In Dry, Neal and Jarrod Shusterman depict a severe drought in California. The crisis is known as the "Tap-Out," and one of the first effects is that water is no longer available on tap. The global issue of water scarcity is therefore examined through its effects on a California neighborhood. The book shows how quickly social norms and relationships break down under the pressure.
The Morrow family, on whom the story focuses, have not prepared for the drought. Their neighbors, the McCrackens, have made preparations, and this leads to increasingly heated exchanges with others in the neighborhood, and among themselves, about whether they will share these resources. Eventually, the decision is taken out of their hands when their house is raided by a desperate mob.
The state quickly becomes lawless, with robberies rising sharply, and the whole of California is placed under martial law after a few days. When the Morrows try to get water from a desalination plant at Laguna Beach, they discover that soldiers are guarding the machines, even though they are broken and useless. Water, and transport with which to go in search of water, become the only important commodities. A boy steals a truck and trades it with two men for a little water, but they are shot dead before they can take the truck. This type of anarchy and violence are portrayed as commonplace, showing how completely the structure of civilized society breaks down when water becomes scarce.