Water and Replenishment

Jan 26, 2017

The first book in the 2017 Spring Read - Water and Replenishment is John Nichol's Milagro Beanfield War. Set in a small New Mexico village, the book explores life from the perspective of many villagers as well the conflict between them and the developers who have differing ideas about how water is used.
Credit Karen Madorin - Logan, Kansas

Welcome to High Plains Public Radio Readers Book Club, an on-air, on-line community of readers exploring themes of common interest to those who live and work on the High Plains.  In this, our third Book club series, Water and Replenishment is our theme.   In our region, defined by low precipitation, few running rivers, and aquifers with slow rates of replenishment, water is in great demand.  Can we insure we have enough water -- for cooking and cleaning, for livestock and crops, for feedlots and plants, for reservoirs and swimming pools? for everyone?

For our series on Water and Replenishment, HPPR’s Radio Readers have chosen three fantastic books, each offering unique perspectives on water rights and uses.  The first, John Nichols’ classic 1970’s picaresque about hardscrabble farmers pitted against  real estate developers and state government on the plains of New Mexico, offers both comedy and satire.   After one man decides to divert water and grow a small crop, both the land and the people of the town miraculously revive.  Nichol’s Milagro Beanfield Wars asks us to imagine our own responses to the ways that access to water is determined.  Should water be owned?  Would we steal water to keep our family farms? Will we support legislation and corporations that would parch the lives of others? 

Next, is environmental historian William Ashworth’s take on the state of High Plains aquifers.  Ogallala Blue: Water and Life on the High Plains,  published in 2006.  As Ashworth notes, “Water  is life….each drop is a benediction.”  He reminds us that the very region that early explorers and surveyors labeled the “Great American Desert” is today an agricultural center of the world.  The source of this miraculous transformation is the vast pooling of groundwater, the Ogalalla Aquifer.  Yet can we bank on the Ogallala as an endlessly renewing resource? Are we managing our groundwater with clear eyes on the future of the High Plains?

Our final book in our Spring 2017 series is the classic science fiction novel Dune. Set some 20,000 years into the future, Frank Herbert’s 1967 award-winning novel recounts the efforts of a few good men to not only claim and colonize a desert planet, but to transform it to a lush edenic paradise.  Suffused with nostalgia for a lost way of life, the novel imagines the interplay of ecology, politics, and science.  Can we imagine a world without the replenishing power of water? Will we have the know-how, and the rights, to transform planets? Will science supplant miracles?