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The Cultures of Irrigation The obvious dimensions of irrigation are tangible how much water is used, what acreage of land is irrigated, what crops are grown, what forces of change and responses are seen. But to really understand irrigation and how it might evolve in the future, we must consider the more intangible, subjective dimensions of irrigation in a sense, the context in which change must occur. In this report, we call this the culture of irrigation. At one level, irrigation is simply the application of water to grow plants. At another level, it is the basis for an economy and a way of life. In a very real sense, irrigation made possible the highly intensive settlement of a landscape that otherwise would not readily support large numbers of people. Irrigation has transformed that landscape, literally and figuratively. The bands of green fields sometimes spreading out to considerable distances from the banks of the rivers of the western United States, the circles of green covering the Great Plains, the urban oases filled with trees, flowers, and lawns these are the products of . . . rr~gahon. More profound than this physical alteration of the landscape is the effect of the human population that accompanied and caused this alteration and whose presence was made possible, in part, because of irrigation. Modern irrigation, beginning in the late nineteenth century, carried with it a sense of mission. People like E. A. Smythe viewed irrigation as nothing less than the progenitor of civilization in an otherwise inhospitable land the key to making the desert bloom (Smythe, 1905~. At this juncture, the roots of modern irrigation have been largely forgotten, although they continue to influence the views of many 20
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THE CULTURES OF IRRIGATION people associated with western 21 il rrigated agriculture, and they help to explain many of the policies and institutions in place today. There are fundamental cultural dimensions of irrigation. The committee found evidence of these dimensions in its discussions throughout the project, both with those who spoke to the committee and within its own discussions. The committee was surprised, however, at the relative paucity of good research ex- ploring these cultural dimensions, particularly with respect to irrigation in the United States (see Box 2.1~. Culture, as used in this chapter, refers to the "ideas, customs, skills, arts, etc. of a given people in a given period.") Irrigation, as it has been practiced in agriculture, is a distinctive activity. It is sufficiently distinctive that it has its own history, its own governmental policies, its own institutions, its own practices, and, historically at least, its own communities. Modern irrigation in the United States probably began with the Mormons whose existence as a community in the Great Salt Basin depended on its practice (Arrington, 1975~. It grew in places such as California and Colorado, first in support of mining, and then to support settlement itself. Later in the nineteenth century, it outgrew its utilitarian origins and took on the aura of a movement, becoming for some the basis for building utopian communities (Boyd, 1897), for making the desert bloom (Maass and Anderson, 1978), and for civilizing the Great American Desert of the West (Smythe, 1905~. Congress created a federal agency now called the Bureau of Reclamation dedicated solely to the task of expanding irrigation in the West (Pisani, 1992~. At the base of this swelling interest in irrigation was a central idea: that a society and an economy could be built on irrigated agriculture. The essentially free, virtually unlimited land area of the western United States could be turned into a productive region, providing land and a means of support for settlers while also producing beef and other agricultural products for the country. It was a bold idea, ideally suited for this era of expansion and exploitation. It found wide- spread support not only among those seeking to promote development of the West but also among those in other parts of the country who saw this develop- ment as serving their own interests. Out of these origins grew an irrigation culture that viewed itself as serving a larger national interest as well as providing a means of sustenance in an arid environment. In the arid setting of the West, there was great power in the idea of irrigation. It unleashed remarkable energies of both private and public enterprise in the construction of water collection, diversion, and delivery facilities to make water available for agricultural use. Equally remarkable creativity emerged in the laws and institutions that were developed to support irrigation. The national-level prominence given to irrigation through the federal recla- mation program further supported the development of an irrigation culture. Rec- lamation projects were extraordinarily successful in obtaining congressional fund
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22 A NEW ERA FOR IRRIGATION ............................................................................................................................. ':':':':':':':':':':':':':':'::::: :'::: :''::: :':: :'::::: :':::: :' ' :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::':':::::::£:':::::::':::::::::::::'':::::::' :':'::: :'::: :' :':':::: :': :' :': :': :'::::: :' :':':::::::::::::':::::::: maJo-r---sy-n-~ -~-eses---o~ socket ~ a-n-u---c ing support (McCool, 19871. Federally funded irrigation projects sprouted across the West, expanding irrigated acreage in some areas and creating new irrigation in others. Not only did additional lands come under irrigation, but communities developed and grew. Especially in rural areas, these communities often were heavily dependent on irrigation for their existence. Businesses in these commu- nities provided services needed by irrigators, such as the provision of seed, equip- ment, and basic household supplies. In turn, irrigators generated the market crops that brought outside capital into the community. Irrigation culture established itself in the quasi-governmental institutions
