Al Clark sheds light on watershed
Posted April 3, 2009
Rafael Anguiano
Flooding the faculty lecture series audience with a river of information on the San Gabriel Valley Watershed, Al Clark, associate vice president of academic affairs, is preparing a book on the topic. Clark mentioned many factors that led to the degradation of the local watershed over the centuries, including the native people’s fires releasing tannic acid into the soil, the unused carcasses of cows and the slight rise in temperatures.

Esmeralda M. Cardenas
Staff Writer

Alfred Clark, associate vice president and professor of humanities, spoke Tuesday about the his research on the San Gabriel River Watershed.

He talked about the history of the Watershed, which is a region draining into the San Gabriel River, among other things during his lecture before students and faculty as part of the Faculty Lecture Series.

“Water is holy, powerful, soothing, beautiful, commonplace, fun, anomalous, the measure of all things, the most important compound in the universe,” Clark said.

Clark has written books on different subjects but had yet to finish his book on the watershed, which is an important part to the life of Californians and in particular during a time of drought.

He began his research as his senior thesis in 1968 under the title “War over the San Gabriel,” then turned it into “A Century of Dividing the Waters,” and finally came to the point of calling it the Watershed.

Among the features of the watershed, it has been measured to be deeper than the Grand Canyon, and has been affected by varios periods in history, one being the Tongva era in which the natives would burn the ground near the watershed regularly and causing problems.

The people in the Californian era of the watershed would often kill the cattle leaving the erosion, and waste. There were many other eras that affected the watershed, such as the pre-human era, the mission era, the gold-mining era, and the U.S. era.

These small pieces of history affected the watershed both in negative and positive ways that we can see today.

One way that this impacted the area is the toxins put into the water after people having been polluting it for so long and how it is affecting us today as a state.

We are currently taking water, after having fought in the era of the municipal watershed, from the Colorado River, which had very big impact in the relation between the two states.

The state of California is dependent on many different sources for its water, but has yet to solve our problem in droughts and floods. Floods have been a very big problem in California despite the notion that we have deadly earthquakes, more Californians die because of flooding than earthquakes.

The lack of clean water is due to the ideas that people do not want “toilet-to-tap” recycled water; though in reality most people today do not realize we already have a similar system where we do not have clean water even in bottled water.

“When you think about it we’re probably drinking the same water the dinosaurs did,” Jamie Ondatje, a sophomore, said.

“This lecture highlights the ambiguity over the environment that we are trying to make better but because of the changes in the environment we really make thing worse,” Michael Quesada, a senior history major, said.

Clark also pointed out that the problems with California and the possibility of a worse draught will continue if we do not change our habits or find another solution to the problems we face right now.

Esmeralda M. Cardenas can be reached at

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