Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World, Thomas Dunne Books (2015); 350 pp.; ISBN: 978-1250098306.

(by Seth M Siegel)

Seth Siegel is a lawyer, activist, writer, and successful serial entrepreneur.  His essays on water and other policy issues have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, as well as leading publications in Europe and Asia.  He speaks regularly on a range of topics, including water policy, Middle East politics, and national security.  In one of his latest books, he examines Israel as an increasingly viable model for how to deal with impending water shortages worldwide.

Part I, “The Creation of a Water-Focused Nation” covers three chapters.  Chapter 1, “A Water-Respecting Culture,” discusses some of the principles Israeli schoolchildren are taught.  Essentially, Israel teaches the youth of the nation how to minimize the use of water, embracing the idea that saving water is everyone’s job. Israelis use the educational process to teach water conservation.  Turning back the clock, Siegel takes the reader to the young State of Israel’s beginning, and the Zionist pioneers’ decision to make water the common property of all.  Siegel explains that the nation codified its water in a series of laws that confirmed the centralized water philosophy of Israel.  The first, passed in 1955, prohibited any drilling for water anywhere in the country, even by an owner on his private land, without first obtaining a license to do so; the private property rights yielded to government control.  The second of the water laws, also passed in 1955, prohibited any distribution of water that does not pass through a meter.  This requires that all utilities install separate meters to measure the amount of water provided to each home or business.  A third law, passed in 1957, addressed surface water.  This placed the water found in rivers and streams under government control and took charge of rainwater.  The law took ownership of the sewage flowing out of Israelis’ homes.  The law prohibited diversion of any of these forms of water without first receiving a government permit.  It compelled farmers to obtain a license before herding their own grazing animals on their own property if the animals would cross a waterway in the process.  This centralization ultimately culminated in 1959 when the legislation vested in the government “widespread power to control restrict the activities of individual water users in order to further and protect the public interest.”  Ultimately Sigel points out that Israel’s water system may be the most successful example of socialism in practice anywhere in the world today.

Chapter 2, “The National Water Carrier,” explores a pivotal point in the Israel solution to a diminishing water supply.  Jewish water engineer Simcha Blass, pushed by the British White Paper of May 1939, asked to create a “fantasy water plan” that could be presented to the British in the hope that it might modify their thinking about expanding the number of Jewish immigrants.  Blass’s idea was to develop a massive infrastructure project that would take water from the water-rich north and bring it to the water-limited center and water-impoverished south.  Blass proposed a three-phrase approach to national self-sufficiency in water.  First, Blass believed that large amounts of water lay below the surface of the Negev desert, accessible by deep drilling.  Second, Blass proposed pumping water out of the Yarkon River, north and east of Tel Aviv, and transporting it to the Negev, primarily for agricultural use.  Then, water would be brought from north to south via mostly underground infrastructure that would bisect the nation in what would become the National Water Carrier.  Using the diversion of the Colorado River as a model, an engineering feat that brought freshwater to Los Angeles, Blass created plans to transport these sources of water south as needed, until the system would terminate at farms dotted throughout the then-sparsely populated Negev.  The National Water Carrier enabled the Negev desert to fulfill Ben Gurion’s pledge that Israel would make the desert bloom.  The country’s new system not only improved water reliability, access, and quality overnight—it also served as a great inspiration for the young nation.

Chapter 3 “Managing a National Water System,” discusses how Israel began to distinguish its system from the rest of the world.  Siegel points out that initially the Finance Ministry set water prices, except for the price paid by farmers, the price of which the Agriculture Ministry set.  However, in 2006, The Water Commission was renamed the Israel Water Authority, and it was given real authority when power was transferred from the political level to a technocratic one.  This became essential to the success of Israel.  In 2008, the Water Authority announced that everyone would have to pay the real price for the water they were using.  The reason for the price increase was not exclusively related to conservation, Siegel explains.  The water regulators wanted to maximize spending on water infrastructure, both existing and new.  The water fees were to be spent exclusively on the nation’s water needs, with nothing diverted to help balance other parts of municipal or national budgets.  Thus, water prices increased by forty percent in all households.  At about the same time the price hikes went into effect, the Water Authority took away management of all water and sewage from every municipality and created a new, apolitical system of municipal water corporations.

Part II “The Transformation” covers four chapters.  Chapter 4 “Revolution(s) on the Farm” begins by focusing on Jewish water engineer Simcha Blass.  Blass visited a farm in the 1930s when he noticed a row of planted trees.  One of the trees was much larger than the others. Blass noticed a small leak in an irrigation pipe near the base of the taller tree.  This image stayed with Blass, and would ultimately help create drip irrigation, which completely revolutionized agricultural water use in Israel and worldwide.  After several years Blass made two discoveries.  First, regardless of the location of his experiment in Israel and regardless of the type of tree or plant, drip irrigation used far less water than flood or sprinkler irrigation on adjacent test areas.  On average, drip irrigation saved fifty to sixty percent of the water customarily used.  Second, the yield from crops watered with drip irrigation was higher than with other known irrigation techniques.  Blass did run into hardships though.  One major challenge, Siegel points out, was when Blass buried the drip line next to the seed.  The experiment quickly ended when the roots migrated into the drippers, blocking the flow of water and killing all of the trees.  Luckily, Blass adjusted and, following the suggestion of Yehuda Zohar, the drippers were placed at the base of the trees rather than in the soil.  This proved to be extremely successful.  As technology has advanced, drip irrigation has become more efficient.  Not only are there now drip systems that produce higher yields with less water, but the driplines also save on the energy cost of pumping water to the field.  Drip lines have also been used to increase efficiency when applying fertilizer to the seeds, resulting in a decrease of polluting runoff from excess fertilizer.

Chapter 5 “Turning Waste into Water” reveals yet another way Israeli scientists found to conserve water.  Siegel begins the chapter by enlightening readers, explaining that over eighty-five percent of the nation’s sewage is reused.  Sewage includes everything that goes down the sink, shower, bathtub or toilet, and the rain that falls into the storm drains.  The country began using Sand Aquifer Treatment (“SAT”) to obtain tertiary-quality reclaimed water.  This process essentially uses fine sand as a filter for cleaning sewage.  Using SAT systems, sewage in Israel can supply a third of the water needed for agriculture.  Israel began the treatment of its sewage to reduce pollution and to improve the quality of its citizens’ lives.  In the same breath, Israel developed a parallel water supply that can be used safely in agriculture.

Chapter 6 “Desalination: Science, Engineering, and Alchemy,” discusses the old idea of how to make salty seawater potable.  The large-scale desalination of the Mediterranean seawater appeared to be an ideal solution to persistent water shortages.  Alexander Zarchin made the first attempt in 1954, where he proposed spraying water into a vacuum, then freezing it to push the salt out.  This method proved to be too expensive and impractical for large-scale implementation.  Nathan Berkman took over Zarchin’s group.  By combining certain mechanical elements of Zarchin’s technique, including various concepts for heating water to create vapor, Berkman’s team created two new energy-efficient approaches to desalination.  The first, Mechanical Vapor Compression (“MVC”), works in settings where the cost of an unscheduled shutdown would be economically unacceptable.  The negative aspect of MVC is that the assurance of consistency comes with a price in higher operating costs.  The second, Multi-Effect Distillation, uses a series of linked aluminum tubes to replace the chambers traditionally employed to heat the water to produce vapor.  Since these aluminum tubes held and transferred heat more efficiently than any previous method or material, the temperature could be kept consistently high, thereby reducing the need for a new energy source to heat water added during the process.  In 1966, Sidney Loeb, a Jewish-American, developed a technique called reverse osmosis while working in Israel.  Initially designed for brackish water, reverse osmosis pushes water through a membrane that causes pure water to move one way while salt molecules move in the opposite direction.  Through the use of reverse osmosis, the water yield was not just the highest quality water in Israel in terms of cleanliness, low salinity, and high clarity; it also turned out to be about fifty percent cheaper than any of the cost estimates the Israeli Cabinet had received when deciding to pursue desalinated water.  Siegel points out that with desalination, water has become a purely economic issue.  Water is no longer a question of how, but how much.

Chapter 7 “Renewing the Water of Israel,” Siegel discusses the change the technology has had on the landscape of Israel.  By reusing water, using less water, and decreasing pollutants in water sent back to water ways, Israel’s natural rivers are returning to healthy states.  This in turn has led to an increase in parks around the nation.

Part III “The World Beyond Israel’s Borders” covers four chapters beginning with Chapter 8 “Turning Water into a Global Business.”  Naturally, given the success of the technology Israel developed in the realm of water, many Israeli entrepreneurs have explored global opportunities for water conservation.  Siegel points out that the result of this has been the transformation of Israel’s water expertise into a lucrative export industry.

Chapter 9 “Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians: Finding a Regional Water Solution” discusses how Israel shares its water expertise with neighboring nations.  The more stressed these nations become for water, the more willing they are to see across political stances to work towards a common solution.  Israel helps by offering, not just water, but also providing training and technology to the Palestinian National Authority.  Israel and the Palestinian National Authority have also teamed with Jordan to develop a project to desalinate the Red Sea among the three nations.

Chapter 10 “Hydro-Diplomacy: Israel’s Use of Water for Global Engagement” and Chapter 11 “No One is Immune: California and the Burden of Affluence” tell the story of how Israel broke out of the diplomatic isolation of the region.  The sharing of Israel’s expertise of water has helped Israel form bonds with nations all around the world.  Siegel points to China as one example of a country that has struggled with water issues.  In the 1980’s the Chinese government reached out to Israeli water engineers in hopes of getting assistance with an irrigation plan for Wuwei.  After the success of this project, a bond began to form between the two nations.  Seigel also points out that the United States has worked and continues to work with Israel to try and solve water issues.  Hundreds of African communities also use Israel training programs to aid in their management and irrigation.

In the final chapter, Chapter 12 “Guiding Philosophy,” Siegel reiterates the three key tenants of Israeli water philosophy.  The first being public ownership of water.  Seigel quotes Haim Gvirstam who argued that by allowing government control over the entire resource, Israel can prioritize water based upon its highest and best use which gives certainty to Israeli water users, especially when compared to the “chaotic” free-market approach.  The next is real-cost pricing. Seigel states that the most important reason for setting water and sewage fees at their real price is to let market forces work.  Real pricing encourages consumers to use all of the water they need, but no more.  Lastly, Israel heavily supports innovation in water technology.  Government policy encourages privately driven innovation and public-private partnerships.

In conclusion, Let There Be Water portrays a possible model for solving water problems around the world.  With technological innovation, political foresight, and powerful public mindfulness, Israel has “made the desert bloom.”  Today, Israel shares what the nation has learned with developing countries around the world.


