Since the mid-nineteenth century, the central question of the American West has been:
How much water is there in the region, and how do we best use it?
This question has been a topic of debate for more than the past 150 years, and we’re still trying to answer it now in the twenty-first century. Beginning in the mid-1800s, Euro-American settlers felt it was their duty to develop and control all the water in the West down to the last drop as a part of the Manifest Destiny of the nation. Today, the context around these discussions has changed to incorporate a greater range of uses, needs and values while facing an uncertain future as climate change makes the West drier, hotter and more arid—but the central question remains the same.
Join Sara Porterfield and Brennan Sang as they look back at how we’ve tried to answer this question, and the changes we’ve made along the way.