Patricia Limerick - The Uncertain Fate of the Great American Desert: The American West, Water, and the World


Manage episode 205888234 series 2305273
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This seminar discusses that while the American West has its own distinctive history, that history connects to world-wide issues in many ways. Flummoxed by the seeming scarcity of water in the interior West, the first Anglo-American visitors created a characterization of the West as the Great American Desert. In later eras, especially in times of more abundant rainfall, that characterization came to seem short-sighted and inaccurate, an under-estimation of both the actual water supply and of the ingenuity of engineers. Circumstances in the early twenty-first century—the prospects for reallocating water from farms to cities, the rise of demands for water based on recreation and environmental preservation, and the uncertainties of climate change—ask for a reconsideration of the characterization of the American West as shaped by aridity and semi-aridity and of the place of the region in the broad planetary arrangements of fresh water and human population. The case study of the Denver Water Department will bring these vast questions, in the most literal sense, down to earth.

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