Kole Kelley


In Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution and Profit, author Vandana Shiva[1] explores the current challenges posed by the global commodification of water. Shiva contends that the titular triad of causes has created inequitable water access, depriving local communities of control of this vital resource. The result can often be conflict between local communities, states, and private corporations. Current international standards in water infrastructure and access have created the crisis, but they prove inadequate to mitigate the growing problem. Shiva recommends a return to democratic, local, and communal control of water to counter the global water crisis. Her book focuses on international examples illustrating the problems created by water privatization and suggests solutions that will return democratic control to water resources.

In chapter one, “Water Rights: The State, The Market, The Community,” Shiva explores how water has changed from a common resource to a private right. Historically, communities have seen water as a common, shared commodity. Individuals developed the idea that water is a natural human right, arising out of basic human nature, needs, and conditions. This right arises independent from the state, and outside the reach of state control.

The American prior appropriation system, and Garret Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons, marked a dramatic shift from communal rights. This new school of thought placed the right to water with the state, which then has the power to give that right over to private markets for use and administration. Shiva asserts that globalization of the “lawlessness of the frontier” fails to account for regional hydrological and cultural differences. The results of global privatization of water have been disastrous for people and the planet. By favoring capitalization of water resources, private markets can promote and incentivize pollution, allowing corporations to apply a monetary cost-benefit analysis in weighing profits against irreparable damage to life and biodiversity.

Shiva contends privatization fails to account for the vital and usufructuary nature of water. She calls for a return to the community right approach regarding water access. This means an end to private markets for this essential resource and returning control from the state to local community management. Local community management recognizes the importance of a communal right to water. For instance, historically in India, village committees managed water according to the needs of the people. Committees operated irrigation systems day-to-day and could base compensations more on labor-put-in than by payment or substituted labor. In contrast, the central government had the limited role of disaster mitigation, stepping in for local communities only when there were floods, famines, or other calamities.

The chapter ends by proposing nine principles for returning to a community managed water system, which Shiva calls a “Water Democracy.” These principles recognize the basic underpinnings to a human right to water, protecting rights to clean water for all citizens from the inequalities created by water sold as a market resource. These principles are: (1) water is nature’s gift; (2) water is essential to life; (3) life is interconnected through water; (4) water must be free for sustenance needs; (5) water is limited and can be exhausted; (6) water must be conserved; (7) water is a commons; (8) no one holds a right to destroy; and (9) water cannot be substituted. Some principles, like 1, 3, and 8, are based in morality. Others, like 2, 5, and 9, confront hard realities about the limits of our consumption. Finally, principles 4 and 7 suggest changes to how we manage water rights to achieve democracy. Together, these nine principles guide Shiva’s discussion on the failures of the current market regime and the benefits of local community management throughout the book.

In chapter two, “Climate Change and the Water Crisis,” Shiva explains how climate change is unleashing the fury of water in the form of devastating floods, cyclones, heatwaves and droughts. Shiva points to industrialization and deforestation as man-made causes for climate change. Greenhouse gases intensify tropical rains, as rising sea level threatens coastal areas, and rising global ocean temperatures create the perfect conditions for hurricanes and cyclones.

Shiva illustrates the effects of climate change with the increased frequency and intensity of cyclones and hurricanes. She notes the link between conditions favoring devastating storms, like warmer oceans, and carbon dioxide-induced global temperature increases. Global trade also contributes to these events, as in the case of shoreline mangroves in India. Shrimp farming operations have destroyed this natural shield in pursuit of ever more profits, which allows cyclones to sweep inland undiminished causing widespread destruction to people and communities.

Small coastal and island communities, particularly in third world countries—those with the smallest roles in contributing to these environmental disasters—are often the most affected. Shiva calls for immediate action by states and corporations to curb the effects of climate change and global development. This means a global commitment to responsible and sustainable development in order to decrease the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

In chapter three, “The Colonization of Rivers: Dams and Water Wars,” Shiva confronts the problems global proliferation of dams causes, and how they manifest into physical conflict. Organizations like the World Bank often promote dam development, requiring countries to use their loans for dam development. This shifts control of water from local communities to central governments. People often react with violence when they are disenfranchised, displaced, and facing scarcity and ecological disasters. States are not immune either, with water increasingly being a point of concern in international disputes and the rise of terrorist organizations.

The effects of dam projects on local communities are displacement, scarcity, and vulnerability to ecological disasters. First, construction of dams results in widespread displacement of people unlucky enough to live in the dam’s path—an occurrence that some activists have likened to genocide. People fiercely resist displacement and loss of their homes and livelihoods, which often brings them into violent conflict with the state. For example, eight people died and thirty were injured protesting the Kariba Dam on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, and the Guatemalan government killed 376 women and children to make way for the Chixoy Dam.

Second, dams also create scarcity and ecological impacts that lead to conflict. Although usually promoted as a solution for agricultural needs, flood control, and drought mitigation, Shiva illustrates that dams often have the opposite effect. They disrupt the normal hydrological cycle, substituting it with poor human control. The author points to the Kabini project in India that submerged six thousand acres of arable land, displacing locals to a nearby primeval forest. Clear-cutting the forest led to decreased rainfall and siltation, clogging the dam. Additionally, poor management of dams is often linked to flooding.

People displaced by dams, facing scarcity, and vulnerable to ecological disasters often become victims of, or retaliate with, violence when divested of a right to water. They do not reap the supposed benefits of dams. Shiva suggests that current models accounting only for economic costs for construction and operations of dams, like those used by the World Bank, are inadequate to understand the true cost. When hidden costs of displacement, ecological destruction, and conflict are weighed, she believes that dams do not seem like such a good deal.

Shiva reminds us that countries feel the pinch of dam proliferation as well. Dams worsen existing tensions and can become the focus of international disputes. Demands for industrialization increase demand and lead to conflict. For example, dam development on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers has been a consistent source of conflict between national governments in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, and ethnic Kurds living in Turkey and Iraq. Development by Turkey threatens to cut eighty to ninety percent of Iraq’s allotment of the Euphrates. Dams have displaced Kurds, who have threatened to blow up dams in response. Turkey sees this as an act of terrorism, and it has responded by threatening to shut off all water to the region. The search for peace and food through dams and water-intensive irrigation has left violence, hunger, thirst, and centralized control of an essential resource in its wake.

As Shiva demonstrates, international and domestic water laws fail to adequately account for the political and ecological challenges of conflicts caused by dams. For instance, they fail to mention the natural law of the water cycle. Projects like the Kabini Dam in India illustrate the danger of ignoring the natural water cycle. The construction and resulting displacement and deforestation led to siltation, reduced rainfall, and a loss of arable land for the local people. Players in dam disputes often struggle to see how much one group can take from another, or how much environmental damages a group may endure to meet the irrigation and energy needs of another.

Shiva proposes a change in the calculus used in determining the costs of dams. Traditionally, governments see river diversions like dams as all benefits and no costs. This assumes water not impounded is water wasted. But dams are costlier than just construction and upkeep. Countries and international organizations like the World Bank need to acknowledge the hidden costs of the conflict caused by dams, be they monetary, human, or ecological. Using the principle of water as a common right, Shiva emphasizes valuing existing uses, not viewing them as wasted water. She also argues that requiring an ecological impact assessment before construction would help expose environmental costs.

Chapter four, “The World Bank, WTO and Corporate Control Over Water,” discusses the centralization of control over water. These organizations promote public-private partnerships for administration of water infrastructure, attracting private capital and curbing public-sector employment in developing countries. The World Bank and WTO will often wrap requirements for private influence into aid packages or trade agreements with developing countries, with loan terms favoring corporations over countries. Agreements typically ensure companies make a profit and insulate them from nationalization. Governments are supposed to save money and benefit from private development.

Theoretically, private companies encourage development and operate more efficiently than public municipal services. But Shiva contends privatization of infrastructure encourages scarcity. She recounts that these corporations often focus on ensuring a profit, but do not focus on ensuring delivery of a quality product. In Johannesburg, water became unaffordable. Those who could not pay were disconnected, leading to access issues, and quality tanked, causing a spike in cholera infections. Despite this, loan conditions force developing countries, desperate for money, to agree to harsh lending conditions.

Shiva then explores the effect of the General Agreement on Trade Services (“GATS”) on these issues. GATS promotes free trade and deregulation of industries, but companies can use GATS to challenge unfavorable domestic policies that prevent free market entry. In India, a law gave local tribal communities authority over resources, including the power to approve or reject development projects and the authority to grant land. Foreign companies can challenge this law under GATS and claim discrimination if local communities exclude them from the market. Once allowed in, they can flood the market and push out local competition. GATS allows foreign companies to subvert domestic laws like India’s under the guise of free trade.

The chapter culminates with the famous Bolivia-Bechtel conflict. There, the World Bank recommended a private company, Bechtel, to take over municipal management in Cochabama, Bolivia. The company quickly increased costs to the point where monthly water bills reached a fifth of the minimum wage. Massive public protests led to clashes with the government and the institution of martial law. The people regained control of the water through expropriation, but the company has sued for lost profits.

Chapter five, “Food and Water,” explores how modern agricultural techniques contribute to the water crisis. The move from traditional agriculture techniques to a monoculture of cash crops led to ecological issues including salinization and waterlogging. Part of the problem is the metric used to measure success of a crop: modern agriculture favors more nutrition per unit of labor, not unit of water. This fails to account for the ecological effects cash crops bring.

In Shiva’s view, both the type of crops and how they are grown contribute to the problem. Cotton and sugarcane, for example, are huge water consumers compared to traditional legumes in India. And industrial monoculture does not allow for interspersing with complementary crops, which help retain moisture and protect the nutrients in the soil. Monoculture also inhibits the use of pulse crops that grow in bursts in tandem with local hydrologic cycles. Instead, modern agriculture leaves topsoil eroded and arable land salinized, while promoting water waste.

Shiva explains that GMOs are often touted as an answer, by breeding crops resistant to drought or salinization. But this fails to address the root problem: that industrial monoculture creates these issues. Again, Shiva says there is a need to change the measurement. Industrial monoculture tries to economize labor—the most production for the least amount of work. Values must shift, from economizing labor to economizing water. One way to do this, Shiva suggests, is to trade industrial agriculture for traditional agricultural methods adapted over centuries. This includes using pulse crops and crops adapted to specific geographic regions, instead of trying to force monoculture of one crop to unsuitable circumstances.

Chapter six, “Converting Scarcity into Abundance,” lays down the blueprint for shifting back to community-controlled, equitable, and sustainable water management. Shiva characterizes this as a return to the basics, abandoning centralized and privatized control for traditionally decentralized, community based water management schemes. She proposes the latter is more adaptable to the changing availability of water in specific areas. Local control also gives the people most affected by changes in availability of water direct input on resource management. Shiva points to how such collective decision-making has led to sustainable choices and prevented conflicts over water in India. A decentralized, democratic approach to water returns power to the people and promotes abundance with sustainable management.