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THE CULTURES OF IRRIGATION 23 - ............................................................................................................................ ................................................................................................................................................................................ ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: ................................................................................... ................................................................................................................................................................................. :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: that were established to build and maintain the facilities needed to provide water and in the development of the legal rules for allocating the water itself among different users. Even today, the directors of mutual ditch companies, irrigation districts, and conservancy districts are leading figures in their communities, con- stituting a power base with considerable influence over water issues at a state and even national level. In today's increasingly urbanized society, evidence of a culture of irrigation is much less apparent. The unifying idea of a society built around irrigation no longer has the power it once had. It would be a mistake, however, to believe that
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24 A NEW ERA FOR IRRIGATION this traditional irrigation culture is no longer important. It remains alive and well in many parts of the rural West today, and it is also visible in the Great Plains and South. Irrigation continues to support economies in these areas and to make possible a way of living that is otherwise less and less available. It is a culture, however, that in some ways is in retreat and on the defensive. Instead of a national symbol of progress and growth, some now see irrigated agriculture as a depleter and polluter of water, living off government subsidies. Is there vitality still in the idea of irrigation? If it is no longer to serve as the basis for a society, what is its purpose? What if the "ideas, customs, skill, and arts" of irrigation should be built upon in the future? What must change? These are fundamental considerations in the discussion of the future of irrigation. This chapter begins by explaining the notion of cultural perspectives in rela- tion to the material presented in the previous chapters. It then discusses five broad cultural themes or issues: understanding the culture of irrigation; cultural heritage within a changing cultural context; cultural diversity; cultural conflict and cooperation; and irrigation knowledge systems. WHAT ARE CULTURAL PERSPECTIVES AND WHY DO THEY MATTER? The term "culture" is defined here in four ways: 1. National Irrigation Culture (i.e., widespread irrigation attitudes, percep- tions, values, and policies); 2. Local Irrigation Communities (i.e., local community-based attitudes, per- ceptions, values, and behavior); 3. Complex Processes of Change (i.e., forces and pressures causing change); and 4. Complex Patterns of Change (i.e., responses, often region or site specific, as illustrated later in the regional case studies). Widespread changes in values, attitudes, norms, aspirations, folklore, and conflicts affect individual and collective decision making, and they have shaped the current situation in irrigation. Among irrigators, these shared attitudes and perceptions have constituted a "culture of irrigation" that has influenced decision making at the national and regional levels. To understand these decisions, and how they might affect the future of irrigation, it is necessary to understand the perceptions and attitudes that shape national and regional irrigation cultures. Understanding local irrigation cultures is often key to resolving conflicts and to identifying and implementing creative practical solutions to irrigation problems. For example, Chapter 1 suggested that the original social aims of irrigation may have been largely fulfilled, or superseded by other concerns, leading to questions about the need for "a new social contract," "a new era," or a "new vision" for
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THE CULTURES OF IRRIGATION 25 irrigation. Those who perceive these needs are, in a sense, seeking to envision and to design new cultural patterns, contexts, and opportunities for irrigation. Vision and design these two activities are linked for communities struggling to transform water systems across the country for the twenty-first century. Of course, not everyone agrees with recent diagnoses of irrigation problems or prognoses for change. Some communities in the western states, for example, argue that the problems are small and easily fixed without radical change. They describe irrigated agriculture as a culture of continuous adjustment and change- hourly, daily, seasonal and long-term adjustments to changing markets, technolo- gies, weather, and social organization and expect the industry to continue to adjust as needed. The complex processes of cultural change are clearly evident when looking at specific regions, such as depicted in the case studies in Chapter 5. Thus, a fourth use of the term culture is that associated with the complex patterns found in specific regions. In each case, culture serves as an integrative concept for examining rela- tions among environment, society, and technology; for addressing conflicts; and for expanding the range of alternatives available to future irrigators. This chapter on cultural perspectives seeks to introduce concepts that recur in later chapters. The "irrigation communities" described in those chapters are the bearers of irrigation culture. The matrix patterns that link irrigation commu- nities with changing technologies, water resources, and markets reflect cultural patterns. The chains of adjustment involve cultural processes. The regional case studies illustrate different cultural as well as economic, technological, environ- mental, and institutional issues in irrigation. Urban cultures are more prominent in the California and Florida cases than in the Great Plains, where the pattern of ground water irrigation conforms well with rural individualism and small town environments. It