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August 2019, issue #51Water Resources Archive

Man dumping water

Back to School, Back to Basics

With the start of school, it’s a good time to brush up on basics and boost your archival know-how. Whether you are a college or graduate student, or simply a student of life, gaining additional skill to find answers in archives can be advantageous. To “prime the pump” (photo: pumping plant south of Wiggins), we offer six tips to find answers in the Water Resources Archive. A bonus tip follows news about new videos we have online.

With the start of Colorado State University’s school year, we embark on the institution’s sesquicentennial celebration. Because water-related education and research helped lay the foundation for what was then Colorado Agricultural College, we’ll be highlighting that history here with our puzzler, as well as throughout the coming year.

–Patty Rettig, Archivist, Water Resources Archive


Water Resources Archive

Photograph of men looking at map

Top Six Tips to Find Water History Answers

Most people don’t browse archives just for fun. You come to archives seeking answers to questions. Because archives hold unique documentation, they are excellent resources, yet can be difficult to navigate. Here are six tips to help you find answers to Colorado water history questions.

  1. Start at the Water Resources Archive home page.
    Here you will find a description of the Archive’s mission and services as well as links to discover Archives and Special Collections services and policies. Notice the “What’s New” section at the bottom right, where you can keep track of new offerings and events.
  2. Search across our finding aids.
    The findings aids are descriptions of each collection we have. You can browse the collection list, click on the information icon to get a short summary of each collection, and, most usefully, search across the full text of all the department finding aids by clicking on the link under the page title and typing in some keywords.
  3. Search just digitized materials.
    Approximately 5% of our holdings are digitized! If you want to see if we have a particular report online, or find a great old photo to use in a presentation, go here and type in some keywords. You can also browse by date, author, title, or subject to access more than 10,000 files, representing hundreds of thousands of scanned pages, photographs, and more. All items can be downloaded for personal use. Be sure to cite your sources and obey copyright law.
  4. Brush up on background.
    Sometimes knowing historical context will help you figure out a search strategy. The Water Resources Archive created a brief online presentation for Colorado water history orientation that you can find on this page, along with a list of websites for other water organizations, online publications, and great books to consult.
  5. Become a search pro.
    Listings and descriptions of archival materials are rarely standardized, so think creatively when choosing your keywords. Include abbreviations (“Fry-Ark” for Fryingpan-Arkansas Project [the map in the photo above]), alternative spellings (Frying Pan), and acronyms (“CBT” for Colorado-Big Thompson) as well as former names (Fry-Ark started as the Gunnison-Arkansas Project). Find more helpful tips on this page.
  6. Ask us!
    We are here to help! If you’re not finding what you’re looking for, please email or call (970-491-1939). Know that your interactions with archivists are confidential, so your research requests are safe with us. We can help you zero in on particular files and even look into those vaguely named “Correspondence” or “Meeting minutes” folders. If you have found something useful listed but not digitized, we can provide photocopies or scans. If we don’t have what you’re looking for, we can also point you to other repositories.

Persistence pays off when using archival materials, with the reward of gold nuggets of information that will make your project stand out.

Water Resources Archive

Water Puzzler

In 1883, at only 24 years of age, this man from Indiana became a professor of mathematics and physics at Colorado Agricultural College (now CSU). He soon began assisting the state engineer and was greatly intrigued by issues of water rights and distribution in arid Colorado. By 1886 he received the position of chair of physics and irrigation, the first such position in the country. In 1888 he moved north to be territorial and then state engineer of Wyoming. He later became head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s irrigation investigations, taught at the University of California at Berkeley, consulted in Australia, and ultimately became the commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in 1924. During his tenure, which lasted until his death in 1936, he oversaw the planning for and building of Hoover Dam.

Who was this man?

The answer is…

Water Resources Archive

Gentlemen speaking

Videos, New and Newer 

As CSU is working on a sesquicentennial film, Archives and Special Collections has been addressing some of our audio-visual content. For the Water Resources Archive, we have converted more than 70 VHS tapes to digital video. A few highlights include:

  • CE470: Civil Engineering Applications. Fred Ogden, 1987 – Ogden, then a recent civil engineering graduate, spoke to CSU civil engineering professor Maury Albertson’s class about ethics in engineering, particularly as related to the Poudre Project. Now, more than 30 years later, the proposed project renamed NISP (Northern Integrated Supply Project) is still pending.
  • Poudre River Symposium, 1998 – This recording provides nearly an hour of background and community discussion about the future of the section of the Cache la Poudre River running through downtown Fort Collins. Many such discussions have been held since this one.
  • Goodbye Dick: Retirement Banquet on for Richard D. ‘Dick’ MacRavey. Colorado Water Congress Forty-Eighth Annual Convention, 2006 – MacRavey was the longtime director of the Colorado Water Congress, and his many colleagues and friends gave him a heartfelt and humorous send off. (Screen capture above is Justice Greg Hobbs giving his regards to MacRavey in the background.)

Fast forward a baker’s dozen years to the present, when MacRavey and a number of other Colorado water leaders are no longer with us. The Water Resources Archive and the Poudre Heritage Alliance have embarked on an oral history project to capture stories of today’s water professionals. The newly released videos include:

  • Tom Sharp, water attorney in Steamboat Springs
  • John Stulp, former water policy adviser to Governor John Hickenlooper
  • Eric Wilkinson, retired general manager, Northern Water

We’d like to thank our funders, including the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, CoBank, and Northern Water. Watch for more videos to go online in the coming months!

Water Resources Archive

Man in field

Bonus Tip

To help you keep finding water history answers, help us! We can’t do what we do without both collection donors and monetary donors. If you have or know of materials that should be preserved here, please tell us about them. And, if you would like to support our work with a gift of any amount, we will put it toward digitization, student assistants, or other archival needs. With great, accessible collections, we’ll help everyone dig in (as man in photo above) and better understand Colorado water history.

Water Resources Archive

Puzzler answer:

Elwood Mead

Lake Mead, the reservoir created by Hoover Dam, was named for him. Our puzzler only scratches the surface of Mead’s accomplishments. Learn more about him in “Elwood Mead’s Role in Founding CSU’s and USDA’s Fort Collins Irrigation Programs” by Patricia J. Rettig and Robert C. Ward and “Order out of Chaos: Elwood Mead and Wyoming’s Water Law” by Anne MacKinnon. The portrait of Mead above was taken while he was a CAC faculty member.


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