In India, social organizations within villages traditionally managed water allocation. These systems were region specific: in some, volunteers maintained irrigation systems. Others required those with more land to give more labor. Organizations communally distributed water according to need, like the size of a family, rather than according to the size of one’s land. Communities considered water intensive plants like sugarcane irresponsible in drought prone regions. Even after the British had centralized water during colonization, these localized methods were effective to water control and soil conservation and allowed people to survive droughts.

The final chapter, “The Sacred Waters,” stands as an affirmation of the essential nature of water. The culture of consumption has made it easy to forget the deep connection people have historically shared with water. Shiva recounts how every river in India is regarded as sacred, and the Ganges has long been held as a purifying force, originating from the heavens. There is some truth in this, as minerals in the Ganges, carried from tributaries high in the Himalayas, contain antiseptic qualities that kill bacteria like cholera. Shiva wants to incorporate the historical sacredness of water into the modern day, with a plea to shift our understanding of the value of water. Water needs to be valued not as a commodity, but as a vital resource. Its value lies not in its price, but in its sacred connection to the communities around it.

Water Wars is fantastic for getting a grasp on the scale and root causes of the global water crisis. It provides a multitude of examples, backed up with well-referenced hard evidence. Shiva puts forth a strong case that current global applications of a one size-fits-all privatization scheme for water is not working as intended. Local hydrology, community needs, and traditional community customs should also be taken into account.

But the proposed solutions do not always feel well fleshed out. Returning to a completely community driven water system seems unrealistic. In a global economy, some centralized control seems necessary for continued development. Shiva’s central premise is that water should be a common resource, democratically and locally managed—a sort of small, independent laboratory approach. If that sounds familiar to United States readers, it should. After all, states are the independent laboratories that created the priority system Shiva decries. Perhaps there is a middle ground between private, centralized control, and a universally democratic right to water. Nonetheless, Shiva’s book proves to be an essential read to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the challenges in international water law and policy today.

Vandana Shiva, Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution and Profit, North Atlantic Books (2016 reprint); 192 pp.; ISBN 978-1623170721.

Michael Larrick


       [1].    Vandana Shiva holds a doctorate in physics from the University of Punjab and is an internationally recognized environmental scholar and activist. She is a prolific writer who has written over a dozen books on modern environmental concerns.

In Water is for Fighting Over, John Fleck[1] takes a positive outlook on the future of the Colorado River, despite its decreasing quality and flow. As a recurring theme, Fleck sets his sights on debunking the titular assertion and a variety of other Western water myths that propagate scarcity, conflict, and disaster. He highlights different instances of collaboration, conservation, and collective water-share efforts by communities utilizing the river that put these myths to bed. Fleck spends the pages convincing readers that fighting over scarcity of water resources never eradicates issues, but utilizing less water collectively could help save the flow of the Colorado River for years to come.

Chapter one, “Rejoining the Sea,” describes how water distribution should be handled in the Colorado River Basin. Fleck makes observations about different areas of the U.S. drying up through drought or over-allocation of water resources and the ways in which cities make do with less water in these circumstances. As a solution to this issue, he points to the role “the network” can play in resolving difficult water disputes. Fleck believes this informal group of experts—engineers, lawyers, environmentalists, and water managers who all deal with the river and its allocations, conservation, and management on a daily basis—is essential to better management of the Colorado River. This sort of collaboration is what Fleck believes will alleviate the multitude of allocation issues facing the Colorado River Basin year after year.

Chapter two, “Water Squandered on a Cow,” outlines water apportionment disputes and wasteful irrigation practices in Colorado, specifically highlighting improved farming routines associated with the alfalfa crop. Fleck begins the chapter by explaining where the Colorado River’s water actually comes from: snowmelt. The issue with the Colorado River is that most of the time there is not enough snowmelt water to fulfill every entity’s legal entitlements. When there is not enough water, the Colorado River Compact first fulfills its duty of water allocation to those senior rights holders who put their allocations to beneficial use. This means the agricultural communities are characteristically safe in times of water shortage because their rights are first priority when the water is short. Yet, studies show that alfalfa is still able to produce a crop without water for a season (albeit at a lower yield). This means cities and other essential—but more junior—water users can “borrow” water in times of dire shortages from alfalfa farmers and compensate for the loss in crop yield. Fleck takes issue with the fact that farmers and municipalities only take advantage of this preservation tactic when all parties need to take a huge cut in their allocations for conservation purposes. Instead, he would like to see protection practices such as these taking over the agricultural industry by choice rather than necessity. In light of the senior rights system and the ability of crops to survive with little water for a season or two, the myth of farmers and crop-growers running out of water is, in most cases, exaggerated.

Chapter three, “Fountains in the Desert,” highlights the triumphs of Las Vegas’ water management system despite its dry climate and miniscule allocation of the Colorado River. The focus of conservation has been so effective that Las Vegas does not use its full apportionment of water from the Colorado River, and while its water use decreases, the city’s population continues to grow. Surprisingly, in a city known for its hedonistic qualities, the community managed to reduce its water usage by twenty percent because of its willingness to participate in government conservation efforts without fighting back. Las Vegas accomplished these reduction efforts during a significant population boom, further debunking the myth that a population increase compels an increased need for water.

In chapter four, “Negotiating the Rapids,” Fleck points out the value of informal conversations to river management. He identifies how many of these types of interactions are so successful because, in these informal settings, individuals speak as individuals, not stakeholders for their place of employment. Fleck provides one example of a group created as a result of an informal conversation: the Yuma Desalter Working Group. One of the federal government’s senior water managers formed this group during a rafting trip on the Colorado River. After a weekend of hanging out by the river, drinking beer, and casually discussing current water issues, the group met later on and came up with plans to reduce the dry-up risk of lower Colorado River Basin users while, at the same time, maintaining the wildlife and habitat at the Cinega de Santa Clara. Fleck credits the accomplishments of this group to a breaking down of professional conversational barriers before digging into the issues, obviating the worry that people of different backgrounds and beliefs will refuse to compromise.

Chapter five, “Arizona’s Worst Enemy,” provides an example of the consequences of unwillingness to compromise. Fleck describes Arizona’s various actions that denote its historical belief that “water is for fightin’ over,” the main myth that this book aims to engage. This contentious attitude continues to cause issues for Arizona beyond the original refusal to sign the Colorado River Compact in 1922, the agreement that created an interstate Colorado River share system. After officials refused to compromise, Arizona received its first break from detrimental allocation sizes in court: Arizona sued California and prevailed in obtaining the water it believed it needed to survive, even though Arizona would soon find itself trading water for California’s help transporting it into the state. The ongoing lawsuits between Arizona and California are still long from over, and the outcome of this suit only amplifies the allocation issues the Colorado River Compact presented. Fleck believes compromise will be even more imperative if redistribution occurs in terms of allocations, and he does not predict Arizona will be willing to cooperate in the future either.

Chapter six, “Averting Tragedy,” describes how compromise, rather than fighting, alleviated the first instance of potential groundwater exhaustion in Los Angeles County’s West Basin (“West Basin”). Finding new solutions to groundwater pumping and finding an imported water supply to replace the salty groundwater were proving to be difficult tasks for city water managers. The difficulty came about because each community continued pumping groundwater without regard for its neighbors. Political scientist Elinor Ostrom studied the disregard for neighboring communities that plagued this situation, and she found that it caused severe interstate agency rivalries. She believed, much like Fleck, that informal conversation, or what she called “cheap talk,” was the best technique for getting communities to come together and compromise. As a result of “cheap talk,” the West Basin Water Association materialized, and all but one of the communities joined together to combat the issues as a team. Not until the court ordered the lone holdout community to participate did the reckless groundwater pumping completely stop. Fleck concluded that sometimes the courts are the only entity that can successfully set rule-breakers in their place for the greater good, further proving that fighting over water is not the best solution to large scale problems.

Chapter seven, “Turning off LA’s Tap,” details another successful instance of compromise over conflict in California. The state has a historical tendency to claim upper basin states’ unused water allotments without permission. While this forms a temporary fix for California’s drought issues, eventually upper basin states needed to save water rather than spend it. This trend caused conflict between California and upper basin states, and eventually all seven states banded together to address and resolve the conflict in 1990. With the input of all seven states regarding California’s request to receive the surplus water each year, a protocol for handling river allocation proposals was born, and the states agreed that nothing would pass as law without approval from all seven states. When the compact states did not approve the surplus request, California needed to create a soft landing for itself by decreasing its river use, starting with the places it used water the most: local agricultural or urban communities. Despite its efforts, California failed to reduce usage, and the government stepped in and slashed the overused allocation to its originally defined amount. Although this action was a harsh wake-up call for California, the other six states felt the original allocations were fair, proving once again that compromise, albeit as a result of a little government intervention, is often necessary to drive revolutionary changes.

Chapter eight, “So Cal Cuts Back,” shows California’s efforts to dial back water usage as demanded by the government. As a fix for this, the metropolitan communities formed a management system. The original objective of this group was to find a way to supply the urban areas with the amount water they required. This tactic quickly failed as all three water storage areas dried. The Metropolitan Water District (“Metropolitan”) governance realized it needed to abandon the plans and changed focuses. The spotlight turned to groundwater recovery and the recycling of water previously unfit for human use. Fleck illustrated a state’s ability to manage a change in allocation or a shortage in resources by banding together with its individual communities, demonstrating the importance of exploring alternatives before succumbing to the fear of water scarcity.

Chapter nine, “The Great Fallowing,” lays out the history of the Imperial Irrigation District (“Imperial”), the district with the most water allocated from the Colorado River. In order to eliminate the frequent flooding that would jeopardize the lower river valley, the district created The Hoover Dam and the All American Canal. The dams evened out the flow, making year-round irrigation possible. Once these structures were set up, Imperial’s wasteful practices of hoarding water became more apparent among its residents: farmers continued to overestimate the amount of water they needed, creating an excess of runoff, and the sea began to rise and flood the nearest farmland. When other states expressed concern, Imperial chose to join together with the water-hungry Metropolitan, and it promised a share of its unused water if Metropolitan could come up with a way to conserve Imperial’s water. The practices soon turned a surplus into a deficit, and the agricultural community had to learn how to farm with less. This instance points us back to the notion of efficiency in agricultural techniques. Fleck once again challenges local governments with this chapter to look into this scarcity strategy, not only in times of scarcity but in everyday irrigation practices.

