Watering the Valley
Development along the High Plains Arkansas River, 1870-1950
James E. Sherow
James Earl Sherow contends that a vast network of problems in the arid West has sprung from the mistaken notion that water is a commodity to be bought, sold, and traded. This ill-conceived approach to water development, he argues, has resulted in social problems as well as abuse of the environment. In this volume he tells the story of the inhabitants of the "Valley of Content," the High Plains section of the Arkansas River Valley, during the formative period of settlement and development. It was their desire for growth, he maintains, that spurred the construction of the very dams, reservoirs, and water conveyance structures that would ultimately undermine their success. He documents their attempts—both fanciful and fruitful—to bring the river under their control, the waves of new problems that followed each new 'solution,' and the conflict and cooperation the process engendered.
“Succeeds as a well-researched, succinctly stated traditional history, and it successfully places its subject in a larger context.”
—Journal of Economic History
“James Sherow is to be congratulated for this volume. His research is impressive, and he writes with vigor and wit.”
—Journal of American HistorySee all reviews...
“Sherow’s synthesis of cultural, economic, and environmental influences is an important milestone in understanding the history of water and the West. His book should be considered required reading for anyone concerned with the topic.”
—Montana The Magazine of Western History
“A carefully crafted and scholarly work that illuminates the important issue of water 'control' and planning.”
—American Historical Review
“The book is a well-wrought case study of resource development in a particular time and place. One can only hope that future publications on Great Plains environmental history will maintain the high standards set by this volume.”
“This is a noteworthy study that argues a convincing case.”
“This is a most important book. Sherow’s thesis is compelling. He provides a definitive study for the period, . . . examining water use affecting agriculture, industry, and urban areas in Colorado and agriculture in Kansas. This book will be worthy of a place beside Don Pisani’s From the Family Farm to Agribusiness: The Irrigation Crusade in California and the West, 1850–1930 and Norris Hundley’s Water in California. It adds an important new dimension to the discussion of water in the West, a topic that is no longer one of merely regional concern.”
—Richard Lowitt, author of The New Deal and the West
“Following the philosophical lead of new western historians Richard White, Donald Worster, and others, Sherow focuses on the failure of the Arkansas Valley residents to achieve nirvana through development of irrigated agriculture. The failure of ditch companies and municipalities to consider 'ecological niches' and their dependence on a market culture mentality produced environmental degradation, social conflict, and seemingly endless intra- and interstate litigation. This provocative study will challenge water buffaloes to rethink some of their basic premises.”
—Daniel Tyler, author of The Mythical Pueblo Rights Doctrine: Water Administration in Hispanic New MexicoSee fewer reviews...