Environment •  History and Southwest

$24.95 paperback

Add to Cart

High and Dry: The Texas-New Mexico Struggle for the Pecos River

G. Emlen Hall

Water law, water politics, and especially water shenanigans are at the center of this book about New Mexico and Texas dividing the Pecos River. On one level the story is about a twenty-year court case, Texas v. New Mexico, a monstrous law suit between two states sharing a common water source, a state boundary, and a long history of mutual enmity. On another level, this story is as big and far-reaching as the high plains drained by the Pecos: it is part memoir, part biography, and part environmental history, part the history of hydrology, and part a contribution to the annals of litigation in the great tradition of Anthony Lewis and Jonathan Harr.

While High and Dry focuses on clashes of principles and personalities, especially in the courtroom, it remains very much a story about a river and its world in an arid region. There are irrigators here, including the leading "old families" of southeastern New Mexico, and there is nature here, including "the vampires of the West," the rapacious salt cedars relentlessly sucking up the precious Pecos stream flow. But beneath them all is the author, inviting readers to see how tiny gardens grown for the soul are as crucial to the overall story as the adjudication of water rights. Hall gives a masterful summary of the legal and scientific parts of the story, but he excels in letting us feel and care about water in the same manner as do the people who use it to grow crops.

"One of the best books anywhere on the heart and soul of western water, High and Dry will leave you awed and flabbergasted by the intricacy, chicanery, mystery, and good old nonstop adventure of interstate water disputes. It is a joy to read, rich in humor and quirky personalities."--John Nichols

"A major contribution to western water law and history in the tradition of Donald Worster. High and Dry is essential reading."--Dan Tarlock, Chicago-Kent College of Law


G. Emlen Hall is professor emeritus in the School of Law at the University of New Mexico. His most recent book is High and Dry (UNM Press).


"The author does an excellent job of showing the tenacity of New Mexicans who depend on an unreliable river to make their living and their fierce protection of their water rights. . . a well thought out, engaging, informed account about the history of water use in 20th century New Mexico."


Annals of Wyoming

" . . . an excellent primer on the history and scope of New Mexico water law . . . High and Dry is an engrossing and illuminating read . . ."


Albuquerque Journal

"The story provides insights into how water policy evolves, who the players are that influence policy, and the role of the courts in adjudicating conflict. . . . Go ahead, get your feet wet, and read how this drama unfolded."



"This is a book New Mexicans need to read. It urges quietly: Water is precious here. We have to care for it."


Southwest BookViews

"It could be argued that any informed citizen of New Mexico should have a basic understanding of the forces governing allocation of the state's most precious resource. High and Dry would be a good place to start."


Prime Time

"At first glance, the issue of interstate water compacts might sound dry and arcane. But in fact, the subject is rich with significance, characters and drama. And as Hall explains so well, it's a hell of a fight and it's not over yet."


Santa Fe New Mexican

"Em Hall has given us literature, a story of relationships, intrigue and passion. The Pecos River, the Pecos River Compact, Texas v. New Mexico, and Em himself are at the same time characters and setting, context and plot. It's a remarkable achievement."


Southwest Hydrology

"(Hall) is able to bring the story and the personalities alive while keeping the legal and engineering issues clear. High and Dry has important things to say to those who see themselves as experts. And unlike many books on water law, it is a good read that is accessible to lay readers."


Western Historical Quarterly

6 x 9 in. 304 pages 33 halftones, 2 graphs, 2 tables