should be noted that each sector has multiple subcultures. Whereas some urban residents and developers create landscapes irrigated with vast amounts of potable water, others have banded together to establish new patterns of "xeriscaping," or prairie and desert landscaping.2 Some of the golf course developments that used vast amounts of irrigation water, fertilizers, and pesticides are advancing to the forefront of the horticultural industry' s scientific application of wastewater reuse, wetlands protection, and nonpoint source pollu- tion control. At the same time, water conservation specialists report that some techniques designed to conserve or protect water resources (e.g., lawn sprinkler automation and ditch lining) have unanticipated effects such as loss of incidental vegetation providing wildlife habitat that require further behavioral or techno- logical adjustment. Irrigated regions have also developed a wide variety of agribusiness and administrative cultures. A key challenge in urbanizing regions is to facilitate multiple and complementary water uses. A challenge in rural areas is to coordi- nate individual and collective water management at larger and larger scales. American Indian cultures are central in discussions of the future of irrigation in
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26 A NEW ERA FOR IRRIGATION many regions, especially the Pacific Northwest. Different Hispanic and Asian culture groups influence irrigation in California and Florida. Political and legal cultures vary by state, facilitating different kinds of irrigation change and resis- tance to change. Colorado relies on water courts, while New Mexico and Utah place more responsibility on water administrators. The culture of water as a property right is more highly elaborated and contested in the western than in the eastern states. Even the cultures of environmental groups vary across differ- ent regions of the country. Cultural perspectives provide, on the one hand, a synthesis of the diverse factors affecting irrigation decisions a way of assembling diverse facts, ideas, and insights. They also help identify issues related to the social meaning of, and attitudes toward, irrigation. In both respects, they help us understand current irrigation issues and gauge future possibilities. CULTURAL ISSUES The future cannot be predicted from the past (Popper, 1964), and no one situation is exactly like another, but cultural research can help frame analogies to assess the likely strengths and weaknesses of the economic, technological, insti- tutional, and regional alternatives. Analogies use an account of the past (i.e., the analogue) to help imagine, project, or construct a plausible or instructive scenario about the future (Glantz, 1988; Helman, 1988~. Irrigators use analogies when they face a problem by reflecting comparable situations in the past, in other regions, or in different resource sectors. Analogies have commonly been used, for example, between the water and electric power sectors. Irrigators use analo- gies when they imagine how a new technology or crop might affect their opera- tions. Analogies offer a more detailed perspective on contextual factors that influence irrigation than do formal decision models. They can help ensure that all relevant experiences and alternatives are considered. Finally, they are useful for understanding crisis behavior that falls outside the boundary conditions of most irrigation planning and management models. This section uses analogies to examine cultural issues facing water managers today. Of the many cultural issues surrounding contemporary irrigation, five broad themes stand out. The first of these, "understanding the culture of irrigation," raises basic questions about the nature and meaning of irrigation in the United States. These questions then lead to more specific questions about cultural heritage, context, diversity, conflict, and knowledge. 1. Understanding the Culture of Irrigation. Is there a "culture of irrigation"? That is, do irrigation communities have distinct views of themselves, their contri- butions to society, attitudes toward water, and institutions they have created? How well understood are these contemporary cultures of irrigation? What types of understanding are needed to resolve emerging water problems and conflicts?
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THE CULTURES OF IRRIGATION 27 2. Cultural Heritage Within a Changing Cultural Context. What is the "heritage value" of irrigation? How important is it? How does it change as the larger situation changes? What are the options for heritage conservation? 3. Cultural Diversity. What is cultural diversity? Why is it important? What problems does it entail? What are the options for fostering constructive diversity? 4. Cultural Conflict and Cooperation. How has conflict shaped and impeded the development of irrigation? What role have cooperative behaviors played in irrigation development? How do irrigation policies aggravate or alleviate con- flict? What are the conditions that facilitate cooperation and conflict resolution? 5. Irrigation Knowledge Systems. What branches of useful irrigation knowl- edge have been neglected or lost? How might they be identified, evaluated, and adapted? What is needed to support and facilitate innovation and adaptation of irrigation science and practice? The importance of these questions may be illustrated with examples from modern (1900-1995), early historic (1500-1900), and pre-historic (pre-1500) irri- gation (Figure 2.1~. These examples also span a range of spatial scales, from the local to the global. They encourage the type of broad long-term thinking needed to ensure the sustainability and timely adaptation of irrigation systems. They also identify alternatives that might be overlooked and keep one mindful of unex- pected changes in the context of irrigation (Wescoat, 1984~. Is,/ 7 ISSUES Understanding lhe Cohere of Jrr~gafion Choral fler~rage ct Context Cultural D`versi~ Cooperation 4t Conflict rr~gR6On Knowledge- S,ystemg Prel7lstoric - Historic - Mourn TIMESC4ES IRlUGAvO~ FUTURES FIGURE 2.1 Conceptual framework illustrating the nonlinear relationships be- tween time, spatial scale, and issues related to the evolution of irrigation.
