Document Type


Publication Date

January 2018

Publication Title

ENVS 129: Water Policy in the Western U.S.


Water, or lack of it, is the defining characteristic of development in the Western United States. Using multiple analytical frameworks, including history, law, economics, environmental science, and sociology, we will investigate the interrelationships of key policies, players, and projects involved in Western water. More specifically, we will critically examine how important federal, state, and local water policies arose and how they affect different stakeholder groups (e.g., irrigators, environmentalists, indigenous peoples, the local citizenry, government entities, public water resource agencies). We will also learn about how stakeholder values and corresponding water policies have changed, or failed to change, over time. Case studies will form a large part of learning for the course. Our investigations will cover water development in California, the Colorado and Columbia river basins, and major projects such as the Central Valley Project, Hoover Dam, and the Grand Coulee Dam. Major areas of knowledge developed in this course include the following: water rights, the role of federal agencies in water resources development, cost-benefit analysis, the environmental impacts of water resources development, and potential solutions to resolving water-related conflicts. Skills you will develop or enhance in this class include writing, research, oral presentation, and critical thinking in the context of policy analysis.