is Annie, his wife, who is just as determined and is the one minding their "farm" when Lolo is on a hunt.
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  • Didn't See That Coming: Lolo is preparing himself for being arrested over water theft and maybe even to fight the guardies... only to be informed the entire program of hunting down tamarisks is being suspended and they are here to provide him compensation money. Here goes his entire retirement plan.
  • Divided States of America: Probably, given the mess. The federal organisations are apparently still up and running, or at least whatever is set up in their place is, using the old names, but beyond that, each state is in low-level war with its neighbours.
  • Doomed Hometown: It is implied that Travis once lived farther down in Lake Havasu City before the drought and whatever disaster happened to the city forced them to flee.
  • Dystopia: The people around the Colorado River have lost most if not all of their water rights to California, resulting in the collapse of civilization around the river.
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  • Dystopian Edict: Most if not all of the water in the Colorado River belongs to California, meaning that states and people farther upriver have no water.
  • Private Military Contractors: Officially, "guardies" are just National Guard units. In reality, they are predominately mercenaries, enrolled into the Guard registery to make it look less shady.
  • Spiteful Spit: When the word "California" falls in conversation.
  • Take That!: The whole story is one toward real-life Califorian water and irrigation laws, which are considered the main reason why the infamously inefficient water use system is perpetuated for over a century in the state. That and a handful of lawsuits, in which state of California tried to claim as its own rivers waaaay outside its border.

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