In Utah of late it seems that water has been both everywhere and nowhere at once. For the past two decades our state and much of the American West has been locked in a “mega-drought,” the region's worst in 1,200 years. At the same time, unprecedented population growth and the increasingly impossible-to-ignore effects of climate change have pushed the West toward the brink. The crisis on the Colorado River—where in late December 2022, Lake Powell stood at 23 percent of capacity and Lake Mead at around 28 percent—portends both painful cutbacks for water users and years of legal and political battles to come.1 Meanwhile, declining water levels on Great Salt Lake have exposed hundreds of square miles of playa, creating toxic dust storms that imperil human health, and threatening catastrophic impacts for the migratory birds, brine shrimp, and other species that depend on the lake's ecosystem. That is the...
Water Is Life, Water Is Power: The Confluence of Water, History, and the Public in Utah: Keynote Address, Seventieth Annual Utah State Historical Society Conference, 2022
GREGORY E. SMOAK is director of the American West Center and associate professor of history at University of Utah, where he specializes in the American West and public history. He is the author of Ghost Dances and Identity: Prophetic Religion and American Indian Ethnogenesis in the Nineteenth Century and a forthcoming environmental history of Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. He has served as state consulting scholar for several Utah Humanities/Smithsonian Museum on Main Street exhibition tours, including the Think Water Utah project.
Gregory E. Smoak; Water Is Life, Water Is Power: The Confluence of Water, History, and the Public in Utah: Keynote Address, Seventieth Annual Utah State Historical Society Conference, 2022. Utah Historical Quarterly 1 July 2023; 91 (3): 198–211. doi: https://doi.org/10.5406/26428652.91.3.02
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