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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Introduction: Coping With Western Drought


Drought adaptation is not just a matter of hydrology and technology. It is at least as much about the way we govern.  As John Wesley Powell and others explored and surveyed the territory west of the 100th meridian, they observed that it was distinctive in its aridity and topography. From a water perspective, it might have been better had western state boundaries conformed more closely to the contours of rivers and groundwater basins. Perhaps then the West could have avoided such bitter interstate water disputes as between California and Arizona over the Colorado River. Boundaries were shaped in nonhydrological ways for sundry reasoins.  To make matters worse, many states have since propagated special districts that cater to various water needs and desires for local control that has all too often hampered potentially effective regulation and regional coordination.

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