Understanding the Relationship between Water and Poverty

Water and Poverty in the Southwest, F. Lee Brown and Helen M. Ingram, (Arizona: The University of Arizona Press, 1987), 217 pp.


Understanding environmental problems; identifying stakeholders; understanding core interests; procedural fairness; applicable to water resource issues; written for the first party participant.


Water and Poverty in the Southwest is an examination of the effects that water allocation and distribution has upon the rural poor in the Southwestern United States. It addresses issues affecting Native American and Hispanic peoples.

Water and Poverty in the Southwest will be of interest to those who seek an understanding of the title subject. The first chapter is an overview of the rural poor and their water uses and preferences. Tables which list statistical data for the poorest counties in Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico nicely support the text. The second chapter addresses the rising commodity value and view of water. The authors examine the rising commodity view of water by the judiciary and governments.

The third chapter examines the community value of water and the implications for the rural poor. The authors address: the organizing importance of water, its emotional and symbolic importance, and the relationship between water and the community. In a consideration of the community value of water, the authors discuss: fairness, participation and local control, opportunity and caring for the resource. The authors close this chapter with a discussion of the relationship among: community value, commodity value and material improvement.

The fourth chapter considers Hispanics in the Upper Rio Grande River Basin wherein

Brown and Ingram discuss the New World irrigation practice of community ditch organisations. They also consider the need of the inhabitants to continue the practice of agriculture and their desire to maintain their culture. The next chapter is focused upon the San Juan-Chama Diversion Project and the importance of water to traditional Hispanics. The Aamodt suit which arose out of the legislation authorizing the San Juan Project and its political significance is also addressed. The authors note the relationship among: participation, power and water.

Chapter six is concerned with economic development and Hispanic preferences for water use. Following a brief examination of alternative water use possibilities, the authors address: community leadership, attitudes about water right sales, and views on alternative uses of water. Possibilities for agriculture in the Upper Rio Grande are considered and asserted to imply a shift to the production of fruits and vegetables, although improving the livestock economy is also considered. The next chapter links water and opportunity in the Upper Rio Grande. The authors discuss compacts, water markets, and public welfare.

Chapter nine is brief history of the Tohono O'odham Nation, followed by four chapters focused on the opportunities and constraints on participation by the Tohono O'odham in water resource development. Chapter eleven examines the Tohono O'odham Take Initiative with the next chapter devoted to the Southern Arizona Water Rights Settlement Act (SAWRSA) and Tohono O'odham preferences. Chapter fourteen offers strategies for the future. Chapter fifteen is a comparison of the Tohono O'odham and the Upper Rio Grande Hispanics. The final chapter acts as a summary of the text.

Water and Poverty in the Southwest is an examination of the title topic tightly focused on the Hispanics of the Upper Rio Grande and the Tohono O'odham Nation. Notwithstanding its decidedly regional focus, the work is of general applicability to water resource issues.

T. A. O'Lonergan