The Great Plains of North America stretch from Texas to Alberta. The region's history is rich and its population diverse. But throughout this huge area, one issue has dominated culture and politics since before history began to be recorded. The need for water, the disputes over its use and ownership, and the consequences of those uses and disputes are concerns common to everyone who has ever lived here, concerns that grow sharper as water grows scarcer.
Local and state governments have attempted to allocate water rights, but their efforts have been piecemeal and often short-sighted. In the absence of a coherent policy for protecting water resources, supplies are depleted, and what is left becomes more and more polluted by industrial, agricultural, and biological waste products. In fact, the Great Plains is on the brink of a water crisis, a silent crisis that threatens the health of people, environments, and economies.
In Water on the Great Plains: Issues and Policies, Peter J. Longo and David W. Yoskowitz have collected current scholarship on the cultural, economic, environmental, legal, and political implications of water policy. The ten essays contained here tell a lively history of successful and unsuccessful water policies, and of how dedicated people and communities can work together to protect their homes. The authors sound an urgent call for wise management to preserve available water resources for the use of future generations.
The importance of water to politics in the West is likely to grow as management of dwindling supplies fails to meet demands. How will water policy be made? Will water continue to flow uphill toward money or will public interest drive water allocation and use?
--Joan M. Blauwkamp, Chapter 10
Peter J. Longo is professor of political science at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
David W. Yoskowitz is assistant professor of economics at Texas A&M International University in Laredo.