Cadillac Desert by the late Marc Reisner (1948-2000) is an excellent history of vanishing water in the USA southwest. It was among the 100 best books of the 20th century. Reisner’s vocabulary is so advanced that one might be in need of consulting a dictionary while pouring through the book. “Sesquipedalian tergiversation” is another way of describing a character who turns her/his back on another person. There is a four-volume video of Cadillac Desert that does not require a dictionary.
The movie Chinatown is a fictional rendering of how water was “transferred” from the Owens Valley in northern California down to Los Angeles. Without the 200-mile aqueduct, neither Los Angeles nor rich southern California farm land could thrive.
While living in Texas from 1989-1994 a friend told me “During my youth in Houston a gentle rain would fall every afternoon in the 1940’s. That gift of nature has dried up.”
THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE of December 4, 2013 rejoiced in the news of a drought ending after three years. During those three painful years farmers and ranchers had to sell livestock because water and hay were not available to keep the animals alive.
In August 1836 John Allen and Augustus Allen , two New York real estate promoters purchased 6000 acres of land from John Austin’s widow for $9,000 with the hope of establishing a “great center for commerce and government.” They named their small commercial center after San Houston, the hero of the battle of San Jacinto. They had hopes of Houston becoming president of the Republic of Texas.
Following difficult early years of disease and violence, the city burgeoned into a center for trade. After the 1901 Spindletop discovery of oil in Beaumont, Houston became associated with the prosperous age of petroleum.
By 1940 there were 400,000 people living in Houston. The smell of oil and prosperity drew millions more to Texas. In 1990 there were 1, 600,000 in Houston. One threatened Texas farmer remarked to William Donnelly a US-born Latin American missionary priest living in Houston, “That city is a beast that never stops growing. There’s no way of stopping it!”
The Texas farmer was not totally correct. Like Los Angeles, Houston cannot survive without water. The Cadillac Desert looms over the entire south, if not all 3.794 million square miles of the USA.
A friend in Houston told me “As a child in the 1940’s I recall rain falling every afternoon. That gift of nature has dried up.”
Houston’s six million residents outnumber the entire four million in Louisiana.
William Mulholland (1855-1935) was the Irish-born genius who brought forth an aqueduct to give life to Los Angeles and southern California. In the absence of water courts in the impoverished state of Louisiana, would he not envision an opportunity to build a pipeline drawing precious water from the weakened, abused Mississippi to thirsting Houston? And why not – to western states?
Mulholland is not a man to be admired. Are there perhaps many who emulate his “cleverness” in manipulating water, the oil and gold of our era? Louisiana should be on guard to protect a precious resource that has become a capitalist commodity.