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National History Day Topics 2011-2012
Colorado River Compact: A Revolution in Water Resources Management

For many years, residents of the southwest dreamed of damming the Colorado River, hoping to use the water for irrigation, recreation and electrical power.  The greatest obstacle to building the dam was allocation of water rights among the seven states comprising the Colorado River basin.  After much debate Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover brokered an unprecedented compromise that revolutionized the way water from the Colorado River was divided among the states.  In 1928 Congress allocated funds to build the dam, and by 1935 the dam was completed with each of the seven states sharing the benefits.

Hoover Library primary sources:
Colorado River Commission Records. Subject files, boxes 12-14 – Colorado River Compact
Delph Carpenter Papers. Subject files, boxes 1-3 – Colorado River Commission

Other primary sources:
University of Nevada-Las Vegas Library Special Collections has many maps, photographs, and other primary sources described at: http://library.nevada.edu/speccol/water_resources.html
The Story of Hoover Dam [Washington: GPO, 1948]

Secondary sources:
Hundley, Norris, Water and the West: Colorado River Commission and the Politics of Water [University of California, Berkeley, 1975]
Smallwood, J. B. [ed.], ‘Water and the West’ articles from Journal of the West [1983]
Tyler, Daniel, ‘Silver Fox of the West: Delphus Carpenter and the Colorado River Commission’ New Mexico History Magazine [volume 73 #1 January 1998 pp. 25-46]

Online secondary sources:
Summary history and good bibliography at:
Summary history and discussion of impact at:
Brief history with focus on Herbert Hoover at:

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