Spanish Water, Anglo Water: Early Development in San Antonio

By Charles R. Porter Jr | Go to book overview

7
WATER, LAND, AND WORK

From its beginning, San Antonio’s human-water interface determined relationships between groups, the work people did, spatial boundaries of groups of people, and the shape of individual land grants. An integral part of the acequia system was the development of social and political organizations to manage and conserve the precious water resource.

Donald Worster described the history of most of the American West as “one of people encountering difficult environments, of driving to overcome them through technological means, of creating the social organization to do so, of leading on and on to indigenous bureaucracy and corporatism.” 1 Most of Worster’s West in 1718 was claimed by Spain. Spanish settlers overcame the unpredictable climate in San Antonio through irrigation technology and brought with them the social organization to support a growing system. In 1731 the first municipality in San Antonio was formed, Villa San Fernando de Béjar. The first official government of the villa was appointed by Captain Juan Antonio de Almazán on July 20, 1731; the resulting cabildo, or town council, met on August 1, 1731.2 The rules and regulations developed locally, originating in the cabildo of the Villa San Fernando, which managed the shared use of the waters. Even though many land grants made to settlers had water rights, the ownership of the flowing water remained in the name of the crown.


Early Water Grants

In the decree of December 1731, Viceroy Casafuerte did not grant ownership to the water to anyone, only the right to use the water. These rights are defined, as mentioned earlier, as usufruct rights.3 Use of the water was quickly divided into discrete segments of time that an individual’s headgate could

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Spanish Water, Anglo Water: Early Development in San Antonio
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Part One - God’s Water 1
  • 1 - Droughts and Deluges 3
  • 2 - The Country of 1,100 Springs 8
  • 3 - Eyewitnes Sreports of God’s Water 15
  • Part Two - Spain and Mexico’s Water, 1718–1836 19
  • 4 - Missions Settle San Antonio 21
  • 5 - Acequia Technology 31
  • 6 - Derecho India No—L Aw with Justice 50
  • 7 - Water, Land, and Work 61
  • 8 - Conflict, Cooperation, and Compromise 72
  • Part Three - Republic of Texas and United States Water, 1836–1902 85
  • 9 - New People, Old Laws 87
  • 10 - Acequia Soverwhelmed 96
  • 11 - The First Water Works Company 99
  • 12 - Water—Politicians’ "Gold" 114
  • Epilogue 123
  • Notes 141
  • Bibliography 159
  • Index 171
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