The Historic Landscape of Nevada: Development, Water, and the Natural Environment
The persistence of the natural landscape and predominantly arid ecology of Nevada has created one of the greatest challenges facing the people of Nevada and the American West as we struggle to maintain our built environment. This project, The Historic Landscape of Nevada: Development, Water and the Natural Environment, documents the historic role of water resource management in Southern Nevada.
Since the nineteenth century, when the U.S. government first sent scientific expeditions to explore, map, and record the West, a voluminous record has been made of this landscape and the potential to exploit (and sometimes protect) it. Whether through irrigation, ranching, agriculture, dams, railroads, highways, towns, cities, or federal installations, the people of Nevada have challenged the environment in their attempt to make a desert flourish.
From the natural springs that attracted the earliest inhabitants and travelers, to the wells that supported early town development, to the massive federal reclamation projects that dammed the Colorado River to irrigate the California and Arizona deserts, water ruled. With the unparalleled, unexpected, and unplanned growth of the Las Vegas metropolitan area, the development of an urban and regional water system to support it has dominated natural resource planning and exploitation. The basic issues of water use—its quantity, quality, and allocation—still dominate policy and politics in Nevada and the Southwest, as Las Vegas seeks to tap surface and ground water sources in outlying counties and adjoining states, and as the original co-signers of the Colorado River Compact wrangle over the allocations from the dwindling water supplies of Lakes Mead and Powell.