Irrigation and Landscape Change in Colorado's Grand Valley: 1880-1920
Irrigation shapes people and land in the American West. By people I mean the social relations that develop as a result of competition and cooperation for land and water, and the technical knowledge required to manage these resources in an efficient and economically productive manner. By land I mean the natural environment serving as a canvas on which human culture is painted through time. More specifically, the artifacts of irrigation--the areal extent of agriculture, specific crop types, water delivery systems, and other material objects required of food production--reflect interactions between societal relationships and environmental characteristics. Together, social arrangements and natural features merge in irrigated lands of the American West, as everywhere, to form distinctive landscapes. Besides the broader landscape-related changes brought about by irrigation, there are other specific issues related to its practice that require scrutiny in assessing its transformative effects in different places. Significantly, western irrigation developed with the participation of the federal government in planning and constructing an irrigation infrastructure throughout the region. By establishing various land laws and providing the technical expertise to manage water and enhance crop production, the federal government was instrumental in promoting settlement in the American West. In doing so, the government transformed vague ideals into firm policy goals: who could own western land, how it would be distributed, where it should be irrigated, and what were the acceptable costs--environmental, economic, and social--of such development. To implement these and other policies a number of bureaucracies were formed to plan water development projects, enhance crop production, control damage caused by crop pests and disease, and distribute government land to settlers and other development interests. Through time, policies became more entrenched, land and water development efforts intensified, and the financial costs of managing these newly irrigated places escalated. In short, the social and environmental changes wrought by irrigation hardened on individual places forming a new landscape. The purpose of this thesis is to examine and compare how factors associated with irrigation shaped the landscapes of three western places: California's Central Valley, Idaho's Snake River plain, and Colorado's Grand Valley.
Includes Notes, Charts, Tables and Bibliography.