The story, "North American Twlight," included in the anthology American Soma, was excerpted at The Nervous Breakdown last December. In the story, Edward Boone--previously an oil man and corporate opportunist--sells off his rigs and refineries so that he can purchase water rights to the land around him.
"Water," Boone says, "is the new oil."
Read "Edward Boon and the Angel of Death" here.
I made water one of the major symbolic elements in American Soma for a reason. Water (or lack thereof) will fuel tremendous civil unrest unless we are able to arrest its depletion. It is a more vital resource than oil has ever been, since he who controls access to water, controls all of life.
Of course, in my story, Edward Boone was one of the figurative apocalyptic horsemen. It could even be argued that he was two: famine and war. But I thought of him more as famine, an effect I consciously created when I juxtaposed him with the thirsting cattle and the wilting soybean fields:
"The following summer, Lubbock disintegrated to a scorched husk. Plants curled their leaves against the sun and bent over under the weight of the heat. Cattle suffered and stood around their troughs, lowing hoarsely for water. A drought left the land little more than escaping dust. The winds aided its flight by contributing gusting eddies that eroded fields and further parched the earth. In the cities, a water emergency was in effect. Local reservoirs had dipped so low that residents were encouraged to boil their water before drinking it. Boone imagined his profit margins climbing. "
Frighteningly, my story isn't so far from fiction anymore. According to the article, "The Ten Biggest American Cities that Are Running Out of Water" at Yahoo Finance , urban aquifers are drying up. The article's authors, Charles B. Stockdale, Michael B. Sauter, and Douglas A. McIntyre, underscore the gravity of the situation in the first two paragraphs:
"Some parts of the United States have begun to run low on water. That is probably not much of a surprise to people who live in the arid parts of America that have had water shortages for decades or even centuries. No one who has been to the Badlands in South Dakota would expect to be able to grow crops there.
The water problem is worse than most people realize, particularly in several large cities which are occasionally low on water now and almost certainly face shortfalls in a few years. This is particularly true if the change in global weather patterns substantially alters rainfall amounts in some areas of the US." (Stockdale, Sauter, McIntyre)
There are three Texas cities on that list. Frightening indeed. In light of the government's current fragmentary nature, would we, as a nation, be a strong enough to weather the civil unrest--possibly even the civil wars--that would potentially follow protracted water shortages? It's certainly something to think about.