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28 A NEW ERA FOR IRRIGATION Understanding the Culture of Irrigation Is there a culture of irrigation in the United States? There are many distinc- tive regional patterns and processes of irrigation. The massive agricultural projects and businesses of California, for example, stand in sharp contrast with smaller operations of the Rocky Mountain states. The center pivot systems of the Great Plains have little in common with sugarcane irrigation of the Gulf Coast. There is an enormous diversity of irrigation cultures. At the same time, several irrigation patterns and movements assumed na- tional significance in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Collectively, the perspectives and projects associated with irrigation established a "culture of irri- gation," some aspects of which persist, while others face fundamental challenges. Three aspects of this culture seem particularly relevant for the future of irrigation. The Reclamation Ethic To this day, many irrigators maintain strong views about the inherent value of "reclamation." Whether draining the bottomlands of the lower Mississippi valley or irrigating the deserts of the West, the historical transformation of "waste into wealth" is a source of enormous satisfaction for irrigators. In arid areas, making "the desert bloom as a rose" has Biblical antecedents and continuing resonance. Indeed, the Reclamation Movement of the late nineteenth century, led by William Smythe (1905) and others, had a missionary zeal and explicitly reli- gious as well as social and economic justifications (Lee, 1980~. To participate in the transformation of the deserts and wetlands and to bring out their potential productivity have been viewed as inherently moral and civilizing activities. To settle middle-class families on productive units of land was an inspiring social goal (Mead, 1903, 1920~. To meet the harsh challenges of the desert had an heroic quality (Wescoat, 1990~.3 All of these ideas have shaped the view of irrigation as a way of life and civilization that has a deep appeal for those who live it. Many irrigation communities seek to maintain or revive the original values associated with reclamation. They disagree with views that see reclamation as environmentally harmful. Indeed, in some respects the irrigated agricultural community now is paying a price for not responding sooner to early criticism about the harms of reclamation by popular critics such as Reisner (1986~. A1- though many share contemporary concerns for such things as fish, wildlife, and environmental quality, the community overall was badly served by those who initially dismissed the critics. Reclamation agencies adapted slowly and awk- wardly to the changing cultural context. Cast in this light, the ideology of reclamation helps explain some contempo- rary irrigation problems and conflicts. It calls for a greater measure of respect among the participants in irrigation forums. It also suggests a creative approach
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THE CULTURES OF IRRIGATION 29 to negotiations, which asks, what is the new vision for an integrated water man- agement that includes irrigation in the twenty-first century? What will be the new moral landscapes and new forms of heroism? The history of reclamation informs us that such questions are not irrelevant or utopian: they are practical matters for collaborative work and creative design. Attitudes Toward Water In the western states, water often is described as the "lifeblood" of the re- gion. Many in the West still believe that land without water has little value, which is literally true for irrigated cropland. This fundamental dependence on water gave rise to several deeply rooted concepts that guide agricultural water use and have profoundly influenced western water law. At base, irrigators view water as an essential means to an end that is, an input needed to grow crops. This highly instrumental view of water promotes the importance of clarity respecting relative rights to use water as well as the value of certainty in those rights. Thus the principle of priority "first in time, first in right" holds great importance for irrigators. Not only does priority help to sort out competing claims to water, it also serves to protect the substantial claims of irrigated agriculture to water since much of this use was established early enough in the settlement of the West to give agricultural users seniority over most other water uses. One consequence of a priority rule is to emphasize time as the most important factor in determining rights to use water rather than, for example, place, value, or purpose of use (Bates et al., 1993~. Related to this strong desire for certainty is the importance of stability and protection against change. Dependent as they are on the availability of water, irrigators understandably fear the diminishment of their water supply. With a historical record of generally increasing land areas coming under irrigation until the past decade or so, irrigators have jealously guarded their claims. Changes of the use of irrigation water rights, particularly for nonagricultural uses outside the original place of use, have been resisted (MacDonnell and Rice, 1994~. The legal concept of no injury has emerged to protect the water rights of existing users against change. At the same time, there is a strongly felt view among most irrigators that water is a shared public resource. This principle is articulated in constitutions and statutes throughout the nation. In addition to serving the interests of individual irrigators, water must be managed wisely to serve the broader interests of the community. This approach is perhaps most completely exemplified by Hispanic acequia organizations in northern New Mexico (Crawford, 1989~. Riparian prin- ciples, prevalent in the eastern states, also emphasize this common property view of water. The prior appropriation doctrine has never comported with this view of water. It is based on establishing rights to water through the act of capture and