Chapter ten, “Emptying Lake Mead,” highlights the trials of keeping the Lake Mead and Lake Powell Reservoirs relatively full while fulfilling Mexico’s water distribution requirements. Lake Mead’s level was dropping quickly, and policy debates began about shortages that the Colorado River Basin states had never encountered. When Lake Powell surpassed Lake Mead in dry-up potential, the network of water collaborators came together just as it did to create the Colorado River Compact in 1922. It came up with a plan, to which all states agreed, that required proportional allocation cuts when the water was low for each state. When 2014 rolled around and Lake Mead was still declining, Fleck says it was apparent that the deal did not go far enough in terms of cutting back. The network had a lot more work to do to stop the depletion of both reservoirs.

In chapter eleven, “Who’s Left Out,” Fleck addresses, once again, the importance of inclusiveness. During the change in operations at the Glen Canyon Dam, electricity consumers were left out of the conversation. New water management around the Salton Sea did not think to include the public health community when making the changes would impact the surrounding air quality, and when the Bureau of Reclamation conducted its “Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study,” it failed to mention large stake holding Native communities entirely. When these issues were brought up, Fleck was careful to point out that the changes often had a sizable impact on Native American tribes, who are very rarely included in the conversation. The Colorado River Compact rarely mentions the Native communities, and decision-makers did not invite any of them to participate in water conversations. Lastly, when making influential decisions about water management, the host often fails to consult or invite environmentalist groups. Fleck believes that leaving out these groups can harm the progress that “network” groups are making by slowing down the process and requiring revision of previous decisions for inclusiveness.

Chapter twelve, “A Beaver Returns to the Delta,” further discusses inclusivity, and shows how collaboration between formally feuding groups can help to undo much of the damage we have done to the Colorado River over the years. Fleck explained that after the Colorado River Compact creators divided the river, they found that dry spots would emerge in arid seasons, and the wildlife would migrate until the river started flowing again. Most recently when the river started flowing again in the previously dry Colorado River Delta, Mexico, the United States, and environmental groups met to devise a plan to keep the water flowing through this delta. This plan, titled Minute 319, was the first of its kind that mentioned environmental implications and wildlife preservation. This collaboration felled two myths. The first was that environmentalists and water managers could not work together to achieve common goals. The second was that the delta was dead, and that rejuvenation of wildlife and surrounding communities was impossible due to the growing water demands and the consistent population booms alongside the Colorado River.

In chapter thirteen, “Conclusion,” Fleck wraps up his book by highlighting the issues with over-allocation, hoarding of rights, and “use it or lose it” laws, and by stating the major issues and providing potential solutions. He believes that every state will need to understand each other’s needs and work together to solve the problems of the Colorado River. Fleck also warns of the media’s ability to shape the viewpoints of people or the tone of events. He finally stresses the importance of communication, and he reminds us that a simple informal conversation or meeting could solve problems that the many entities of the Colorado River face each year.

In conclusion, Water is for Fighting Over serves as a call to collaborative action for those sharing and managing water stemming from the Colorado River. Fleck provides a positive outlook on the future of the Colorado River if communities find ways to come together for conservation efforts and management rather than turn to fighting over every last drop. The book supplies a comprehensive history of systematic inefficiencies and the collaborative ways that we can address them in the West. Fleck illustrates the various instances that he believes debunk the myths that create sleepless nights for many who depend on the Colorado River’s allocation system. He shows that water is not for fighting over, but it is for sharing and finding solutions to its management as the years go on.


Rebecca Spence

[1] John Fleck is a former journalist for the Albuquerque Journal, and the current director of the University of New Mexico’s Water Resources Program. He maintains a blog touching on topics regarding water and climate in the West, and he sends out periodic email newsletters with updates. Water is for Fighting Over is his second book. His first book, The Tree Rings’ Tale, is a book for middle-school-aged students about the climate of the West.

Cynthia Barnett is an environmental journalist who has written extensively on water in locales spanning the globe.  Barnett has also written two prior books, including Blue Revolution, one of The Boston Globe’s top ten science books of 2011.  In Rain: A Natural and Cultural History, Barnett discusses the many misunderstood notions and unique backdrops for rain, covering everything from colorful anecdotes to historical tragedies where rain has played a significant role.  In exposing the factual, exciting, and sometimes humorous aspects of rain, Barnett breaks down the in-depth discussion of rain into five parts in thirteen chapters.  Each part possesses a unique theme that Barnett illustrates with numerous examples.

Part I, “Elemental Rain,” covers three chapters.  Chapter one, “Cloudy with a Chance of Civilization,” discusses some of the greenest, rain-soaked forests and preserves on earth.  Starting with the Hoh Rain Forest in the Pacific Northwest, Barnett paints a delicate picture of the forest with its majestic trees and foliage, down to the multitude of insects living throughout the wilderness treasure.  Traveling along the western coast, Barnett takes the reader to Seattle, pointing out that Seattle is hardly the rainiest city in the United States.  In fact, Seattle’s rainfall does not even compare to any city on the east coast.  Barnett then moves on to the life-sustaining monsoons in South and East Asia.  With over two-thirds of the world’s population relying on the monsoons for everything from drinking water to irrigation, monsoons are some of the most important rains in the entire world.  Finally, walking through a brief summary of human development, Barnett sets the tone for the rest of the book by reminding the reader that rain has been a central theme and component of human growth for our entire existence.

Chapter two, “Drought, Deluge and Delivery,” revolves around the central theme that the rain giveth, and the rain taketh away.  Beginning with cities in India and Pakistan over 4,100 years ago, Barnett discusses how rain has both provided life for civilizations and washed it away in a brutal, shocking minute.  Describing the growth of civilization over time, Barnett points out that sudden lack of rain has destroyed vast, developed civilizations such as Mesopotamia.  She then points out that while drought begets death, so does deluge.  Barnett notes that of the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Death, Famine, War, and Plague/Pestilence; endless rains could presage at least three of them.”  Barnett discusses how, in the fourteenth century, great rains foreshadowed the Black Death.  Barnett concludes by describing how we know that rain, or the lack thereof, has exacerbated some of the worst tragedies civilization has ever seen.

Chapter three, “Praying for Rain,” delves into the notion of humans and their belief, or desire, to control the rains.  Beginning with nineteenth-century Texas and a prayer for rain, and then transitioning to recent governors of the very same state, Barnett shows that while some notions or traditions may change, many do not.  In fact, from hunter-gatherer culture in Mesopotamia to the present, humans have had an affinity for praying for rain.  The holy texts of the Abrahamic religions illustrate this fact.  Further, even scientists have sought to prove the historical truth of the great floods.

Part II, “Change for Rain,” encompasses chapters four and five.  Chapter four, “The Weather Watchers,” looks at the historical development of meteorology.  Beginning with Daniel Defoe and the first modern weather report, Barnett takes the reader through the development of one of the most important media components available today.  Moving to the 1800’s, Barnett notes the contributions of scientists, such as Luke Howard, in creating the International Cloud Atlas, and George Symons and his Monthly Meteorological Magazine.  Barnett also notes that Congress established a meteorology agency service in the 1870’s that continues its work today.   Finishing off with the explosive growth of the Weather Channel, Barnett shows just how far weather reporting has come in a little over two centuries.

In chapter five, “The Articles of Rain,” Barnett begins with a compelling story starting in the depths of South America.  Indigenous people harvested odd “goo”—what they called “latex,” and Latin for “fluid.”  Over time, various inventors and explorers learned how to refine the sticky, useful substance leading to the modern “Macintosh,” or the world’s first and finest raincoat.  An important staple of both fashion and practical uses, Barnett takes the reader through the historical development of the raincoat, its uses, contributors, and, ultimately, its lasting power.  Noting that other “articles of rain” such as the windshield wiper and galoshes have important uses, Barnett asserts that the articles of rain have contributed to both our wellbeing and fashion sense for as long as they have been around.

Part III, “American Rain,” begins with chapter six, “Founding Forecasters.”  The chapter starts with a description of Thomas Jefferson and his design of Monticello, Jefferson’s main plantation.  Monticello required well water, which proved to be a difficult proposition.  Barnett then moves on to discuss the historical settling of the United States, including Jefferson’s detailed investigations of rain and climate.  Ultimately, like so many others, Jefferson would build cisterns to hold water on his plantation, although the caverns rarely worked.  Barnett explains how cisterns were an ancient Roman idea, but the ancient Romans figured out how to waterproof, while Jefferson could not.  Barnett concludes the chapter by laying the foundation for chapter seven, “Rain Follows the Plow.”

In chapter seven, Barnett winds the reader through history, telling the tale of the development of the American west, and how the rains both assisted and ruined settlements throughout the brand new country.  Using the story of Uriah Oblinger, a Midwestern settler in the 1800’s, Barnett takes the reader through first the wet, torrid rains of settlements in Nebraska in 1872.  Barnett then talks about how an amazing feat happened: as settlers moved out West, the rain followed.  This phenomenon led to the theory “rain follows the plow.”  Scientists began to believe that the more development that occurred, the more moisture in the air causing rain.  However, drought eventually hit, and it forced farmers to leave their claims.  Barnett talks about the horrific Mississippi floods of 1927, which cost hundreds of African American slaves their lives; a tragedy that still lives on in infamy.  To end the chapter, Barnett points to the Dust Bowl and the River Flood as two seminal times in American history both connected to rain.

Finishing with chapter eight, “The Rainmakers,” Barnett takes a fun look at some of the great fads of the United States.  Starting with the 1890’s, Barnett takes the reader through the history of “bombing the skies,” the theory that man can control the creation of rain.  Discussing theories such as a fireworks celebration causing sudden rains, and the still-current practice of “seeding clouds” (attempting to cause rain where there may be none), Barnett shows the reader the history of rain control in American science.  Showing that no matter how little or great success humans may have, Barnett asserts that controlling rain is a tradition as old as time itself, and will continue for years to come.

Part IV, “Capturing the Rain,” begins with chapter nine, “Writers on the Storm.”  Starting out with the story of Morrissey, lead singer of the rock band the Smiths, Barnett discusses the impact of rain on the cities where music genre, such as grunge, were borne.  From the musty English town of Manchester, to the rain-soaked streets of Seattle that brought us Kurt Cobain, the lead singer and guitarist of the band Nirvana, rainy cities have brought about some of the most depressing, yet widely identified music of our time.  Showing that rain impacts writing as well as music, Barnett reminds readers that Charles Dickenson wrote during a period called the little ice age, when the weather was some of the worst society has ever recorded.  Finally, reminding the reader of film classics such as “Singing in the Rain” that bring about passion and rain-soaked kisses, Barnett shows the reader that rain spans many displays of artistic talent, each with its own flavor.

