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Noon seminar - A ditch in time: Denver, the West, and water

Monday, November 28, 2011, 12:00PM - 1:00PM


Patty Limerick

Center of the American West


ARC room 620

Tracing the origins and growth of the Denver Water Department, the book, A Ditch in Time: The City, the West, and Water (to be published in the Fall of 2012) places this case study in the big picture of regional, national, and even international history. Written with humor and in a style aimed at demystifying the arcane workings of water law and policy, this book raises questions of consequence about the uneasy relationship between democracy and conservation, the complex relationship among cities, suburbs, and rural areas, the crucial role of engineering in shaping the West, the unexpectedly entrancing workings of governmental agencies and bureaucracies, and the varying roles of contention and cooperation, litigation and negotiation in the control of the West's water. In the presentation at INSTAAR, Limerick will provide a lightning-paced review of Denver Water’s history and then harvest lessons that have bearing on the work of environmental scientists: the impacts of diversions on watersheds and the quest for a baseline to calibrate disturbance; the relationship between headwaters counties and downstream users; and the stance of water utilities toward climate change studies, a positioning that that often steers clear of the politicized tangles in which so many other public agencies and organizations are now bogged.