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30 A NEW ERA FOR IRRIGATION use (appropriation), so this doctrine reflects its origins in mining rather than in agriculture. Water rights are regarded as property rights, to be defended as vigorously as any other type of property (if not more so). Water diverted from the river into canals and ditches sometimes has been characterized as private prop- erty. That portion of the water supply consumptively used in the growing of crops (perhaps half of the water diverted) is undeniably privatized. Competing tensions between private and collective need in irrigation pro- duced several important principles. One is the concept of duty of water. Legally, this concept places an upper limit on the amount of water necessary to grow crops on a given parcel of land. There is something particularly revealing about the idea that water has a "duty" to grow crops. It emerged primarily as a simple means for state water administrators to allocate water for irrigation uses.4 It served as a way to more quantitatively articulate the more general principle of beneficial use the condition of water law that the initiation and continuation of a water use are limited to those that are regarded as "beneficial."5 The doctrine of beneficial use is understood to preclude the waste of water (Shupe, 1982~. These concepts of duty of water and waste reflect the concerns of irrigators with regards to the importance of water to the larger community that might place limits on private actions. In practice, these principles have rarely been invoked to question established water uses. Given the increasing competition for water use that often pits irrigation agriculture against urban, tribal, and environmental interests, it is perhaps impor- tant to understand these cultural views of water. They help to explain the fervor with which irrigation users sometimes defend their traditional water use preroga- tives. They shed light on the resistance of many irrigators to the increased efforts to market water as a means of changing its use from agriculture to cities. They help explain how irrigators may see water as a collective good in relation to the needs of the irrigation community but resist the notion of water as a public, instream resource. Institution Building The concepts of priority, beneficial use, duty of water, waste, and injury are formal irrigation institutions as well as attitudes toward water use. Indeed, one of the most remarkable aspects of irrigation culture is the institutions created to guide water use in situations of uncertainty and conflict. In addition to the water rights principles described above, irrigators crafted institutions to administer those rights, such as state engineers, water commissioners, and water masters, whose job was to deliver water within the established water rights structure and to help resolve conflicts among competing water users. Special water courts were cre- ated in some states to resolve less tractable water conflicts and to decree the existence of water rights with their priorities. Over the decades, these courts moved from an eclectic set of early precedents to establish impressive bodies of
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THE CULTURES OF IRRIGATION 35 other canals that were less subject to flood hazards, more able to deliver water to large areas, or more advantageous for some villages than others (Howard, 1993~. These studies indicate that different culture groups undertook incremental adjust- ments to flood, drought, desertification, and disaster in ways that yielded a di- verse mix of adaptive, and for the most part sustainable, irrigation strategies. Some techniques (e.g., water harvesting, native crops) are being reexamined and adapted for possible future use (Evenari et al., 1982; Nabhan, 1989~. Linkages between cultural diversity and economic diversification enabled irrigators to ad- iust to variable environmental conditions. Hohokam canal irrigation raises questions about the limits of adjustment in large-scale specialized irrigation systems. Canal irrigators did employ mixed strate- gies of food production, but they were more tied to a complex, maintenance-inten- sive, and highly productive system of cultivation than their neighbors. Despite continuous adjustment of irrigation practices, which buffered them against certain types of environmental variability, they were ultimately vulnerable to large-scale systemic collapse. These themes diversity, flexibility, and adjustment changed during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. On the one hand, the modern irrigators ex- perimented boldly with crops, technologies, institutions, and labor practices (Mead, 1903; Moses, 1986; Robinson, 1977; Smith, 1986; Smythe,1905~. These experiments sometimes involved new social groups, new irrigation practices, and new market niches thereby creating new irrigation cultures. On the other hand, processes of modern diversification were followed by increasingly rapid diffu- sion of technology, crops, institutions, and people, which actively serve to reduce diversity to obtain uniform products and economies of scale. Some have main- tained themselves for several generations or more, while others have had to seek new markets, and new environmental and cultural niches or shift to other occu- pations. Several conclusions seem relevant for the future of irrigation. First, the history of irrigation is characterized by enormous diversity, which, in principle and in some respects de facto, has been valued by American society. In addition to the inherent value of diversity in a democratic society, it has practical value for risk management, entrepreneurship, and innovation. Because diversity is a dy- namic process not a static relation it calls for policies that support innovation, risk management, adjustment to local conditions, broad social participation, and access to resources. Access to water is a precondition for cultural and ecological diversity; when denied, it is a source of conflict. Cultural Conflict and Cooperation Some of the most inspiring, and painful, lessons of irrigation date to the middle and late nineteenth century, when large-scale population movements dis- placed indigenous cultures and reworked the water resources of their settlement