In chapter ten, “The Scent of Rain,” Barnett describes an often overlooked aspect of the rain, its smell.  Using the unique and time-tested art of perfume making, Barnett goes to India and perfumers’ search of the “smell of India.”  The country’s dark earthen clay contains a special scent, encapsulated with the first rains of the season.  For centuries, people have sought after India’s mitti attar, a famous rain-scented perfume.  Its makers bottle the perfume with care in specially designed pouches.  Following one of India’s most prominent manufacturers of the product, Barnett gets a first-hand look at the “smell of rain” and is able to follow the production from harvest to sale.

Chapter eleven, “City Rains,” looks at the United States and its metropolitan areas.  Starting in Miami, Barnett provides a detailed description of the look and feel of a good Florida rainstorm.  Moving to runoff, Barnett highlights a serious issue facing many places today: pollution and management of runoff water.  For example, cars leave residue on the streets, and sewer systems do not filter this water during rainstorms in places like California and Florida. Florida also has issues with its management of runoff, issues that can lead to disease, pollution, and otherwise undesirable side effects.  Barnett then compares the dense rains of Florida to the 2014 California drought and the arid, dry plains of Tucson, Arizona.  Showing that each city has its own problems, Barnett highlights just how much rain touches even our most developed areas.

Part V, the final section, encapsulates the final two chapters of the book.  Chapter twelve, “Strange Rain,” is a unique look at some of the odder historical instances of rain.  Barnett explains that rains involving frogs, toads, fish, and colors of red, yellow, and black are all historical phenomena rooted in fact.  Barnett also tells the reader about the snakes, seeds, and shredded meat that have showered down on unsuspecting people.  Barnett then discusses such historical events such as the Greg Fog that killed 12,000 people, and acid rain that started with the unchecked pollution of the industrial revolution.

In chapter 13, “And the Forecast Calls for Change,” Barnett passes along a warning to the reader.  In the past, society has been able to use previous indicators to predict the future of rain.  We have been able to measure, gauge, follow, and predict rainfall and rain patters.  Climate change has changed the way society approaches the rain.  Barnett explains that past indicators are no longer future markers of success due to the recent change in rain patter.  Further, Barnett argues that climate is unpredictable, and asserts that if humans are to continue to benefit and enjoy the life-sustaining gifts of the rain, humans need to be mindful of nature and their past.  Using the Dust Bowl and the Great Floods as examples, Barnett reminds the reader that humanity does not always respond well to changes in rain.

In a final epilogue, Barnett travels to the rainiest place on Earth, Cherrapunji, India.  This beautiful, special place receives almost four hundred inches of rain a year annually.  However, this special place has not been immune from the changes in rain.  Barnett explains that as a place that normally sees almost one hundred inches of rain in June, last year saw only twenty-three inches.  Illustrating how dire the changes in weather can be, Barnett uses the example of Cherrapunji to show how special the rain can be, and just how important it is.

In conclusion, Rain: A Natural and Cultural History is not a book for the practice of water law, but a great illustration of the societal and cultural importance of rain and water, fundamental pieces of sustainable life and civilization. Providing an interesting, practical, and fun education on rain history and concepts, Barnett assists the reader in understanding the importance of rain, and how it can alter the course of nations, people, and, ultimately, history.

The featured image was taken in Joshua Tree National Park.  Jarek Tuszynski took the photo.  Use of this photo is not an endorsement of the Water Law Review.

Southern Water, Southern Power: How The Politics of Cheap
Energy and Water Scarcity Shaped a Region, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC (2015); 204 pp.; ISBN 978-1-4696-2005-3.

Christopher J. Manganiello is an environmental historian and Policy Director at the Georgia River Network. Manganiello studies the development of water resources in the American South and its social and environmental consequences. In Southern Water, Southern Power: How the Politics of Cheap Energy and Water Scarcity Shaped a Region, Manganiello describes the competition between private and public actors to develop cheap energy, build a connected infrastructure, and produce social outcomes. The book refers to two regions: the New South, which includes the old Confederate states after the Civil War; and the Sun Belt, encompassing the southern United States south of the thirty-sixth parallel. Manganiello astutely observes how the economics and politics of water resources and energy development in the New South and the Sun Belt contributed to social norms and shaped public policy.

In chapter one, “Lowell of the South,” Manganiello describes the geographic, ecological, and economic conditions in the southern United States before, and leading up to, the Civil War. He follows John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club, on Muir’s trip through the South immediately following the Civil War. On Muir’s travels down the Chattahoochee River, he documented the striking beauty of the countryside, but also described an uncivilized rural region where former slaves and plantation owners reminded him that the Civil War had only just ended. Manganiello argues that Muir only observed part of the story. In fact, since the 1700s, residents of the South knew the region’s energy potential, even in the absence of coal and oil. The Savannah River watershed in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina contains fast rivers flowing from the highlands in the Appalachian Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. Through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, local boosters turned water resources into an impressive renewable energy system. Cities like Augusta, Georgia resembled New England mill towns, and by the late 1800s, developers had built a sophisticated transnational energy system that excelled in producing hydroelectric energy. Developers also improved production techniques and became capable of generating and delivering energy to many agricultural and industrial communities.

In chapter two, “Dam Crazy for White Coal in the New South,” Manganiello emphasizes the many successes, but also limitations, of private corporations in energy development in the New South. He explains how those limitations eventually led to conflicts between corporations and government actors. Coal and oil were scarce in the New South, and freight costs and labor uncertainty made those forms of energy more expensive. In response to the geographic and economic reality, developers took advantage of abundant and renewable water resources to bring cheaper hydroelectric power to the region. The largest companies built dams and developed a massive power grid connecting several urban centers and agricultural communities. Development of cheap energy attracted northern businesses to the region and provided cities like Atlanta the power to thrive. However, even though private industry succeeded in developing this grid, the region’s geology made expansion and maintenance more expensive than anyone had anticipated. Companies had no choice but to build on porous limestone. Dams tended to sink and shift on the soft limestone, contributing to leaks that required frequent and expensive repairs. As a result, companies incurred higher expenses in order to ensure the stability of their structures, and increasing infrastructure costs limited the services they could provide to agricultural communities.

Although water resources were apparently abundant in the New South, the region showed it was still susceptible to drought when low rainfall contributed to severe power shortages in the summer of 1925. Corporations learned to transfer energy between regions, but the shortages fostered long term supply concerns. The 1925 drought taught people that the interconnected power grid was beneficial, but companies reverted to coal to ensure energy supply in future droughts. Intrigued by cheap renewable energy, the Tennessee Valley Authority (“TVA”) became determined to ensure that hydroelectric power remained a cornerstone in the region. Additionally, progressives and liberals politicized hydroelectric energy because they were weary of monopolization, unregulated actors, and concerned for rural communities. They sought to displace some of the private energy production to ensure that the region would continue to use hydroelectric energy.

The author begins chapter three, “New Deal Big Dam Consensus,” by telling the story of Hamburg, South Carolina, a center for African American commerce in the New South. Corporations neglected to build levees in Hamburg, and consequently, floods all but eliminated the city in 1929. The tragedy highlighted social inequalities and selective development that galvanized opposition to private corporations. Next, leading up to and during the Great Depression, energy companies were reluctant to expand to rural and agricultural areas. Their reluctance provided additional momentum to the federal government’s vision for energy development. In 1933, Congress authorized the TVA to build twelve major dam facilities in twelve years with the goal of bringing cheap electricity to farmlands. Meanwhile, utility executives opposed the new government projects because they threatened corporate profits, but Southern Democrats rallied behind the TVA because energy companies would not electrify rural communities. Conversely, conservatives and many white Democrats grew skeptical of Roosevelt’s New Deal big dam projects. They worried the TVA would target towns like Hamburg, and viewed such projects as a threat to the social and economic order in the region.

Chapter four, “A Keystone Dam and Georgia’s New Ocean,” chronicles the development of the Clarks Hill dam on the Savannah River. The Savannah River establishes part of the Georgia and South Carolina border, and the dam would become the largest hydroelectric project south of Tennessee and east of the Mississippi River. Private corporations, state governments, and the federal government disputed how to develop the project, and who would control the final product. These disagreements embodied the economic and social tensions in the region. The Army Corps of Engineers (the “Corps”) had gained increasing support throughout the 1930s by emphasizing the need to provide cheap hydroelectric energy to both urban centers and agricultural communities. With this growing support, the Corps displaced private corporations as the largest developer of hydroelectric power in the New South by the 1940s. Consequently, the Corps won the job at Clarks Hill. Its goal there was to render the Savannah River navigable year round, provide a stable energy supply, and pacify flooding in the Savannah River watershed.

The eventual reservoir at Clarks Hill would cover seventy-one thousand acres and create twelve hundred miles of shoreline, but it would also displace at least two hundred area residents. The Corps also intended Clarks Hill to yield recreation areas for residents of the region; however, the prospect of recreation created additional tension over whether to segregate those areas. Opponents of Clarks Hill claimed the project was socialist in nature, and was government intrusion on private property. Southern Democrats like Senator Strom Thurmond favored the project, but not at the expense of white supremacy and segregation in the South. Ultimately, Clarks Hill began producing energy in 1953, but rivals lobbied hard enough that many of the planned recreation areas never manifested. Eventually consensus developed that big dam developments were valuable, but race, class, recreation, and inclusiveness became themes in negotiations for other dam projects across the region.

In Chapter five, “Big Dam Backlash Rising in the Sun Belt,” Manganiello describes the breakdown of the New Deal big dam consensus. Georgia experienced massive water shortages in the 1950s caused by severe drought. In response, Georgia enacted plans to balance water and energy supply. However, despite the growing skepticism of New Deal big dam developments, the federal government approved and funded another massive project called the Hartwell dam. The federal government argued that the energy it would produce was necessary for national security during the Cold War. Although the federal government completed Hartwell, major energy companies like Duke Energy, private property holders (including Clemson College), and states’ rights advocates drew concessions from the federal government. For example, the original plan at Hartwell would not have afforded many towns or private citizens’ water rights in the new reservoir. The federal government agreed to expand access to Hartwell when Georgia politicians threatened to enact new water laws that would allow for more liberal water use. Georgia received funding to establish programs that helped build irrigation lines and ponds for farmers. Eventually, several communities gained water rights at Hartwell, the Corps built levees for Clemson and other towns, and the federal government paid millions to private property holders who lost land due to the new reservoir.

