"The Tamarisk Hunter" by Paolo Bacigalupi
I read this story in Wastelands 2 edited by John Joseph Adams. The story originally appeared in an environmental journal called High Country News.
You can read the story for free on his website here: http://windupstories.com/books/pump-six-and-other-stories/the-tamarisk-hunter/
Lolo is a tamarisk hunter. He hunts tamarisk trees and kills them for a small profit and water rations. Why would the government pay someone to kill trees you might ask? Because the tamarisk tree sucks up 73,000 gallons of water every year. Why would that matter someone might ask? Because there is little water left to go around. The water that is available is owned by California.
Lolo has a secret though. He has figured out a way around the system. He has figured out how to stay in the hunting business when all the others fail. He will always be able to support himself through hunting trees, or will he?
This was an interesting story to read. What if one state had the foresight to buy rights to all the water or a major portion of water left in the country? What would that world look like? it would definitely be a desolate countryside except for the state that bought the water rights.
It would also give that state leverage over all the other states. it would allow California to sell water at premium rates to other states, or gain labor for people who need water to survive.
Paolo B. did a good job of painting the picture of life in a country without free access to water. He came up with a really innovative way of creating just how important and scarce water really is. It was an interesting read with a depressing ending.