Use and Abuse of Southwestern Rivers: Historic Man - The Spaniard
AuthorPolzer, Charles W.
AffiliationSouthwestern Mission Research Center, Tucson, Arizona
KeywordsWater resources development -- Arizona.
Hydrology -- Arizona.
Hydrology -- Southwestern states.
Water resources development -- Southwestern states.
Water resources development
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RightsCopyright ©, where appropriate, is held by the author.
Collection InformationThis article is part of the Hydrology and Water Resources in Arizona and the Southwest collections. Digital access to this material is made possible by the Arizona-Nevada Academy of Science and the University of Arizona Libraries. For more information about items in this collection, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
PublisherArizona-Nevada Academy of Science
AbstractThe early Spanish explorers did not lean toward rivers and boats. Bred in the culture of an arid land, they naturally explored with horses or by foot, leaving boats and rafts to the English and French. No historical records reveal any Spanish desires or attempts to control river flow or harness desert water resources on any appreciable scale. Yet they transformed the Sonoran desert into a productive garden land never before achieved by indigenous peoples. Pueblos were built on river banks where alluvial fans could be easily irrigated. Small arroyo check dams diverted water into wells and town tanks, while larger diversion dams were built to draw water into canals for crop irrigation. The dams were designedly weak and efficient only to the point of diverting sufficient water for the pueblo. There is no concept of storing water in reservoirs or lakes for periods of scarcity, but only of tapping enough water during periods of excess flow. All surplus water was allowed to flow downstream for the use of others in their struggle for survival. In this way the Spanish achieved a balance between human needs and the limited resources of the desert. The records of the Mexicans and the Anglos have been much more exploitive and destructive.
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