Monday, November 15, 2010

Water Based States

Look at a map of the United States. Between the Mississippi and California almost all of the states are bounded by straight lines and many are nearly perfect rectangles.

It might not have been so if the US government had heeded the suggestions of John Wesley Powell, who in 1890 produced this Map of the Arid Region of the United States, showing Drainage Districts. Powell argued for those districts to become the essential units of government, either as states or as watershed commonwealths.

Makes a lot of sense to me. Water management is still a hugely contentious issue in many of the arid regions out West. Why not organize around watersheds?

Thanks to Strange Maps for this fascinating look at how things might have been. Click here for a larger version of the map.


Greg and Kris said...

The real practice of drawing the lines ended up being heavily influenced by such things as where the mining districts and agricultural areas were. Idaho is primarily shaped the way it is because Eastern Washington farmers didn't want those crazy miners and their wide-open political agenda to be a factor in the politics of the populist farmer party.

O Docker said...

What Greg and Kris said may be true for Idaho, but farther south, western states were laid out mainly to accommodate contestants on future television quiz shows.

A whole genre of television programming would have been impossible if four rectangular states hadn't come together at Four Corners. Those states are, of course, Arizona, Mew Mexico, Utah, and....

Uh, can I get back to you on this?

Pat said...

"Mew Mexico"? Sounds like the cat's pajamas!

O Docker said...

Must have been a subliminal nod to New Mexico's cat herders, Pat.

Pat said...

Mewing and purring is okay. Hissing, yowling, and scratching is not so good.

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