Water policy in the western United States: Historical and contextual perspectives

Jaina L. Moan, Zachary A. Smith

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


Every morning at ten o'clock a spray of water shoots 560 feet above the Sonoran desert. Located in the upscale neighborhood of Fountain Hills, Arizona, the highest-shooting manmade fountain in the world emits 7,000 gallons of water per second and operates for fifteen minutes every hour, seven days a week (Gelt 2004). This occurs in one of the most arid regions in the world, a place that receives an average of 7.66 inches of annual precipitation and where summer temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit (Smith and Thomassey 2002, 104). Similarly, across the sprawl of the Phoenix metropolitan area, green lawns flourish, residential pools sparkle in the sun, and hundreds of golf courses provide a lush green landscape. Although very little natural water is found in this arid region, a metropolitan area of 3.2 million people has flourished because of the efforts of over 100 years of water diversion and manipulation. The history of western water policy and management is complex and wrought with conflict. It has been riddled with bad decisions and incomplete policies that do not serve the needs of the public or of ecosystems. Four important factors need to be considered in this history: (1) societal, economic, and political change, (2) federalism issues, (3) federal water agencies, and (4) the impact of scientific management. This chapter will discuss important people and events throughout the history of western water policy in the context of these four factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEnvironmental Politics and Policy, Revised Edition
PublisherUniversity Press of Colorado
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)9780870818813
StatePublished - 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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