All Courses

CW 150AC - Researching Water in the West

Spring 2019

This course examines the subject of water in California, drawing upon scholarly articles, essays, memoir, film, photographs, and legislation. In collaboration with the Teaching Library, CW 150AC explores techniques for conducting online archival research and using primary sources. The course considers a variety of players in the story of water rights in California, including federal and state representatives, conservationists, Native Americans, and Japanese Americans. Students craft a research project of their own design within the broad parameters of the course topic.

Breadth Requirement: This course satisfies the University's American Cultures Requirement
This course can be used toward satisfying the Seven-Course Breadth Requirement


Available in 
Units and Format 
3 units – Three hours of seminar/discussion per week
Grading Option 
Letter grade or P/NP
Historical Studies Breadth
American Cultures





Class Number: 21940
Meeting time @ place:
TUTH 11:00am - 12:30pm @ 50 Barrows Hall
Section Theme: Researching Water in the West
Instructor: Pat Steenland
Section Description:

CW 50/150AC:

Researching Water in the West: its presence, its absence, and its consequences for the peoples of California


Water: its presence and its absence are central to an understanding of California history. In this three-unit class, we will explore the subject of water in California, drawing upon multiple genres, for example, film, photographs, memoir, essays, scholarly articles, and Congressional legislation. We will also immerse ourselves into the new world of online archival research, with the help of teaching librarian Corliss Lee, of Moffitt Library, and curator Theresa Salazar of Bancroft Library. 


We will examine how the history of water leads us deeper into other aspects of California history. The story of California water is often a story about people and culture---Native Americans who were forcibly displaced and then erased from the site’s history, people who waged economic and land wars to control water rights, conservationists who fought to preserve these sites, and people who found themselves in the dry places left left in the wake of the water’s diversion---in the case of the Owens Valley, for example, Japanese Americans who were forcibly relocated to Manzanar, one of the relocation camps built in the “empty” places of the American West. One of our primary goals in this class will be to study these peoples through a shared experience: how their stories intersect through their connection to this contested resource.

Book List:

“Land of Little Rain,” Mary Austin
“My Summer in the Sierra, “ John Muir
“The Battle Over Hetch Hetchy,” Robert Righter
“Farewell To Manzanar,” Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
“Western Times and Water Wars,” John Walton
“Writing With Sources,” Gordon Harvey
Course reader, available at Cal Copy,