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36 A NEW ERA FOR IRRIGATION frontier for mining, farming, and ranching purposes. These processes involved remarkable instances of cooperation, and also bitter conflicts. In addition to conflicts with American Indians over land and water, irrigators had uneven rela- tions with other economic groups. Irrigators established themselves in some areas to serve small populations of miners, travelers, trappers, forts, ranchers, and traders. Where mixed activities flourished, they sometimes came into conflict- as when hydraulic mining destroyed water quality, stream channels, and down- stream irrigated lands. Federal reclamation policy sought, in part, to "settle" the western territories, that is, to populate them and to substitute a sedentary stable agrarian economy and society for more volatile and transient activities. Later, when flourishing irrigation economies contributed to population growth and com- mercial expansion, it sometimes led to competition for limited water supplies and environmental conflict. Cooperation and conflict are perennial in irrigated areas. Pre-historic irriga- tion systems involved high levels of community cooperation for construction, maintenance, cultivation, and settlement. The archeological record of economic competition and political conflict is limited, but ethnohistorical evidence sug- gests that pre-historic irrigators faced a variety of internal and external conflicts that affected the sustainability of their irrigation systems. In the sixteenth century, Hispanic land and water development extended across central Texas, the Rio Grande valley, southern Arizona, and coastal Cali- fornia, adapting water management practices and institutions derived from Span- ish, Roman, and Islamic sources (Baade, 1992; Dobkins, 1959; Ebright, 1979; Glick, 1972; Greenleaf, 1972; Meyer, 1984; Simmons, 1972~. Some of these water systems were built with slave labor, while others involved inspiring pat- terns of community cooperation for canal management combined with private and collective property rights (Hutchins, 1928; Meyer, 1984~. Although these rights and the rights of Pueblo Indians were formally recognized in the Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo (1848), conflicts continued to arise over the legal status and protection of community irrigation practices (Brown and Ingram, 1987; Crawford, 1989). Inspiring lessons of cooperation may also be drawn from the Mormon expe- rience in central Utah and surrounding areas. The Mormon's combination of egalitarian sharing of resources and risks with strong hierarchical decision mak- ing helps account for their success in building irrigation systems and communi- ties. Although church control gave way to civil government in Utah rather quickly, it continued to influence community water management in less formal ways (Alexander, 1994; Arrington, 1975~. Many small towns in Utah retain the original pattern of large ditches serving fields outside the town and a network of smaller ditches running along streets for family gardens in town (Wescoat, l990~. Several groups that sought to emulate the Mormon example had mixed re- sults. Utopian and planned agricultural communities like Greeley, Colorado, had high aspirations, but they were not able to attain or maintain the level of commu
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THE CULTURES OF IRRIGATION 37 nity cohesion needed to face internal and external pressures (Boyd,1897~. To be fair in the comparison, they settled in areas of more rapid land development with members of varied backgrounds and goals. But as conflicts arose, these experi- ments were abandoned for state-based systems of water rights administration. Most states built on the pluralistic frontier precedents established in miner's courts and people's courts (Moses, 1986~. They established ditch companies, irrigation districts, and conservancy districts as civic institutions dedicated to cooperative water development and management. Recently, these groups have been joined by a growing number of nongovernmental alliances of agricultural, environmental, ethnic, and urban groups with interests in local watersheds (Natu- ral Resources Law Center, 1996; Young and Congdon, 1994~. It is encouraging to observe progress toward negotiated settlements for issues of longstanding conflict in California, such as, the bay-delta dispute, the Monterey agreement, and water banking and transfer proposals. Equally encouraging is the formation of new groups specializing in alternative dispute resolution and negotiation (Moore, 1995), although progress in this field has not been as rapid as was once expected. Before turning to the legacy of conflict, it is important to review, again, the extraordinary diversity of nineteenth century irrigation practices. A wide variety of farmers and communities adapted practices from the eastern states for the arid West. African-Americans had transferred rice irrigation practices from Gambia to South Carolina (Carney, 1993~. Chinese immigrants played a central role in the reclamation of the Sacramento River floodplains and delta (Chan, 1986~. Indians from the Punjab irrigated lands in the Imperial and Central valleys of California, regions very similar to, and influenced by irrigation practices in, colonial India (Jensen, 1988; Leonard, 1992; Wescoat, 1994~. American water engineers and lawyers drew practical lessons from Italy and France, as well as India and Egypt (Davidson, 1875; Hilgard, 1886; Jackson et al., 1990; Kinney, 1912; Wilson, 1890-1891~. It is little wonder that new types of conflict, and conflict resolution, arose in this rapidly changing heterogeneous environment. The diversity of irrigation in some areas lacked any coherence. The first California state engineer, William Hammond Hall, wrote despairingly of the Central Valley that: Here have met . . . customs of the civil law countries of southern Europe, as modified by Mexican practice; the common law water-course rulings of Eng lish courts; and a mining water-right jurisprudence, with customs locally evolved under new conditions. Here also have met, to develop this industry and make laws for its governance, people from all parts of the world and in all grades of circumstances, hardly any of whom had the slightest idea of water right systems or irrigation customs, legislation, administration or practice. (Hall, 1886, p. 5)