In chapter six, “Countryside Conservatism and Conservation,” the author relates how the Corps sought to develop the final undammed stretch of the Savannah River at Trotter Shoals. Rather than promote the traditional trio of benefits—hydroelectric power, navigation, and flood control—the Corps promoted the project as an energy producer and recreation area. Corporations, once again, opposed the project. More notably, however, countryside conservationists concerned with preserving water supply, and environmentalists promoting water quality added their unique voices to the opposition. This movement spawned the enactment of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 that stalled Trotter Shoals and other projects. The projects stalled because the new law required developers to perform environmental impact reports before proceeding. Additionally, Trotter Shoals moved forward in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education, prompting activists to insist on desegregating all recreation areas. Southern Democrats like Thurmond typically supported large dams, but they refused to support projects if it meant supporting recreation and civil rights. They used the opportunity to change political parties and voice opposition.

The final chapter, “Taken and Delivered: The Chattooga River,” chronicles a power struggle between local citizens and the federal government over the regulation of free flowing rivers. Unlike the dam projects, the conflict did not include debate over whether to develop a river, but rather who should manage the river and how. Congress passed The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 in response to a national movement against dam construction. Activists insisted that free flowing rivers were good for the environment. The Chattooga River was the last undammed river in the Savannah River watershed, and it was a perfect candidate for protection under the new law. The movie Deliverance made the Chattooga River famous. After the movie came out, recreation traffic on the Chattooga surged, along with accidents and casualties. The federal government deployed the National Forest Service to create a national recreation center in which people needed permits to ride the river. The Forest Service went so far as buying roads from local governments and then closing them to reduce traffic in the area. Locals had known the area as a quiet place of enjoyment before Deliverance made it famous, and the federal government exacerbated tensions by excluding locals from the planning process. When the government condemned land, cut down trees, closed roads, and impeded access to the river, local protesters set several forest fires over a period of years. The author articulates that, ultimately, the “process maintained a wild and free-flowing river, but some local users lost a perceived freedom to access the river.”

In conclusion, Southern Water, Southern Power does not necessarily provide helpful tools for law practitioners, but the author provides a compelling narrative on the development of public policy and social dynamics. Readers interested in history and the relationship between the public and private sector in particular will enjoy Manganiello’s writing. The author utilizes water rights, energy development, and politics to provide a unique perspective of the Reconstruction era after the Civil War, the Great Depression, the 1950s and 1960s Civil Rights movement, and the genesis of environmentalism in the 1970s. The book educates readers on the relationships and interplay between private citizens and institutions, as well as all levels of government. Energy development and water resources are paramount to a successful society, and Manganiello aids his readers in synthesizing how all stakeholders play a role in the outcome of producing and distributing those resources.

By Kenna Lang Archer

Kenna Lang Archer is a history instructor at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas. She has a Masters Degree in Environmental Science from Baylor University, and a PhD in American History from Texas Tech University. In her book, Unruly Waters: A Social and Environmental History of the Brazos River, Dr. Lang utilizes her expertise in environmental science and history to provide a holistic look at a unique waterway. The Brazos is the longest river within the state of Texas.   It flows from the deserts and canyons of northwest Texas— populated by ranchers, farmers, and Native Americans—south through prairies, plantations, and coastal wetlands on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. This trajectory steers the Brazos through the intersection of southern and western geography and culture in the United States. The differing geological realities within the Brazos River basin, and the competing economic and political goals of the people at different points along the river have posed significant challenges to its development since the early 1800s. In Unruly Waters, Dr. Lang chronicles the attempts, and many failures at developing the Brazos River, and the cultural, economic, and technological consequences of those attempts.

Chapter one opens on a group of men during the Civil War tasked with mapping Texas. The group’s analysis of the Brazos River provided the first glimpse of the ecologic, geographic, and cultural diversity along the different sections of the river. Dr. Lang uses this imagery to foreshadow a discussion of the differences between the Upper, Middle, and Lower Brazos River. The distinctions between the three segments of the river are significant to understanding the difficulties each has experienced in development, and how efforts to develop each region has affected the others.

The Lower Brazos River empties into to the Gulf of Mexico after flowing through wetlands, wooded areas, oxbow lakes, and areas of rich fertile soils. The soils around the Lower Brazos are ideal for agricultural production. However, its flat landscapes and fertile, but unstable soils make the region susceptible to flooding. The Middle Brazos River is characterized by a combination of prairie lands and forests. The significant majority of the river’s tributaries empty into the Brazos in this section, which also experiences the largest flows of any segment of the river. While the heavier flow creates an environment with no shortage of water, it also fosters flood risk and creates stretches of rough waters that make navigation difficult. The Upper Brazos River flows through canyon lands and red clay soils. Though located in a more arid climate where drought is common, the rolling topography and steep riverbed walls make the Upper Brazos River tamer, more predictable, and less susceptible to flooding. Consequently, the Upper Brazos has become a popular region for farmers and ranchers.

In chapter two, Dr. Lang highlights the cultural heritage along the different segments of the river in order to set up a discussion of the different development strategies Texans would eventually employ. Since the early 1800s, Texans have immortalized the Brazos in folk tales, songs, photographs, and paintings. Famous artists, laborers, Native Americans, and everyday people have commented through different mediums on the heritage of the region. The lower half of the river basin is most comparable to the landscapes and culture of the Deep South. Early Texans saw the opportunity to maximize economic production by establishing prison farms and utilizing convict labor. At these camps, prisoners sang songs that told stories of work on cotton and sugar plantations. Eventually photographers captured the same stories. Photographs portray the harsh conditions in which they worked, but also show prisoners bathing in the sun or playing sports during their free time.

There is a distinct geographic and demographic shift from the Lower Brazos to the Upper Brazos. Contrary to the Lower Brazos, aspects of American western culture emerge along the Upper Brazos River. The transition manifests itself in artwork and literature that depict beautiful desert scenes and discuss the interactions and activities between American emigrants and Native Americans. Dr. Lang points out that the river is a centerpiece of artistic expression throughout the entire river basin. Through allegory or direct communication, Brazos centric artwork depicted an admiration for the river, but also a frustration over the lack of control of its waters.

In chapter three, Dr. Lang provides a survey of what fostered the original desire to develop the Brazos River, and illustrates why the first undertakings proved cumbersome. Geological factors make the Brazos difficult to develop at every point along the river. The fertile soils of the Lower Brazos River basin attracted immigrants from the United States, Europe and Mexico in the early 19th century. Boosters and politicians knew that if they could make the waterway consistently navigable, it would provide farmers and ranchers access to domestic and foreign markets. However, the region experienced a combination of drought periods and flood seasons that hurt agriculture and create dramatic fluctuations in water levels, rendering navigation difficult and sometimes impossible.

In response, boosters and politicians devised development plans modeled after Southern port cities. Two of the first projects included a 10-mile canal from the Brazos to Galveston (one of the largest ports in Texas), and a series of jetties where the river empties into the Gulf of Mexico. The goal of these projects was to provide people inland with access to a port, as well as to provide an inland entry point for ships. In both cases, loose soils on the river bottom made finishing and maintaining these projects expensive and time consuming because the waterways required frequent dredging. A combination of rising and falling water levels and soil deposits on the river floor often made navigation possible for only small vessels.

In chapter four, Dr. Lang details the continued determination to render the Brazos navigable. Beginning in 1890 and into the twentieth century, stakeholders shifted their focus to the Middle Brazos River. Instead of dredging the low-lying Lower Brazos, they attempted to implement a series of locks and dams that could calm the river and provide avenues around difficult stretches. Again, natural limitations, including erodible soil and changing elevations, prevented the projects from finishing within their budgets. At the end of the chapter, Dr. Lang emphasizes that failure did not fatigue the stakeholders’ resolve, but it did force them to reflect on their efforts to turn the Brazos into a riparian highway.

Flooding and drought remained the prominent problems in the river basin. The failure of navigation projects spurred a political outcry by 1929 that shifted the focus of development from navigation to flood control. In Chapter 5, Dr. Lang chronicles perhaps the most successful period of development between 1929 and 1958, during which the focus of development shifted from the lower two-thirds of the river to the Upper Brazos River. There, developers envisioned a series of dam projects that more closely resembled development on the Colorado and Tennessee Rivers, rather than Southern-style development like that on the Mississippi.

The dam projects along the Upper Brazos and its tributaries were designed to quell flooding throughout the entire river basin, conserve water for irrigation, reclaim and conserve soil for agriculture, and produce hydroelectric power. The first few projects accomplished these objectives, but also ended up costing much more than originally planned. However, it was not economic considerations that eventually derailed this phase of development, but disagreements over its purposes. Some thought the projects focused too much on energy development, while others argued that they focused on flood control at the expense of hydroelectric power. Additionally, interested stakeholders in the Lower Brazos region were concerned that development on the Upper Brazos would diminish water supplies downstream. Ultimately, political disagreements and limited resources halted several plans for more dam projects.

In chapter six, Dr. Lang discusses the most ambitious of the Brazos River development plans. In the second half of the 20th century, concerns about water supply became a real threat due to an increasing population in West Texas and other areas. In response, national and state politicians proposed a series of importation and diversion schemes. The idea was to take water from areas with a surplus to areas of the country that often experienced shortages. Groups proposed plans that would divert and import water from other major United States waterways to West Texas and Eastern New Mexico, and store the water in underground aquifers. One plan, the Mississippi-Brazos diversion project, proposed developing a North Texas Canal that could transport water from the Mississippi River to West Texas.

None of the diversion plans ever took hold, in part because of the significant costs for the technology and infrastructure necessary to move forward. In addition to technological and monetary challenges, political barriers proved to be the greatest difficulty with these projects. People in the west needed more water, but people in East Texas and people from out of state erected several roadblocks to prevent moving too much water out of their ecosystems.

The final chapter of the book is aptly named, “A Defiant Brazos and the Persistence of its People.” In this chapter, Dr. Lang reflects on over 100 years of attempted development on the Brazos, and identifies several interrelated themes underlying each attempt. The combination of floods and droughts has motivated every development attempt. From the Upper Brazos to the Lower Brazos, problems have spawned great conviction amongst successive generations to improve upon the work of the generation before, but the nature and magnitude of the projects thwarted every attempt. In the end, Dr. Lang determines that the stories of the many attempts at development along the Brazos River are not stories of failure.   The stories are about a steadfast conviction that they may eventually optimize conditions, and that the lives of individuals will improve once they employ the right solution.

Unruly Waters: A Social and Environmental History of the Brazos River transcends a discussion of how people utilized technology in an attempt to preserve and perfect water resources in a region. In Unruly Waters, Dr. Lang examines how the Brazos River’s stakeholders have worked together through history to shape the lives of people who live near, develop, and seek to control it. Dr. Lang endeavors to show how politics, innovation, individuals, and community needs have coalesced in a bigger picture. This is not a narrative about how a political machine, or a technological giant conquered, or failed to conquer a stubborn river. Rather, the book presents a sociopolitical analysis of how all of the parties involved are actually interested in the same end: maximizing the safety and utility of a significant waterway.

