The Arid LandsBook - 2004
John Wesley Powell's arid lands report was the first to argue that the American West could not support a conventional system of agriculture and that its lands could not sustain unlimited development. He recognized that water was a more precious resource than land, that rainfall could never support agriculture in the region, and that controlled irrigation offered the best use of its natural resources.
Years of drought have proved the value of his advice, which was not well received by an expansionist nation. Despite opposition from the timber, cattle, and mining industries, Powell's work led to the first assessments of the available water supplies and to the consolidation of government surveys and policies under one administration.