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Water Use Is Personal For San Diego Writer

Water Use Is Personal For San Diego Writer

GUEST:

Tershia d'Elgin, author, "The Man Who Thought He Owned Water"

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Photo caption:

Photo by University Press of Colorado

The cover of "The Man Who Thought He Owned Water" by Tershia d'Elgin.

Tershia d'Elgin's family knows water. Her great-great-grandfather, Benjamin Eaton, was a Colorado homesteader in the mid-1800s, creating irrigation systems for barren land. He eventually became the state's fourth governor in the 1880s, and by championing irrigation technology, was known as the "father of irrigation."

About 100 years later, d'Elgin's father started a farm outside of Denver and knew securing water rights would be crucial to his success. He had rights to pump water from a nearby aquifer and bought shares in private irrigation ditches. But he quickly, and repeatedly, ran into trouble getting enough water to run the farm, including a run-in on his property with a neighbor equipped with a shovel and a gun.

"Lots of people fantasize about a country life, but few grasp the desperate and complex water issues that challenge the American-grown food on which we all depend," d'Elgin wrote in a family history centering on her father, called "The Man Who Thought He Owned Water." "Is it common for trespassers to divert water at gunpoint?"

d'Elgin has since taken up water conservation issues, serving as director of projects for H20 Futures, a company that promotes fresh- and sea water irrigation. She joins KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday with more on her family's struggles with water.

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