Hal Crimmel is a Brady Presidential Distinguished Professor of English at Weber State University and founding co-chair of its Environmental Issues Committee. He is the editor of and contributor to Desert Water: The Future of Utah’s Water Resources, a collection of essays by professors, social scientists, and policy makers studying current and future water resources in Utah. Crimmel aims in his book to increase public awareness of the importance of water and water-related issues in Utah. Through the perspective of each contributor, the book assesses the historical and current state of Utah’s water resources, identifies current and future threats, critiques certain consumption policies and practices, and proposes solutions for managing the unrelenting demand on the state’s waters. While Desert Water primarily focuses on water resources in Utah, decisions made within the state’s borders are likely to impact surrounding states. Accordingly, many of the problems and solutions discussed in the book are relevant to water resources in similarly arid western states.

In the first chapter, “The Coming Challenge: Population Growth and Water Decline,” Eric Ewert, a professor of geography at Weber State University, explores the inverse relationship between Utah’s declining fresh water resources and its rapid population growth. These two trends, Ewert suggests, are set to combine with each other in what he refers to as the “water-population collision.” Drawing on 2012 predictions, Ewert points out that due to a high birth rate and an influx of immigrants, the population in Utah is expected to double by 2060. At the same time, trends in the state show a continuous decline in its water supply and reservoir capacity. This is due, in part, to less runoff, earlier snow melts, evaporation, sedimentation in the reservoirs, and Utahans enjoying the second highest per-capita water use rate in the country. While Utah does not presently have a water shortage problem, Ewert contends, consumption will naturally grow alongside the population. So unless changes are made now, Utah’s unsustainable water use rates will lead to a shortage crisis in the future. In his analysis, Ewert rejects some of the state’s supply-focused policies and practices, such as building more dams and diversions. He instead recommends that Utah adopt more demand-focused policies, such as climate-appropriate landscaping, water education, and rate incentives.

In Chapter 2, Stephen Trimble, an award-winning author and teacher of writing at the University of Utah Honors College, authors “The Miracle at the End of the Line.” The chapter is a personal story that considers the sources of water in the rural town of Torrey. In arid southern Utah, Torrey only receives an average rainfall of seven and a half inches per year. The rain and running water from Thousand Lake Mountain currently delivers fresh clean water to a population of one hundred and eighty people, a local agriculture system, and a few surrounding communities. Trimble describes how Mormons first pioneered the town in the 1870s and settled it through the cooperative building of ditches and canals. As water storage and control continued to drive growth in the area, disputes inevitably arose over water allocation, giving rise to discussions of equity and water politics. Trimble uses the rest of the chapter to illustrate how history and priorities continue to make our relationship with water complex and sometimes contentious. Using specific examples from the town, he ponders how much growth will come to Torrey, how much growth the town really wants, and how much it can reasonably sustain. In the larger context, Trimble’s story of accessible water in Torrey symbolizes how growth and economic development in small towns across the arid west depend on infrastructure and access to affordable clean water.

Craig Denton, author and professor of communication at the University of Utah, examines the nature and use of the Bear River in Chapter 3, “Bear River: Learning from a River That Closes Our Circle.” Bear River is a lesser-known watercourse that begins and ends in northern Utah. Although it provides nearly sixty percent of the water to the Great Salt Lake, by the time it reaches residential areas, the river is opaque, slow moving, and uninspiring. Denton contends that rivers that are revered, like the Colorado and Green Rivers, receive more protection than less celebrated rivers, such as the Bear River. Therefore, Denton’s goal in this collection is to raise awareness and protection for the Bear River. He accomplishes this in two ways. First, Denton examines the river’s regional importance to avian ecosystems, aquatic life, water rights holders, and the local population. Second, he discusses some of the river’s most pressing threats, including additional proposed diversions, irrigation runoff, diminished biodiversity, and lower quantities of water due to climate change. Denton adds to these concerns by critiquing western water laws. He criticizes western water law’s emphasis on prior appropriation. Specifically, Denton argues that the courts should see conservation as a beneficial use, especially since the Great Salt Lake lacks its own water rights. Denton ends the chapter by applauding the protection efforts of various governments and environmental groups. He also proposes several steps that Utahans can take to protect the river, including conservation awareness and increasing residential water rates.

In Chapter 4, George Handley authors “The Restoration of All Things: The Case of the Provo River Delta.” Handley is a professor of interdisciplinary humanities at Brigham Young University. In this piece, Handley ponders why so many Utahans are apathetic towards the health of their local water ecosystems and addresses what he sees as personal roadblocks to conservation. In one sense, Handley articulates, modern populations do not appreciate rivers because people are not aware of the journeys rivers take, their histories, or of our relationship to rivers. In another sense, he explains how different doctrines held by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are used to support attitudes that both encourage and reject environmental conservation. For instance, many Mormons believe that the end is near. This can either motivate a believer’s stewardship or it can encourage her to dismiss long-term environmental concerns altogether. Handley breaks the church’s theology into twelve different pro-environmental and anti-environmental attitudes. He then expresses his hope for Mormonism to embrace stronger environmental ethics. In the case of the Provo River Delta, eighty percent of the population is Mormon. Therefore, Handley points out, any meaningful restoration in the area may have to include a shift in doctrinal beliefs. Handley ends the chapter by arguing that pro-environmental beliefs are still consistent, if not more aligned, with the church’s theology.

Desert Water takes a turn to Utah’s most famous body of water in Chapter 5, “Climate Change and the Future of Great Salt Lake.” Geographer Daniel Bedford expands on Denton’s discussions in Chapter 3 by examining the large but mysterious Great Salt Lake. The Great Salt Lake is a terminal lake, meaning that water flows into but not out of it. Consequently, Bedford explains, the Great Salt Lake is susceptible to human and natural influences of which readers should be aware. Natural influences on the lake include, among other things, a warming global climate system, lake-effect precipitation, river inflows, and a shallow depth that contributes to greater evaporation and drastic water level changes. Direct human influences, such as irrigation and residential consumption, have a much smaller effect on the health and level of the lake. However, as the population in Utah is estimated to double in the next forty years, more water will be required to support its residents. Ultimately, Bedford argues, the health of the Great Salt Lake will depend on how much humans care for it. Aside from its iconic image and economically valuable minerals, many locals do not care for the lake and do not see it as a unique resource that should be protected. Bedford contends that this apathy may come at a great cost, not just to humans but to birds, fish, and other wildlife that depend on it for their survival.

Zachary Frankle, founder and executive director of the Utah Rivers Council, interrupts the book’s serious tone in Chapter 6 with “Chicken Little’s New Career: How Utah’s Water Development Industry Shows False Fears and Misinformation.” In this chapter, Frankle argues against developments similar to the Lake Powell Pipeline project, which is expected to carry water from Lake Powell to southwest Utah. The project will cost Utah’s taxpayers over one billion dollars. Frankle insists that Utah has all the money and water it needs to solve its water problems without the project. Utah’s lack of water, he argues, is nothing more than a myth perpetuated by a large and elusive water development industry and repeated by an under-informed media. Frankle examines the tax and fee structures behind projects like the Lake Powell pipeline and Price River dam proposal, which proposes to dam the headwaters of the Price River. In doing so, he describes how taxpayers are being asked to spend millions of dollars on projects when simple modernization efforts, such as phasing out water waste, could solve the same problem and impact fewer ecosystems. In addition, and in unison with other authors in this collection, Frankle believes raising water rates is one of the more simple and effective solutions available for reducing consumption. Property taxes and federal subsidies currently subsidize the water rates in Utah. As a result, residents pay just a fraction of the real cost of the water that they use and are, not surprisingly, more wasteful. Frankle concludes with a reminder that not all conservation projects are actually good for conservation and that some should be considered with great skepticism.

The Great Salt Lake receives even greater attention in Chapter 7, “Time to Rethink Policy: Ideas for Improving the Health of Great Salt Lake.” In this chapter, attorney Rob Dubuc examines characteristics of the lake, identifies differing perceptions of its value, and discusses threats to the lake’s long-term condition. With a focus on economic considerations, Dubuc weighs the economic value of the lake against its inherent value and general health. For example, operations that extract salt and other minerals out of the Great Sale Lake yield approximately $1.13 billion dollars in economic output annually and create approximately 5,300 jobs in the area. With an eye toward proposals to expand these operations, Dubuc ponders the consequence of such widespread projects, especially in combination with other local threats, including industrial discharge, nutrient loading, diking, and a lack of water rights for the lake. Dubuc concludes by asking the open question of whether state law should protect a minimum lake level.

In Chapter 8, “The Colorado: Archetypal River,” writer and former river guide Brooke Williams describes the personal and philosophical appreciation she has for the Colorado River. Writing from the perspective of the Colorado River’s banks, Williams portrays the Colorado as an archetype river. It supports the life of thirty million people, ecosystems across seven states, and to some, it represents a collective unconscious that contains universal symbols of the evolutionary history of our species. Intertwined with facts and anecdotal stories, Williams’ chapter attempts to develop for the reader a deeper appreciation of the natural and spiritual importance of the Colorado River. Experiences and connections that some people take for granted, she argues, may forever be lost due to misuse of the water. For instance, the Colorado was listed as America’s Most Endangered River in 2013. Ultimately, Williams’ essay aims at inspiring a sense of urgency to protect these western water resources. Many readers will appreciate her philosophical approach.

In Chapter 9, “Going with the Flow: Navigating to Stream Access Consensus,” Sara Dant considers the balance of fairness between the rights of private landowners and the public’s right to access Utah’s rivers and streams. With an emphasis on the Weber River, Dant explores these issues through a historical examination of Utah’s water use and policy. Historically, the Weber River was widely used for timber floating, irrigation, and sports fishing. These uses were often guaranteed by the courts, but were challenged in 2010 when the Utah State Legislature passed House Bill 141, the Public Water Access Act. This stream access bill essentially prohibits and even criminalizes all public recreational use of rivers and streams that cross private property, except for floating and incidental touching. In her chapter, Dant proposes that legislators respect the rights of private property owners, while recognizing at the same time that people should have the right to access and enjoy public waters, especially in arid climates where water is scarce. While some areas of the law remain undecided, such as owner liability, fencing issues, and the extent of riverbeds, Dant urges courts and policymakers to draw inspiration from Utah’s water history and not to forget their roles as trustees for the public.

