Opposing faces of optimism

Posted on | October 15, 2012 | No Comments


Limerick believes that Denver Water Board attorney Glenn Saunders, who faced down the US Department of Interior to fill Dillon Reservoir (above), belongs in the pantheon of “water history celebrities” that includes John Wesley Powell and William Mulholland. Photo: Denver Water

McCool sees the demolition of the Glines Canyon Dam on Washington State’s Elwha River as an example of what is possible in reviving salmon fisheries and amenity rivers. Photo: National Park Service. Click on images to enlarge.










Two new books reviewed in High Country News  present sharply opposing faces of optimism about the future of Western fresh water management. In her history of Denver Water, University of Colorado historian Patricia Nelson Limerick is frankly admiring of the men who put water in the pipe dream of Manifest Destiny.  “The contemporary need for inspiration — for parables of people facing tough problems, refusing discouragement, and pressing on to solutions and remedies — is the most urgent need of the twenty-first century,” she argues in the introduction to “A Ditch in Time: The City, the West, and Water.” 

Meanwhile, ” University of Utah political scientist Daniel McCool seizes on an assessment published by the American Geophysical Union that 85% of the dams in the US will be at the end of the operational lives by 2020. Americans have never had a better opportunity to remove the concrete choking rivers, he argues in “River Republic.”  The rewards? Sparkling “amenity” rivers for recreation, urban waterfront parks and restored harbors for cities and revival of the fisheries that once symbolized the terrific fecundity of the American dream. As knock ons, he sees the impact to hydropower, barge transport systems and agriculture as opportunity to update and reform outdated systems. Click here to be taken to the HCN review.


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