He was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and graduated from Earlham College in 1971. He then worked as a staff writer and director of communications for the Natural Resources Defense Council. In 1979 he received an Alicia Patterson Journalism Fellowship, which enabled him to conduct research and write Cadillac Desert, which was first published in 1986.
He went on to write additional books and helped develop a PBS documentary on water management. In 1997 he published a discussion paper for the American Farmland Trust on water policy and farmland protection.
- Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water (1986, revised 1993). ISBN 0-14-017824-4
- Overtapped Oasis: Reform or Revolution for Western Water (with Sarah Bates[disambiguation needed]) (1990). ISBN 0-933280-75-0
- Game Wars: The Undercover Pursuit of Wildlife Poachers (1992). ISBN 0-436-41053-2
- A Dangerous Place: California's Unsettling Fate (2003). ISBN 0-14-200383-2
- Pace, Eric. 25 July 2000. Marc Reisner, Author on the Environment, Dies at 51, The New York Times.
- The Alicia Pattertson Foundation 1979 Fellowship Winners
- Oliver, Myrna (July 25, 2000). "Marc Reisner, Environment Writer, Dies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 17, 2013.