Lake Powell is the focus of Chapter 10, “The Return of Glen Canyon: The Beginning of a More Sustainable Future for the Colorado,” by senior journalism lecturer and Southwest Editor for Backpacker Magazine, Annette McGivney. The Glen Canyon Dam was built in southwest Utah to provide hydroelectricity and to create Lake Powell, a reservoir and storage buffer between the Upper and Lower Colorado River Basins. One of six dams built along the Colorado River, the Glen Canyon Dam ensures that the Lower Basin gets the water to which it is legally entitled under the 1922 Colorado River Compact. McGivney argues, however, that holding water in six dams across the arid region may not be the best solution. The reservoir is currently over-allocated and rising temperatures in the region lead to greater evaporation and lower input levels. In 2005, for example, Lake Powell was only at thirty percent capacity. To better manage scarce water reserves in the state, McGivney suggests decreasing consumption rates and removing the dam, thus lowering the water in Glen Canyon to its original level. McGivney argues that doing so will recover lost ecosystems and archeological sites. Although Lake Powell attracts millions of visitors every year, thereby boosting the local economy, McGivney argues that the beauty of the canyon will attract new visitors and support a more sustainable life cycle.

Chapter 11, “Land of 20,000 Wells: Impacts on Water from Oil and Gas Development in Eastern Utah” by editor Hal Crimmel, explores natural resource drilling in the Uinta Basin and Green River watershed. Current research shows that Utah has 400 billion barrels of oil shale and its tar sands deposits contain another twelve to nineteen billion barrels. In the process of extracting these resources, companies use and dispose of vast amounts of water in an already arid region. Crimmel recognizes the somewhat permanence of natural resource drilling in today’s economy, so he suggests certain policies and regulations to better manage threats posed to the state’s water resources. Equating certain oil and gas rhetoric with that of the tobacco industry, he argues that even with precautions, there are no guarantees of safety from water supply contamination throughout all phases of the extraction process. While the region examined in this chapter is somewhat remote, natural resource drilling continues to take place across the West, even in highly populated areas. Especially because water crosses state lines, Crimmel argues that oil and gas development should not be treated as a local issue.

In Chapter 12, “Moving Water,” author Jana Richman takes on a proposal by Pat Mulroy, General Manager for Southern Nevada Water Authority, to pump water out of Snake Valley in western Utah and carry it to Las Vegas through a 300-mile pipeline. Proponents of the pipeline claim that the water can be pumped and transported with minimal to no impact in the area. Richman, however, argues that no one can be certain of the extent of devastation the pipeline may cause. She examines the failure of similar groundwater pumping projects, predominately out of Owens Valley in California, and examines whether or not this project will have similar results. The Owens Valley pumping project resulted in consequences such as the drying up of Owens Lake, disappearance of native flora and fauna, local farm and orchard crop failures, and massive traveling dust storms. Richman argues that even with the proposed monitoring precautions in place, it could take centuries after the pumps are shut off to slow and stop the damage that has been done, not to mention the inherent damage of digging 300 miles of pipeline. Richman does not offer specific alternatives for a Las Vegas water shortage problem but contends that there are better solutions than the proposed pipeline.

In the final chapter, “A New Water Ethic,” Daniel McCool, professor and director of the Environmental and Sustainability Program at the University of Utah, challenges the anthropocentric framework with which we currently think about water use in the West. Water, he posits, is irregular and unpredictable, but also essential to every organism. Going forward, we need to have a coherent vision and framework in which to develop western water law and policy. McCool devotes his essay to discussing why we need change and what the new western water ethic should look like. Broadly, he encourages evolution to a more bio-centric concept of ethics.

For anyone interested in learning more about the condition of water resources in Utah, Desert Water is an overall valuable resource. It offers a variation of well-cited works by various authorities in the state. The book does not advocate for a particular method or even offer a conclusion about the optimal use and regulation of water in the state. Instead, it offers a fair evaluation of pressing issues and conservation motivations from a multitude of perspectives. Additionally, the short collection of essays allows the reader to delve directly into the particular topics most interesting to them. For those who choose to read the book in its entirety, the chapters compliment each other with minimal overlap.


The title image features the iconic Great Salt Lake in Utah. The image has been donated to the public domain.

Juan Estevan Arellano is a journalist who spent most of his life working with the irrigation networks in Northern New Mexico and studying the world history that led to the development of acequias and irrigation networks in his homeland. Enduring Acequias: Wisdom of the Land, Knowledge of the Water mixes Arellano’s own personal experiences working the land with a broader historical perspective analyzing irrigation techniques in the Indus Valley, the Iberian Peninsula, and the American Southwest. Arellano incorporates his own research, travel experiences, and practical experience to explore the history of acequias, or water canals. He further uses this information to describe his own querencia, or love of place.

In Part I, “The Wisdom of the Land,” Arellano outlines the book’s trajectory while giving an autobiographical account, describing his philosophy on water distribution and describing the original land grants in New Mexico. He situates himself on the Embudo Land Grant and places an emphasis on his use of the Acequia Junta y Ciénaga. Situated in his place, Arellano then explains how his Indo-hispano heritage influenced his view that water is a common resource to be shared and not sold for profit. After divulging his personal predilections, Arellano gives a history of his native landscape, describing the first Spanish land grant and settlement of the region by Don Juan Narrihonda Salazar de Oñate. This history transitions to a description of the land grants encapsulating his current property.

In the next chapter, “Sacred Water,” Arellano catalogues historical water management techniques ranging from Yemen to South America. Believing that his New Mexican open-air irrigation culture derives from Moorish influence, Arellano begins his analysis in ancient Yemen. He notes that irrigation in Yemen dates back at least 5,200 years, and points out that, linguistically, many words describing irrigation techniques come from the Sabaen language that originated in Yemen. Arellano relates this tradition to his own culture, pointing out that acequias originated in Yemen and then made their way to North Africa, the Iberian Peninsula, and eventually the Americas.
Continuing with his historical analysis, Arellano explains how similar irrigation practices developed in Europe, particularly Switzerland. Recounting how the Swiss treated water as a common right, he explains the function of consortages, common-property corporations that managed the canals. Furthermore, he emphasizes how landscapes dictate different types of irrigation by delving into Les Hortillonnages, French marshland gardens. The example of Les Hortillonnages shows how open-air canals function in marshland habitats as opposed to Arellano’s native desert landscape. Arellano then transitions to the Muslim influence on European agriculture and irrigation by analyzing texts by Muslim authors going back to 1 A.D., explaining how these texts impacted agriculture in the Iberian Peninsula. To exemplify the influence, Arellano outlines Ses Feixes of Ibiza, a network of channels off the coast of Spain created using Muslim irrigation principles.

Finally, Arellano transitions to Incan irrigation themes. He traces the development of rock acequias cut through the Andes and their importance for watering terraces. As examples of these achievements, Arellano goes into depth describing the city of Choquequirao, the Terraces of Moray, the Tipón Aqueducts, and Argentina’s acequias. Staying in the Western Hemisphere, Arellano next describes the Mesoamerican irrigation principles that preceded New Mexico’s acequias. He notes how Mesoamericans coupled acequias with chinampas, an artificially created floating garden, in order to irrigate the landscape. All these examples show the diverse influences that collectively shaped irrigation in Arellano’s native New Mexico.

Arellano begins Part II, “The Knowledge of the Water,” with Chapter 2, “The Camino Real de Tierra Adentro: The Water Road.” In this chapter, Arellano offers a thorough discussion of early irrigation principles in Mexico and New Mexico. He points out that the Spanish and Native Americans had distinct irrigation systems and that these systems integrated as the two interacted. Arellano analyzes how Spanish law, particularly the Law of the Indies, influenced the development of irrigation and water systems in the New World by fostering notions of communal responsibility and public use. He places a great deal of importance on early development of acequias and canals because the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 protected existing acequias and their easements. Arellano further emphasizes that these original acequias were handled communally. He then defines the Rio Arriba bioregion, stretching from south of Santa Fe to the San Luis Valley in Colorado, and describes the development of acequias and agriculture in the bioregion that he focuses on for the rest of the book.

In the third chapter, “The Embudo Land Grant,” Arellano describes the laws regulating irrigation in the New World and then describes the land in the Embudo Land Grant. He argues that three main laws influenced Spanish development of irrigation: King Philip II’s Ordenanzas, the Law of the Indies of 1681, and the Plan of Pitic. Focusing on the Law of the Indies, Arellano notes how processes concerning land occupation, water sharing, grazing, and relations with Native Americans functioned. Arellano then describes the landscape of the Sebastián Martin Land Grant, which is within the Embudo Land Grant, noting how its development comported with the aforementioned laws. In addition, Arellano uses this chapter to explain economic development within the Embudo Land Grant, demonstrating how the switch from a traditional agricultural economy to the modern industrial economy led to degradation of the landscape and the acequias.

In the fourth chapter, “La Merced,” Arellano highlights many facets of New Mexican agriculture, primarily the acequia. “Merced” is the Spanish word for “land grant,” and Arellano emphasizes three parts of the land grants: the commons, the acequias, and the suertas, or the private land irrigated by the acequias. He explains the system of mayordomos, or administrators who handle the acequias. Arellano’s knowledge of this role is very personal, as he currently serves as the mayordomo of his acequia. From this personal knowledge, Arellano describes how co-owners of acequias work together to manage them and elucidates the technicalities of acequias’ function and construction. In addition, Arellano thoroughly discusses the four different types of terraces served by acequias: those on slopes, in valleys, on terraces along bends in the river, and on mini-terraces. Lastly, Arellano reminds the reader of the history of agriculture and emphasizes how this history came to be, thanks in large part to the acequias. He illustrates the blending of traditional crops such as corn, sunflowers, squash, gourds, and chiles with Old World crops such as soybeans, coffee, and limes to create what is now a uniquely New Mexican cuisine.

In the final chapter, “Mi Querencia,” Arellano gives a final autobiography and praises the acequias for helping form his connection to the land that his family has cultivated since 1725. He laments that many acequias are falling into disrepair, pleading for people to care about the resource and to preserve traditional modes of agriculture. In addition, Arellano makes many connections between his multicultural heritage and the multiethnic forces that combined to create the acequia landscape.

Enduring Acequias is an intimate collection of local knowledge and experience. Arellano’s deep connection to the land and its water led him on a path of academic research and linguistic adventure that he used to better understand his own patch of land on the Embudo Land Grant. He effectively combines old Spanish laws, Muslim agricultural literature, and a knowledge of open-air irrigation around the planet to further the provincial knowledge of his own landscape. Arellano’s unique blend of storytelling frequently jumps from New Mexico to the Old World and back again, but the transitions consistently connect the common themes of developing irrigation practices, history, and the communal nature of acequias. His mélange approach to his own querencia and culture serves as a fascinating window into the irrigation culture of New Mexico and the milieu of cultural phenomena that formed it.


The title image features an irrigation ditch in Northern New Mexico and is part of the public domain because it was created by an employee of the United States Department of Agriculture.