In the 23rd century rising oceans and diseases that rapidly mutate have become a real threat to both humans and food crops, and only the offerings of the calorie companies have kept humanity alive. These hated corporations use genetic hacking techniques to produce food crops that grow for just a few generations before the diseases adapt and wipe them out, and they use their food as leverage over everyone. Willing to do just about anything to obtain new seed stock to give them an advantage these companies have private armies and almost unlimited funding. Thailand has done its best to stay autonomous from such companies, but Bangkok is a drowning city where tensions between government factions are rising. Agrigen sees this as an opportunity to acquire access to Thailand's coveted seed vault and a simple windup girl finds herself at the center of this coming storm.
Water rights on the Colorado River have been debated and negotiated for almost 100 years and the existing agreements are actually quite complex. The southwestern US, arid by nature, is completely dependent on water from the Colorado River which originates from the north. Upper Basin States are bound by "The Law of the River" to let the water flow south to support the needs of California, Nevada, and Arizona. So what happens when the climate changes and the available water is only a fraction of what is needed for all involved? Well, you find yourself in the dusty, apocalyptic setting of The Water Knife where law and lawlessness exist in equal measure within the southwestern US.