As it suburbanized from the 1940's through the 60's, this corner of greater New York led a trend among American cities toward growing dependence on aquifers for water.
Summarizing these controversies, my paper will attend in particular to what newspaper coverage often obscured: that the direst of these effects struck the least well-off of suburbanites. Threading through my discussion will be a larger thesis about resultant changes in the legal status of Long Island’s aquifer. Into the early twentieth century, what Don Worster has described as a frontier “takings” doctrine applied to the wells Long Islanders dug. But especially after WWII, as this underground commons was found to be so vulnerable, and parts of it were contaminated beyond repair, access to it was restricted or shut down. Like lands of the rural West over the nineteenth century, Long Island’s aqueous “free range” was closed.
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