What Price Water? Issues of Quality and Quantity for Communities in New Mexico, Colorado, and the Navajo Nation

AHA Session 135
Friday, January 6, 2017: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Centennial Ballroom G (Hyatt Regency Denver, Third Floor)
Kenneth Orona, Longmont, Colorado
The Audience

Session Abstract

As the American Historical Association gathers in 2017 in the heart of the Rocky Mountain West, two competing themes present themselves to attendees: aridity and urbanization.  This panel introduces convention-goers to the environmental, scientific, demographic, and legal complexities of life in a region described variously as “The Great American Desert” (Lt. Stephen H. Long), the “Land of Little Rain” (Mary Austin), or El Quartelejo/”The Far Quarter” (Spanish royal officials in 18th century Santa Fe). 

Despite challenges of dryness, altitude, and distance from the centers of European and American population, societies as diverse as the Ancestral Puebloans of the Four Corners, the tribes of the Great Plains and canyon country of the Rockies, the Hispano farmers of northern and central New Mexico, and American explorers and settlers all made this area their home.  The movement of water in quantities sufficient for human use, and the assurance of its quality for consumption, have been the hallmarks of all successful (as well as failed) efforts at settlement and permanence.

Cognizant of contemporary concerns for water quality and quantity (such as that experienced by Flint, Michigan, or the Animas River communities affected by the Gold King mine pollution), this panel will examine the dynamics of law, ethnicity, family and village, and science and engineering that have shaped communities as diverse as Hispano and Pueblo farmers, Diné clans and families, and the post-Civil War social experiment of Horace Greeley on the Poudre River of northern Colorado (the “Union Colony”).  Voices from each region are incorporated into this panel, both as presenters and as subjects of study.  How each group endured says much about the life we lead today in the fast-growing Rocky Mountain West.

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