Mention the word "cyborg" in Sacramento, and the name of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pops immediately to mind. It’s easy to forget that the state he governs — part natural waterscape, part ingeniously engineered plumbing system — is a hydraulic cyborg that could probably kick even the Governator’s butt.

One number pretty much speaks for itself: Somewhere around 13 quadrillion gallons of water moves around the state each year, pumped out of the ground or siphoned off the Golden State’s mountains to grow the nation’s lettuce and ice Hollywood martinis.

Now, the University of California Press has bravely decided to publish the Introduction to Water in California. Lavishly illustrated with maps and color photos, the book is a sort of field guide to the state’s watersheds, canals, reservoirs, groundwater basins, legendary water contamination problems and colossal endangered species issues, and to the ways all these parts intermesh with — or grind against — each other.

A significant portion of the book focuses on solutions, including water reuse and "banking," flexible farm-to-city water transfers, "assured supply" requirements for new subdivisions, and — proving that in California, no throne goes unturned in the pursuit of water efficiency — "an aggressive program of toilet replacement." Those tactics, according to author David Carle, "allowed Los Angeles to grow by 30 percent during the final decades of the twentieth century, yet see a seven percent decrease in its total water use and a 15 percent drop in per capita demand."

We can only hope that, someday, such a guide is available for every state in the West, perhaps handed out like voter’s guides, or Gideons’ Bibles.

Introduction to Water in California
David Carle
276 pages, hardcover $39.95, softcover $16.95
University of California Press, 2004