Published: Dec. 1, 2020
Book Cover

Kenney, Douglas S.  2020. The Changing Fate of Western Rivers: The Case of the Colorado. IN: The Environmental Politics and Policy of Western Public Lands (edited by Erika Allen Wolters and Brent S. Steel).  Corvallis: Oregon State University Press. 

      In a volume primarily devoted to western lands, this chapter explores the central role played by water resources development in guiding the development of the region, where John Wesley Powell unsuccessfully lobbied for the organization of western states around watershed boundaries, and where Wallace Stegner famously remarked that “Water is the true wealth in a dry land.”  Despite many laws and policies that largely ignore this special connection of land and water, the fate of both is increasingly intertwined by the phenomenon of climate change, something explored herein with a case study of the Colorado River. In pondering a future driven by water scarcity, Kenney concludes: “The traditional notion that water development is a necessary precursor to land development and economic expansion is not necessarily invalid, but is now much too simplistic. Today, a failure to innovate in the water sector may not merely close the door to future expansion, but may threaten the viability of existing economies and communities. Just maintaining the status quo is, in many cases, a formidable achievement.”