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Southern Waters

The Limits to Abundance

296 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / 9 halftones, 28 maps, 1 chart

ebook available

Nature Conservation & Preservation

  Paperback / 9780807156506 / October 2014
Water has dominated images of the South throughout history, from Hernando de Soto’s 1541 crossing of the Mississippi to tragic scenes of flooding throughout the Gulf South after Hurricane Katrina. But these images tell only half the story: as urban, industrial, and population growth create unprecedented demands on water in the South, the problems of pollution and water shortages grow ever more urgent. In Southern Waters: The Limits to Abundance, Craig E. Colten addresses how the South—in an environment fraught with uncertainty—can navigate the twin risks of too much water and not enough.
From the arrival of the first European settlers, the South’s inhabitants have pursued a course of maximum exploitation and control of the area’s plentiful waters, investing widely in wetland drainage and massive flood-control projects. Disputes over southern waterways go back nearly as far: obstruction of fish migration by mill dams prompted new policies to protect aquatic life as early as the colonial era. Colten argues that such conflicts, which have heightened dramatically since the explosive urbanization of the mid-twentieth century, will only become more frequent and intense, making the shift toward sustainable use a national imperative.
In tracing the evolving uses and abuses of southern waters, Colten offers crucial insights into the complex historical geography of water throughout the region. A masterful analysis of the ways in which past generations harnessed and consumed water, Southern Waters also stands as a guide to adapting our water usage to cope with the looming shortage of this once-abundant resource.

Craig E. Colten is the Carl O. Sauer Professor of Geography and Anthropology at Louisiana State University and the author of Perilous Place, Powerful Storms: Hurricane Protection in Coastal Louisiana and An Unnatural Metropolis: Wresting New Orleans from Nature.

Praise for Southern Waters

“A benchmark review of water resource management in the southern U.S. . . . [Colten] uses case studies very effectively, and they illuminate the diversity of natural, political, and social systems in the South. . . . Highly recommended.”—CHOICE

“Highly readable, yet densely researched. . . .A richly researched historical and cultural analysis that explains how and why water has become a scarce resource and identifies the barriers to prudent and fair management of water resources in the American South. Craig Colten has written an insightful book that should appeal to the educated public, students, and scholars alike.”—Geographical Review

“A fine primer. . . Colten’s quality research and high level of expertise are accessible to and understandable by a wide audience. I strongly recommend the book for the general public, elected officials, and water policymakers. . . . I especially recommend the book to judges on whose shoulders lie the duty of finding justice in our sharing the common pool of water.”—Environmental History

“[A] broadly conceived and important book. . . . The book balances a synoptic regional perspective with an attention to places that illustrate broader trends or were somehow formative in the making of a new legal or policy regime. . . . This book provides many cautionary examples and richly drawn cases with which to meditate on emerging challenges and the best means to face them proactively.”—AAG Review of Books

“For geographers interested in a thorough historical overview of water management policy in the southern United States, this book is an invaluable resource. It provides a comprehensive historical account of the evolution of thinking about water and how scientific understandings of water geographies and popular political sentiments have shaped the unique history of riparian environments in the South.”—Journal of Cultural Geography

“Using extensive research of court cases, federal and state agency documents, and historical sources, Colten examines the South’s policies and procedures related to water quality, conservation, and management. . . . An excellent piece of research and an important part of the regional narrative of the South.”—Historical Geography

“Water shortage is a new problem for the South, but it is likely to persist and grow worse. Those who seek to understand and reform the region's relationship with its water resources are well advised to read Colten's book.”—Journal of Historical Geography

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