Water resources development in Santa Clara Valley, California: insights into the human-hydrologic relationship

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Groundwater irrigation is critical to food production and, in turn, to humankind's relationship with its environment. The development of groundwater in Santa Clara Valley, California during the early twentieth century is instructive because (1) responses to unsustainable resource use were largely successful; (2) the proposals for the physical management of the water, although not entirely novel, incorporated new approaches which reveal an evolving relationship between humans and the hydrologic cycle; and (3) the valley serves as a natural laboratory where natural (groundwater basin, surface watershed) and human (county, water district) boundaries generally coincide. Here, I investigate how water resources development ... continued below

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Medium: P; Size: 158 pages

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Reynolds, Jesse L. & Narasimhan, T.N. June 1, 2000.

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Description

Groundwater irrigation is critical to food production and, in turn, to humankind's relationship with its environment. The development of groundwater in Santa Clara Valley, California during the early twentieth century is instructive because (1) responses to unsustainable resource use were largely successful; (2) the proposals for the physical management of the water, although not entirely novel, incorporated new approaches which reveal an evolving relationship between humans and the hydrologic cycle; and (3) the valley serves as a natural laboratory where natural (groundwater basin, surface watershed) and human (county, water district) boundaries generally coincide. Here, I investigate how water resources development and management in Santa Clara Valley was influenced by, and reflective of, a broad understanding of water as a natural resource, including scientific and technological innovations, new management approaches, and changing perceptions of the hydrologic cycle. Market demands and technological advances engendered reliance on groundwater. This, coupled with a series of dry years and laissez faire government policies, led to overdraft. Faith in centralized management and objective engineering offered a solution to concerns over resource depletion, and a group dominated by orchardists soon organized, fought for a water conservation district, and funded an investigation to halt the decline of well levels. Engineer Fred Tibbetts authored an elaborate water salvage and recharge plan that optimized the local water resources by integrating multiple components of the hydrologic cycle. Informed by government investigations, groundwater development in Southern California, and local water law cases, it recognized the limited surface storage possibilities, the spatial and temporal variability, the relatively closed local hydrology, the interconnection of surface and subsurface waters, and the value of the groundwater basin for its storage, transportation, and treatment abilities. The proposal was typically described as complementing an already generous nature, not simply subduing it. Its implementation was limited by political tensions, and fifteen years later, a scaled-down version was constructed. Well levels recovered, but within a decade were declining due to increasing withdrawals. I assert that the approach in Santa Clara Valley was a forerunner to more recent innovations in natural resource management in California and beyond.

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Medium: P; Size: 158 pages

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OSTI as DE00767622

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  • Other Information: TH: Thesis (M.S.); Submitted to Univ. of California, Berkeley, CA (US)

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  • Report No.: LBNL--46598
  • Grant Number: AC03-76SF00098
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 767622
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc719234

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Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports

Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

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  • June 1, 2000

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Sept. 29, 2015, 5:31 a.m.

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  • April 4, 2016, 2:44 p.m.

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Reynolds, Jesse L. & Narasimhan, T.N. Water resources development in Santa Clara Valley, California: insights into the human-hydrologic relationship, thesis or dissertation, June 1, 2000; Berkeley, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc719234/: accessed November 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.