Celebrating Research


Water Resources Archive, Archives and Special Collections

Colorado State University Libraries

Collection Profile

Wow! That's fascinating! Can I touch it? This is some really important stuff you have here.

Comments such as these are overheard all night during the Water Resources Archive's annual fundraiser, Water Tables. A formal sit-down dinner, Water Tables begins with a cocktail hour in Colorado State University's Morgan Library. Guests enjoy hors d'oeuvres and drinks while mingling outside the Archives and Special Collections reading room. Inside the reading room, guests view dozens of items from Water Resources Archive collections on display, both in exhibit cases and on open tables.

Watching the guests—prominent professionals from Colorado's water community as well as budding graduate students—examine and marvel at historical documents, photographs, and artifacts highlights the significance of the archive's work. Newly established in 2001, the Water Resources Archive is the only repository in the state actively documenting the history of Colorado's most important resource. The Water Tables attendees know the importance of that history, but it is not every day that they experience it firsthand.

Today's water leaders become enchanted by yesterday's water pioneers when able to hold an 80-year-old diary, when allowed to turn pages of a century-old minute book, when able to examine a daguerreotype—a photographic format they may never have seen before. At the most recent fundraiser, a Colorado Supreme Court justice held a small, leather-bound diary from 1926 in his hands. This judge travels around the world to speak about the history of Colorado water law, and this was his first in-person encounter with a significant piece of that history. The diary was that of Delph Carpenter, a Colorado water lawyer who in the 1920s wrote and negotiated the Colorado River Compact, a treaty that still—despite drought and debate—governs the use of the West's most important river.

The Delph Carpenter Papers, containing the professional and personal materials of the state's most prominent water lawyer, give invaluable insight into early legal issues of western water. It is considered the cornerstone collection of the Water Resources Archive. Papers of water pioneers and records of water organizations comprise the archive and provide a unique resource for researchers as well as inspiration for today's leaders. The archive is particularly strong in its engineering collections, but it also documents policy, law, the environment, and water providers. Though perhaps not commonly known, names of engineers documented in the archive, such as Ralph Parshall and Robert Glover, are recognized by water experts around the world. The Parshall flume and the Glover equation are indispensable for irrigators and water managers.

With its broad range of subject coverage, the Water Resources Archive expertly aggregates collections and makes them available—onsite and online—so that all can learn from the past in order to improve the future.

Collection Profile: Patricia J. Rettig
Overview: Janet Bishop
Illustrations: Joe Mendoza

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