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38 A NEW ERA FOR IRRIGATION The resolution of this eclectic state of affairs took two paths: cultural conflict, and new institutions to facilitate water development and conflict resolution. Early in the nineteenth century, it was widely recognized that some groups were violently displacing others. Anglo settlers in the Salt and Gila drainages of Arizona drove Pima irrigators from a profitable cash cropping livelihood to welfare dependence during the last three decades of the nineteenth century (Hackenberg, 1983~. Upstream Anglo communities disrupted downstream Anglo irrigation at Greeley, Colorado. Hunters, pastoralists, and mobile farming groups lost access to natural water sources and customary water uses with the expansion of seden- tary irrigation and the property rights regimes designed to serve it. As Edward Spicer wrote in 1962, it was the latest "cycle" in three centuries of conquest (Limerick, 1987~. Early Asian irrigators who had helped reclaim difficult lands were violently abused, deported, and in some cases stripped of their citizenship. Water was just one dimension of these social injustices and conflicts. Among the many sobering lessons to be drawn, three seem pertinent here. First, the displacement of some groups by others was sometimes portrayed as natural, necessary, or appropriate as an instance of the strong and efficient replacing the weak and less productive. Comparable arguments are being addressed toward some irrigators today. How should such arguments be assessed in the light of past experience? Second, many of the impacts of water development on American Indian tribes were known as they were occurring. Although protested by some, they were simply ignored by most (Merritt, 1984~. Significantly, the impacts of water development on tribes are continuing. Are there other, comparable, underappreciated, conflicts to- day. If so, how might they affect the future of irrigation? (Burton, 1991; Jacobson, 1989; McCool, 1987~. Third, the historical literature on irrigation is suffused with high ideals of cooperation and conciliation. Where have such ideals actually guided human action, and where have they been merely rhetorical? It hardly bears repeating that despite Supreme Court recognition of Indian water rights in 1908,7 and the moral language of treaties, few tribes have obtained their rightful share of material irrigation benefits to date. In some cases, the adoption of irrigation institutions (e.g., water rights, irri- gation district laws, and administrative systems) accelerated the trends mentioned above. In other cases, it promoted inefficient patterns of water ownership and use. But the development of irrigation institutions was in many respects a re- markable achievement with constructive lessons for the future. Irrigation institu- tions provided principles and procedures for defining rights to water and resolv- ing conflicts among water rights holders. They established organizations to serve collective and increasingly complex social aims, along with rules and regulations to govern those organizations. They asserted that, in contrast with land, water rights are limited and do not include a right to waste. In future efforts to reform irrigation institutions, three points seem important.
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THE CULTURES OF IRRIGATION 39 First, irrigation is a cultural as well as economic and political system. The cultural character of irrigation institutions accounts in part for their resistance to change; an understanding of this cultural dimension might facilitate constructive change and conflict resolution. Second, it is important not to lose sight of the enduring value and efficacy of modern examples of cooperation and conflict resolution in irrigation. Otherwise, future generations may find themselves try- ing to recover what was lost from the middle and late twentieth century as well as from earlier periods. Third, it is important to focus on inventing new forms of cooperation that transcend the costly and historically entrenched patterns of con- flict that involve water and related land resources, such as alternative methods of dispute resolution and mediation. Knowledge Systems in Irrigation: Past, Present, and Future It is useful to situate the preceding themes within an encompassing theme of irrigation knowledge systems, which speaks directly to issues of policy and re- search. Knowledge systems include ways of learning and knowing, as well as the types of knowledge obtained, and the relationships between that knowledge and productive human activity. Modern irrigators report rapid adoption of some innovations, such as the annual adoption of new seed varieties, and the (rela- tively) slow development and diffusion of others, such as the 10 to 15 years for certain subsurface drip irrigation technologies (H. Wuertz, personal communica- tion, 1995~. Farmers' "learning curves" vary in accordance with their specific farming situations and pressures, their learning styles, and the relationship be- tween their patterns of communication and decision making. In a rare scientific simulation of the diffusion of irrigation decisions and technologies, Leonard Bowden (1965) found that the diffusion of center pivot irrigation in eastern Colorado could be best predicted by two types of communication telephone contacts and personal conversations at barbecues! Some ancient indigenous knowledge systems have endured. The Zuni tribe of New Mexico still draws on traditional agronomic and spiritual practices (Enote, 1995~. The tribe is also experimenting with high-tech geographical information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS), and seeking ways to com- bine the old and the new. The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon follow a "tribal philosophy of balance and harmony" to seek cooperative solutions to water conflicts (fliers, personal communication, 1995~. Their Interim Water Code (1981, as amended through 1994) balances this tribal philosophy with widespread traditions of western water law. How will tribal knowledge systems be translated into strategies for water use, and what are the implications for irrigated agriculture? Knowledge systems from the early-modern era also persist, with continuous adaptations and adjustment. Renewed attention is being given to Hispanic acequia irrigation and related economic initiatives (Pulido,1993~. The history of irrigation is
