Cadillac Desert - The American West and Its Disappearing Water (Myth20c - Ep243)
Prior to 1900, the western United States comprised less than 5% of the country’s total population. By 2000, that number had quadrupled to over 20%, and was on track to continue growing as a percentage of the total until only recently, where the southern states have begun outpacing it in term of number of people added per year. Once known as the ‘Great American Desert’, the conquering of the West came not just from the Winchester repeating rifle and the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, but also by fundamentally transforming the landscape with massive hydrological projects in places like Southern California and Arizona, which naturally have little water, and harnessing the massive power of rivers like the Columbia in the Pacific Northwest to generate electricity. As with any physical system, however, there are limits to growth, and with recent record-breaking droughts compounded by never before seen populations, the rapid pace of expansion in the western United States may be coming to a close. Tonight we discuss the often untold history of how that growth was enabled, and why it may no longer be set to continue.
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-- References --
- High Plains Drifter, Eastwood (1973)
- Cadillac Desert, Reisner (1986)
- Mulholland Drive, Lynch (2001)
- America's biggest source of renewable energy is crumbling to bits, Harrington (2016) - https://www.businessinsider.com/us-dams-need-updating-2016-2
- Wetworks - a History of Water Management in America, Myth of the 20th Century (2019) - https://myth20c.wordpress.com/2019/08/11/wetworks-a-history-of-water-management-in-america/
- Colossus - Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century, Myth of the 20th Century (2019) - https://myth20c.wordpress.com/2019/08/16/colossus-hoover-dam-and-the-making-of-the-american-century/
- Herbert Hoover - Building a Legacy, Myth of the 20th Century (2020) - https://myth20c.wordpress.com/2020/08/06/herbert-hoover-building-a-legacy/
- Hydroelectric Power - IB Physics, Andy Masley's IB Physics Lectures (2020) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rgh_3uVgHg
- Calculating the power a turbine can generate on a hydroelectric scheme using Bernoulli’s equation, Fluids Explained (2020) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rgh_3uVgHg
- What Really Happened at the Oroville Dam Spillway?, Practical Engineering (2021) - https://practical.engineering/blog/2021/5/17/what-really-happened-at-the-oroville-dam-spillway
- Benefits of Snake River dams must be replaced before breaching to save salmon, report says, Geranios (2022) - https://www.opb.org/article/2022/08/25/snake-river-dams-washington-salmon/
- Hydropower Resource Assessment and Characterization, Oak Ridge National Laboratory - https://www.energy.gov/eere/water/hydropower-resource-assessment-and-characterization
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