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.


Charles Porter is an assistant professor of history at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas as well as a licensed real estate agent and broker. He has previously written on the development of water rights in central Texas. In addition, Mr. Porter has presented to the Texas legislature and other conferences, including the Texas Water Law Conference, where he conducted continuing legal education. Sharing the Common Pool draws on Porter’s historical and real estate knowledge, combined with his lifetime of experience as a water user in drought-prone Texas, to illustrate the increasing importance of water to the general population.

Broadly speaking, Porter’s goals for Sharing the Common Pool are to (i) describe the development of water rights in Texas in an approachable manner, (ii) highlight the important relationship between water rights and property values, and (iii) suggest individual changes in water usage to better utilize this essential resource.. The book is divided into five parts: Part One summarizes the hydrologic cycles and introduces basic water law principles; Part Two discusses ownership of water and water rights in Texas; Part Three addresses supply and demand in the water context, focusing on water use and regulation; Part Four analyzes the role of water rights in real estate transactions; and Part Five examines past and current water policy debates.

Part One (chapters 1-2) begins with an introduction to the hydrologic cycle, emphasizing water’s ability to move among different geological “containers.” By this, Porter means that the same drop of water can, over the course of time, become surface water, diffuse water, and groundwater. Additionally, Part One discusses the general principles of riparian rights and prior appropriation, and how the interplay between English common law and Spanish legal principles led to the current state of appropriative water rights in Texas.

Part Two (chapters 3-5) examines who owns the water that exists in each of the geological containers described in Part One: surface water, diffuse water, and groundwater, respectively. Surface water, consisting of water in rivers or creeks, is owned by the State of Texas and held in trust for the people of the state. Although surface water is state-owned, landowners adjacent to surface water sources may divert or capture this water subject to permitting rules. Conversely, water existing in the geological containers, known as diffuse water and groundwater, may be privately owned. Diffuse water is the runoff from precipitation that is on a landowner’s property but has not entered a watercourse. By contrast, underground pores and aquifers contain groundwater. Owners of the surface have the right to use the groundwater held beneath their land as they choose, including the ability to sever the water rights from the land. In addition, the rule of capture permits a landowner to extract water from a neighboring tract as long as such extraction is not done with malice or waste. Lastly, Part Two addresses shared surface water, that is, water that Texas owns along with either Mexico or another state.

Part Three (chapters 6-8), which comprises the largest portion of Porter’s book, focuses on the use and regulation of water throughout Texas. Part Three begins discussing supply and demand as it exists in Texas today, and how it will change with increasing population across the state. It also outlines the Texas State Water Plan and other mechanisms in place to address the sustainability of Texas’s water supply. Part Three next discusses the myriad uses of water throughout Texas, including domestic, livestock, agricultural, municipal, industrial, oil and gas, and environmental flows. Porter defines each of these uses and describes how they interact with one another. He also notes how the Texas Water Code protects each of these respective uses. The final portion of Part Three identifies and explains the entities that regulate water use. Among the regulating entities in Texas are groundwater conservation districts, watermasters, and river authorities. Groundwater conservation districts, where they exist, are political subdivisions that manage groundwater for many Texan counties to protect against over-exploitation. Watermasters help to account for and allocate surface water. The seventeen river authorities throughout the state manage water resources within their geographic areas and ensure the public benefits from these resources.

Part Four (chapter 9) discusses the significant implications that water rights can have on real estate values and transactions. The discussion addresses how water availability can change the value of land, and how the value of land impacts services like schools and health services that receive funding from ad valorem tax revenue. When land values decrease, as they do when water rights are unavailable, the tax revenue decreases as well. In addition, Porter calls attention to the various disclosure requirements incumbent on real estate agents and anyone attempting to sell land. For example, in the case of a plot of land supplied by well water, a seller must disclose any information relevant to the water’s availability or quality. Part Four also illustrates the various forms water rights transfers may take.

Part Five (chapters 10-11) ties the previous chapters together by engaging the issue of water policy, both historically and looking forward. This section examines three significant cases in Texas water jurisprudence and how they have shaped water policy: Houston & Tex. Central R.R. Co. v. W.A. East; Pecos WCID No. 1 v. Williams; and City of Del Rio v. Clayton Samuel Colt Hamilton Trust. The cases highlight the rule of capture and the competing interests of water users, ranging from private investment to municipalities. Porter also discusses the controversy surrounding Living Waters Artesian Springs, where the rule of capture allowed private landowners to draw significant amounts of water from the Edwards Aquifer. The private landowners created a catfish farm in order to avoid wasting the water and held out until the San Antonio Water System paid nearly $40 million for the water rights. A large portion of Part Five explores alternative methods of meeting the high demand for water, such as desalinization plants and effectively using reclaimed water.

Overall, Sharing the Common Pool provides a basic framework for understanding water rights in Texas, including how those rights are determined and the significance of those rights for Texans. While Porter’s book is geared toward those in the Lone Star State, certain aspects—such as the competing private and public demands on water resources and the importance of water to real estate transactions—are universally applicable to other states with scare water resources. The book’s discussion of legal principles and case law is somewhat vague, though this may be a result of Porter’s targeting non-attorneys as his primary audience. Porter tempers this discussion by drawing attention to the importance of legal counsel in land transactions, particularly when water rights are uncertain. Sharing the Common Pool serves as a good primer for lawyers and non-lawyers alike who are interested in learning about Texas water rights.