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Desert Diary
Culture/Cover Up


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River valleys have always drawn people, and the early great civilizations grew up along the major waterways: the Indus, the Tigris and Euphrates, the Nile. In our Southwest, the Rio Grande Valley has nurtured the people for millennia. Hunters and gatherers certainly found game among the thick bosques of the valley floor and the marshes of the meandering river. Irrigation watered the crops of later arrivals, allowing agricultural production far beyond that possible with dryland farming.

Yet not all was, nor is, beneficent. Mosquitos, carriers of diseases, then as now, patrolled the waterways. Early-on, periodic floods rendered the bottomlands dangerous for permanent settlement. Ah, but all of that's in the past, right? Well, maybe some of it for the short term, though mosquito-borne diseases certainly haven't gone away. Almost unnoticed, our valley soils are rapidly being converted to housing and roadways. There may well come a time of future agricultural shortages when we'll wish we had all built out in the sandhills or on mountain slopes instead of on the only watered, fertile land in the region.
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Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest. rule

Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.