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40 A NEW ERA FOR IRRIGATION a lively topic in current debates about the "new western history" (Hundley, 1992; Pisani, 1992; Tyler, 1992; Worster, 1985~. Investigations have focused on the historical development and meaning of modern irrigation organizations, projects, leaders, and laws, as well as the more traditional topic of early agricultural settle- ment. One continuing debate concerns the proper relations among individual irriga- tors, irrigation organizations, and government agencies. As early as 1874, the reputed environmental observer George Perkins Marsh wrote about the "evils" of irrigation. Maass and Anderson (1978) argued that, contrary to Wittfogel, irrigation organizations had effectively used federal programs to advance their local ends. Donald Worster (1985), by contrast, used Wittfogel's arguments to show how fed- eral agencies colluded with large California agribusinesses to gain control over land, water, and labor in the region. Both arguments have merit for specific areas and events, but neither describes the whole picture. Another debate concerns the passing of the "water buffaloes" and "lords of yesterday" who built the massive agricultural and urban plumbing systems of the past century. Critics assert that those systems served some groups well in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but they do not serve the emerging interests of society well at all (Limerick, 1987; Wilkinson, 1988~. Irrigation will continue to be part of the cultural heritage in many areas and a vital economic sector in some, but it will no longer be the centerpiece of long-term water plan- ning, use, and power. Although hotly debated, these interpretations are increasingly influential. At stake are not just the number of acres irrigated, bushels harvested, and acre-feet diverted. There are also serious policy concerns about the economic and environ- mental performance of irrigation systems, the adjustments needed to fulfill com- peting demands, and equity issues in water use and reallocation. CONCLUSION In question in all of these cultural issues are the lessons, meaning, and value of irrigation. Although it is easy to abuse history, it would be an error to assess current irrigation problems without studying the full record of experience and experiments that created them and that might lead beyond them. Some lessons are inspiring, while others are tragic many are changing as society rethinks the past as well as the future of irrigation. Because historical and cultural studies arise from present-day concerns, they shed light on the knowledge systems of the present. They remind us that modern irrigation systems have complex cultural roots, and that they are cultural, as well as economic, institutional, technological, and ecological. In some respects, post- war irrigation science and policy made radical breaks with the past, comparable with the Green Revolution in other parts of the world. These advances in water management and crop production involved ecological and social costs and risks that sparked detailed attention and debate.
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THE CULTURES OF IRRIGATION 41 More recently, irrigation cultures have been experimenting with new combi- nations of past, present, and future knowledge conjoining new technologies and business practices with traditional values, and traditional technologies with new values. These experiments respond to changing local, national, and global situa- tions. They seek to articulate local economic activity with larger regional and global markets. They arise from citizen initiatives and coalitions, supported but not led by government programs and personnel. They seek to balance environmental, social, and economic interests. Finally, they seek more efficient, flexible, and cooperative approaches to conflict resolution. These experiments have fundamental significance for the future character and sustainability of irrigation agnculture. It is sobenng, however, that scientific research on the social aspects of irrigation is advancing further in Asia and other parts of the world than in the United States a situation that suggests that greater attention be given to comparative international research as well as social investi- gation of U.S. irrigation planning and policy. NOTES 1. Webster's New World Dictionary, Second Edition, Simon & Schuster, 1982, at 345. 2. Xeriscaping refers to a range of landscape design concepts that reduce water use. 3. These ideological values should not be exaggerated, relative to the simple economic aims of irrigators, but neither should they be dismissed as merely special interest attitudes. 4. For example, Wyoming under Elwood Mead developed the rule that one cubic foot per second of water diverted during the irrigation season was enough to irrigate 70 acres of land. Later, several other states adopted a rule of apportioning some maximum number of acre-feet of water per acre. For example, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska place a limit of three acre-feet per acre (Getches, 1984). 5. The doctrine of beneficial use is most fully developed in the western states, while the some what broader concept of reasonable use generally applies in the eastern states. Some states use both concepts. 6. Fish protection and multiple use of streams was common in the early legislation of territories like Colorado and was not abandoned for wholesale stream diversion uses until the 1870s. 7. Winters v. United States, 207 U.S. 564, 28 S.Ct. 207, 52 L.Ed. 340 (1908). REFERENCES Alexander, T. G. 1994. Stewardship and enterprise: The LDS Church and the Wasatch Oasis Environment, 1847-1930. Western Historical Quarterly 25:341-364. Arrington, L. J. 1975. A different mode of life: Irrigation and society in nineteenth century Utah. Agricultural History 49:3-20. Baade, H. W. 1992. Roman law in the water, mineral, and public land law of the southwestern United States. The American Journal of Comparative Law 40:865-877. Bates, S., D. Getches, L. MacDonnell, and C. Wilkinson. 1993. Searching Out the Headwaters: Change and Rediscovery in Western Water. Covelo and Washington, D.C.: Island Press. Bowden, L. 1965. Diffusion of the Decision to Irrigate. Research Paper No. 97. Chicago, Ill.: Department of Geography, University of Chicago. Boyd, D. 1897. Irrigation near Greeley, Colorado. Washington, D.C.
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Representative terms from entire chapter: