Opinion: ‘Free water’ was never free, writes a historian of the American West
The West uses too much water. For such a simple problem, the obvious solution — use less — lies frustratingly out of reach. That inability to change may seem hard to understand, but the root of the problem becomes clearer if we consider the role of the West in the historical development of the United States: The purpose of our system of “free water” — heavily subsidized water for irrigation — was to provide opportunities to settlers. … With the New Deal, the Bureau of Reclamation came into its own: Hoover Dam, completed in 1935 as the world’s largest dam, served as a symbol for the country’s ability to conquer nature. Progressives championed desert reclamation at the turn of the century, but the federal government’s willingness to build infrastructure and give water away on extravagantly lenient terms was just as appealing for conservatives after World War II.
-Written by Revelator contributor Nate Housley.
- Salt Lake Tribune: Long stretches of the Mississippi have run dry. What’s next?
- Denver Gazette: Metro-area water conservation falls short
- Salt Lake Tribune: One crop uses more than half of Utah’s water. Here’s why.