Colorado Water History: Archival Research Tips
Archives and Special Collections Department
Tips: Before You Visit an Archives
Be ready! Here are some tips for visiting an archive:
1. Learn what you can about collections you want to use before visiting. Some repositories post finding aids or collection descriptions on their website.
2. Contact the archivist. This prevents you from arriving only to find the items you need are not available. Requesting specific items ahead of time can also cut down on time spent waiting for materials.
4. Check directions and parking availability and locations.
5. Note what materials you may bring into the archival reading room. Are laptops and cameras allowed?
6. Bring cash/change in case you need to pay for photocopies or scans.
Tips: Water Resources Archive
There are hundreds if not thousands of stories waiting to be discovered in the Water Resources Archive.
Here are some tips to help you find documents for telling your story:
- Get into the flow of archival research with a helpful research flowchart.
- Looking for maps? See Strategies for finding historical water maps.
- Doing research on ditch companies? Read an article on Colorado ditch company collections.
- Doing research related to the Cache la Poudre River? Surf over to the Poudre River Web Guide.
If you need research assistance, contact the archivist using the link at the right. If you will be visiting, be sure to plan ahead.
Results: Water Resources Archive
A number of books, theses, and documentaries have used collections held by the Water Resources Archive.
- Crifasi, Robert R. A Land Made from Water: Appropriation and the Evolution of Colorado's Landscape, Ditches, and Water Institutions (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2015).
- Ettema, Robert, and Cornelia F. Mutel. Hans Albert Einstein: His Life as a Pioneering Engineer (Reston, VA: American Society of Civil Engineers, 2014).
- Franklin, Karmen Lee. Digging the Old West: How Dams and Ditches Sculpted an American Landscape (Arvada, Colo.: Franklin Design Bureau, 2011).
- Grace, Stephen, and Jim Havey, photographer. The Great Divide (Guilford, Conn.: TwoDot, 2015). Companion book to the film of the same title.
- Jones, P. Andrew, and Thomas Cech. Colorado Water Law for Non-Lawyers (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2009).
- Laflin, Rose. Irrigation, Settlement, and Change on the Cache la Poudre River, Special report (Colorado Water Resources Research Institute) no. 15 (Fort Collins: Colorado Water Resources Research Institute, Colorado State University, 2005).
- Mackey, Mike. Protecting Wyoming's Share: Frank Emerson and the Colorado River Compact (Sheridan, Wyo.: Western History Publications, 2013).
- Powell, James Lawrence. Dead Pool: Lake Powell, Global Warming, and the Future of Water in the West (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008).
- Schorr, David. The Colorado Doctrine: Water Rights, Corporations, and Distributive Justice on the American Frontier (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012).
- Sibley, George. Water Wranglers: The History of the Colorado River District: A Story About the Embattled Colorado River and the Growth of the West (Grand Junction: Colorado River District, 2012).
- Summitt, April R. Contested Waters: An Environmental History of the Colorado River (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2013).
- Tyler, Daniel. WD Farr: Cowboy in the Boardroom (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2011).
- Tyler, Daniel, ed., with Betty Henshaw. Love in an Envelope: A Courtship in the American West (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2008).
- Tyler, Daniel. Silver Fox of the Rockies: Delphus E. Carpenter and Western Water Compacts (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2003).
- Nicolai Kryloff, “Western Waters: New Mexico's Big Ditch and Groundwater in Colorado's South Platte Valley.” M.A., Colorado State University, Dept. of History, 2008. The second portion of this thesis drew upon the Groundwater Data Collection, the Papers of Robert E. Glover, the Papers of Delph E. Carpenter and Family, and the Records of GASP.
- Carol Hutton Lucking, “When the Well's Dry, We Know the Worth of Water”: Groundwater Mining in Douglas County, Colorado.” M.A., Colorado State University, Dept. of History, 2009. This thesis used the Papers of James L. Ogilvie as a source.
- Will Wright, "Accelerating Waters: An Anthropocene History of Colorado's 1976 Big Thompson Flood." M.A., Colorado State University, Dept. of History, 2016. This thesis used the Records of Wright Water Engineers, the David McComb Big Thompson Flood Collection, and several other collections as sources.
- Havey Productions created The Great Divide, the first full-length film covering the broad history of Colorado water. The Havey team used a number of photos from various Water Resources Archive collections.
- Rocky Mountain PBS produced a "Colorado Experience" episode on the 1976 Big Thompson flood. They used a number of images from the David McComb Big Thompson Flood Collection.
- Megan Damele created this video, “The Colorado River Compact of 1922,” as a seventh grader for National History Day. She won the state level and went on to the national competition. Many of the documents shown come from the Papers of Delph E. Carpenter and Family.
Potential Research Topics: Water Resources Archive
Many of Colorado's and the West's water stories remain untold. And, every academic discipline has its own way of relating to water. This creates limitless research opportunities, especially in the Water Resources Archive's unique collections.
Here are some research topics ripe for exploration:
Effects of human recreation on rivers and reservoirs
Boating, rafting, and fishing are all popular recreational activities. How do these and other pastimes affect our waterways? How do recreation and reclamation intersect?
Effects of consumptive use on rivers
Agriculture, industries, and households use vast amounts of surface water. Each has a story, and each has an effect.
Political implications of water
Water resources have influenced local, interstate, and international politics throughout history. Conversely, politicians have influenced water resources development; the interaction flows both directions.
Water photography as rhetoric
Images of rivers, dams, reservoirs, canals, wildlife, and the people who worked with them.
Water and endangered species
Protection of whooping cranes, piping plovers, pallid sturgeon, and other endangered species has influenced water policy across the United States.
Connecting the land-grant mission with global water development
Land-grant institutions focus primarily on the study of agriculture, science, and engineering. Many institutions, including CSU, have extended this knowledge in other places through research activities and participation in international conferences.
Water conservation districts and water conservancy districts
Important management institutions for Colorado's water resources. They influence water use, development, protection, and taxation within their boundaries.
Two Forks, Echo Park, and Glade reservoirs, to name a few. Proposed facilities have caused major social and political disagreement.
Women involved in water development
Work in water resources has been dominated by men. How have women left their mark, and how can we find them in the sources?