Rivers of Empire
Water, Aridity, and the Growth of the American West
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year Published: 1992 First Published:
Pages: 416pp ISBN: 978-0195078060
Resource Type: Book
Cx Number: CX16438
A history of the agribusinessmen and engineers who financed and built the system of damns, reservoirs, and canals which transformed the American West from a sparsely inhabited dry region to the site of massive farms and sprawling cities. Worster argues that control of scarce water resources gave rise to a capitalist/bureaucratic elite and to a modern day empire. This elite established and perpetuated itself on the backs of impoverished wage labourers. He criticizes the waste of water for swimming pools, casino fountains, and ill-suited crops like alfalfa, the depletion of aquifers, and the salinization of rivers. Worster points out the vengeance of nature in the form of the sedimentation and collapse of dozens of dams.