Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Pamela Riney-Kehrberg


This project looks at the history of drainage in Monona County, Iowa, through the lens of one drainage ditch, the Monona-Harrison. Ultimately, over the course of more than a century, the farmers along this ditch largely accomplished the goal of draining their property and turning it into productive agricultural land. This task involved constructing drainage works and creating legal entities to manage them; invoking the help of the courts and appealing disputes between neighbors, county officials, and state agencies to the Iowa Supreme Court on multiple occasions; and cooperating with the federal government to implement both a basin-wide Missouri River program as well as a local watershed project on the Little Sioux River, called the Little Sioux Watershed Project. Construction began on Little Sioux Watershed Project after World War II, with the main aspects largely finished by the mid-1960s. However, the construction and implementation of the Little Sioux Project and water management continue to evolve in the county even to the present day.

Ultimately, by studying how drainage changed over time along the Monona-Harrison Ditch, important aspects of the legal, environmental, and agricultural history of the community become apparent. Furthermore, this study also sheds light on how Midwestern communities have understood and viewed water resources in relation to the processes of agricultural production; how such communities responded via legal constructs to water challenges; and how this story fits into the broader history of expanding agricultural productivity and the rural history of the Midwest.


Copyright Owner

Maria Elizabeth Howe



File Format


File Size

111 pages

Included in

History Commons