Preserving the Source
December 2020, issue #55
’Tis the Season
Amidst this year of loss, we’ve entered the season for reflection. When thinking about loss as a form of change, a challenge in life, we can gain new perspective. In this issue, we bring you some perspectives the Water Resources Archive has gained over the past year. Read on for more about the loss of a groundwater expert, a student’s perspective on 2020, and interviews captured in the anticipation of loss. For our puzzler, we look at innovation inspired by hard times.
We also remind readers of the opportunity for giving, which is always an option financially or through historically important materials. We also invite you to give us your opinion, through this survey or by email.
–Patty Rettig, Archivist, Water Resources Archive
Remembering Bob Longenbaugh
In early October, the first time I saw Bob Longenbaugh’s accumulation of professional files was the last time I saw Bob. For years, he had told me about materials he wanted to give to the Water Resources Archive, but he was never quite ready to have assistance with them. Ever since Bob passed away on Oct. 17, I have been grateful that my last experience with him confirmed his trust in me to take care of his historical legacy.
Bob (in photo at left, 1974) worked on Colorado groundwater issues for over 60 years. A graduate of Colorado State University (back when it was A&M), Bob entered the Air Force and then returned for another degree and stayed on as faculty for nearly 20 years. He then went to the State Engineer’s Office, heading up the groundwater unit for more than a decade. These were exciting times in the groundwater arena, with increased understanding, innovative technology, and new legislation. Bob was involved in all these areas, in addition to teaching numerous audiences about the subject. (Hear more in Bob’s oral history interview.)
Anyone who knew Bob will remember him for his passionate expertise. He gave me numerous personal lessons/lectures on historical and contemporary groundwater issues. I enjoyed these and soaked them in, saddened that Bob gradually lost his ability to do this. But he has left his files for the benefit of all. The documents extend back to his time teaching at CSU and up to his “retirement” years as a consultant. I have moved Bob’s many boxes into the archives with great anticipation for discovering their contents, though public health restrictions will delay such work.
The Water Resources Archive is grateful that Bob saved these documents over the years, so his knowledge can continue to educate about groundwater.
In the best case scenario, tough times lead to innovation. During the 1930s, a lengthy, severe drought in the western United States led, in 1935, to Congress forming a federal Snow Survey Program. A decade later, the Colorado River Water Forecast Committee was formed.
The first meeting, chaired by a Colorado man known for expertise in water measurement, discussed the committee’s purpose: to “perfect our methods of forecasting,” or measuring mountain snowpack and estimating runoff. To position the group for success, the chair had personally invited colleagues and experts from private companies and government agencies to share information and ideas.
At that first meeting, the first speaker (and the chair’s boss), W. W. McLaughlin, chief of the Division of Irrigation of the Soil Conservation Service, used the analogy of how the country had been unprepared for the attack on Pearl Harbor, and how snow surveys could be a way to defend against the surprise attack of droughts. Such surveys have proved essential over the decades, especially as droughts, like the current one, persist.
What well-known Colorado water innovator chaired this committee?
A Student Employee’s Perspective on 2020, by Taylor Schulze
Since I began working for the Water Resources Archive in March 2020 (that’s a pre-pandemic photo), I’ve expanded my understanding of the importance of preserving the history of Colorado water resources. From processing archival collections and assisting patrons to performing in-depth research on Colorado groundwater and creating river basin guides (like on the Big Thompson), I’ve seen firsthand the value that the Archive adds to both the Colorado State University community and the global community of scholars.
I’ve particularly enjoyed diving into the history of groundwater use in the state and, more recently, experiencing the donor-relations aspect of archival work by assisting with the acquisition of the Papers of Robert A. Longenbaugh. Perhaps the greatest challenge of the past year has been adapting to working remotely. Nevertheless, I’ve been grateful for the chance to continue working on projects off-site.
As a student assistant at the Water Resources Archive, my work has complemented my studies in civil engineering in valuable ways. Specifically, I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the evolution of modern water resources engineering and its contributions to human flourishing in Colorado and the arid West. In my future career, the ability to situate contemporary issues in an historical context will help me to approach social and technical problems from a more holistic point of view.
New Interviews Online
An interview with environmental scientist Dan Luecke (above) is the newest online offering from the Water Legacy Oral History Project, jointly conducted by the Poudre Heritage Alliance and the Water Resources Archive. Luecke discusses his role in the defeat of Denver Water’s proposed Two Forks Dam as well as environmental consulting work he has done across the West and internationally.
Luecke’s interview joins seven others recently made available, as well as nine conducted in 2019. All 17 interviews with Colorado’s retired or senior water leaders from across the state capture specialized knowledge and insights. We greatly appreciate the funding received from the Colorado Water Conservation Board through their Colorado Water Plan Grant, enabling us to record the stories of Colorado’s water leaders before it’s too late.
Every Snowflake Counts
Amidst a challenging year, the Water Resources Archive has served the Colorado water community and researchers around the world by continuing to collect, preserve, and make available historically important documents. Just as it takes an accumulation of mountain snowflakes to form the western water supply, it also takes numerous individuals to support the work we do on your behalf. Make your gift today.
Best known for the Parshall flume, he was passionate about water measurement. His materials on the Colorado River Water Forecast Committee can be found in the Irrigation Research Papers (do a keyword search for “forecast”). Both the draft transcript of the first meeting and the published version are online. Parshall is squatting in the photo above, taken at Bear Lake in 1941.
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This e-newsletter is created by Patty Rettig .
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