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September 22, 1996|CHARLES SOLOMON

A RIVER NO MORE: The Colorado River and the West by Philip L. Fradkin (University of California Press: $14.95, 360 pp., illustrated). In an updated and expanded edition of his landmark 1968 study, Fradkin explains how the mighty Colorado River was reduced to a string of canals, aqueducts and dams. Every drop of its flow--and more--has been allocated to contesting jurisdictions in the U.S. and Mexico. Contrary to popular belief, Los Angeles and other urban centers are not guzzling this water: More than 80% of it goes to agriculture, primarily cattle feed.

The desertification of once-fertile areas of northern Mexico makes it clear that current usage levels can no longer be sustained. Fradkin warns, "Any rational analysis of the distribution of Western water comes to the inescapable conclusion that the huge amounts of water going to agricultural use are disproportionate and wasteful. But agribusiness and its legislative allies, an unbeatable alliance in the past, can be expected to resist tenaciously the loss of any water."

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