Searching Out the Headwaters: Change and Rediscovery in Western Water Policy / Edition 1

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To the uninitiated, water policy seems a complicated, hypertechnical, and incomprehensible subject: a tangle of engineering jargon and legalese surrounding a complex, delicate, and interrelated structure. Decisions concerning the public's waters involve scant public participation, and in such a context, reform seems risky at best.

Searching Out the Headwaters addresses that precarious situation by providing a thorough and straightforward analysis of western water use and the outmoded rules that govern it. The authors begin by tracing the history and evolution of the uses of western water. They describe the demographic and economic changes now occurring in the region, and identify the many communities of interest involved in all water-use issues. After an examination of the central precepts of current water policy, along with their original rationale and subsequent evolution, they consider the reform movement that has recently begun to emerge. In the end, the authors articulate the foundations for a water policy that can meet the needs of the new West and discuss the various means for effectively implementing such a policy, including market economics, regulation, the broad-based use of scientific knowledge, and open and full public participation.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781559632188
  • Publisher: Island Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1993
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 253
  • Sales rank: 1,139,020
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah F. Bates was director of the Natural Resources Law Center at the University of Colorado School of Law. She was the co-author, with Marc Reisner, of the book Overtapped Oasis: Reform or Revolution for Western Water (Island Press, 1990). Prior to joining the Natural Resources Law Center, she practiced law with the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund in San Francisco.

David H. Getches, professor of law at the University of Colorado School of Law, is a nationally recognized water resources and Indian law expert. He formerly served as executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources under Governor Richard D. Lamm, and as the founding executive director of the Native American Rights Fund. His many publications include Controlling Water Use: The Unfinished Business of Water Quality Control (Natural Resources Law Center, 1991), Water Law in a Nutshell (West, 1990), and legal texts on water and Indian law.

Lawrence J. MacDonnell, director of the Natural Resources Law Center and adjoint professor at the University of Colorado School of Law, has written widely on subjects of water resources law and policy. Much of his work focused on issues related to reallocation of water uses.

Charles F. Wilkinson, the Moses Lasky Professor of Law at the University of Colorado School of Law, is one of the nation's leading scholars and lecturers on issues relating to natural resources law and policy in the American West. He has written several books and has also published legal texts on federal public lands and Indian law.

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Table of Contents

1 The West's Gordian Knot 3
2 Water in a Changing West 14
3 Voices 49
4 The West Today 73
5 River Basin Stories 91
6 Losing Sight of the Headwaters 128
7 The Journey to Rediscovery 152
8 Change and Rediscovery in Western Water 178
Epilogue: History Need Not Repeat Itself 199
Appendix: The Language of Water 203
References 206
Index 233
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  • Posted May 19, 2009

    Wading Through the Headwaters to Understand our Murky Western Water Policies

    ~ As a whole the book is an excellent in-depth exploration and analysis of the key elements of water policy and the predicament that those policies have placed the West into.
    ~Easy to read and simple to follow, while still keeping the needed science, politics, and geography at the forefront of the issue and in the reader's mind.
    ~ The book is strong in both its theme driven evidence and also in its tangential asides that provide an interesting side note to the history of the rivers.
    ~At the start of each section and subsection Bates included a large block quote from previous scholar's writing about water resources which helps to engage the reader in critical thinking about each subject before introducing her research and concepts, but they can also be a lot to read and are not always relevant.
    ~The daunting nature of having to know and remember water related terms is considerable lessened as Bates includes a 'Language of Water' appendix that serves as a glossary for key water related terms.

    SUMMARY: The authors seek to explore western rivers histories so as to better understand and overcome the challenges that the rivers of today face as a result of humans' utilization of the West's most limited and valued resource. Through Bates's narrative and examination of the waters in the West, Bates simplifies for the reader the subject of water law and policy that to the common American seems daunting and complicated. By searching out the origins of the West's water problems that surface downstream through an examination of how humans' utilization of the rivers has changed overtime, Bates's research clears up the murky nature of the problems that remains today.
    The sudden stretching of the limited water supply by the new populations have had tremendous impacts on the rivers as Americans try to capture every last drop out of the river to sustain their growth. To make matters worse, the rigid and outdated water laws that had made sense decades ago, now create bad economic results and destroy of rivers, lakes, aquifers and wildlife leaving many western communities high and dry. The solution that Sarah Bates forwards to unravel the convoluted and contradictory water policies that govern the West is better cooperation among communities and states within each river system to conserve and replenish its limited water resources.
    The most important lesson that one can take away from Bates's exploration of water issues is that the negative environmental effects caused by humans in the past are experienced by everyone and in order to overcome such impacts, governments and citizens must cooperate and share the responsibility of rectifying their past actions.

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