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History Post-confederation (1867-)

Wet Prairie

People, Land, and Water in Agricultural Manitoba

by (author) Shannon Stunden Bower

UBC Press
Initial publish date
Jun 2011
Post-Confederation (1867-), Prairie Provinces (AB, MB, SK), Geography, Regional Planning, Hydrology, Environmental Policy
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2011
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2012
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Apr 2011
    List Price

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The Canadian prairies are often envisioned as dry, windswept fields; however, much of southern Manitoba is not arid plain but wet prairie, poorly drained land subject to frequent flooding.


Wet Prairie brings to light the complexities of surface water management in Manitoba, from early artificial drainage efforts to late-twentieth-century attempts at watershed management. Irregular water-flow patterns challenged the checkerboard landscape of the 1872 federal Dominion Lands Act, and homesteaders found their agricultural ambitions at odds with local environmental realities. Thus, in keeping with liberal principles, the provincial government undertook substantial drainage efforts. Flooding and drainage became the subjects of intense and persistent debate among provincial officials, drainage experts, and Manitoba residents. New alliances and rivalries emerged amid shifting social, political, and environmental contexts, with enduring consequences for both the landscapes and people of the wet prairie.


This account of an overlooked aspect of Prairie environmental history traces how the biophysical nature of southern Manitoba helped shape both Manitoba society and the provincial state.

About the author


  • Winner, Manitoba Day Award, Association for Manitoba Archives
  • Winner, Clio Prize for the Prairies, Canadian Historical Association
  • Joint winner, K.D. Srivastava Prize

Contributor Notes

Shannon Stunden Bower is the research director for the Parkland Institute at the University of Alberta.

Editorial Reviews

Brings to light the often overlooked problems and complexities of dealing with surface water in Manitoba, from early efforts to drain the landscape to late-twentieth-century attempts to establish watershed management.

Prairie Books Now, No. 59, Summer 2012

Wet Prairie is excellent environmental history that evaluates the human/nature relationship.

Great Plains Research Vol. 22 No.2, Fall 2012

A welcome addition to the growing global literature on wetland historical geography and environmental history. Carefully researched, well argued, and clearly written, Stunden Bower’s first book is a valuable read for scholars in these fields.

H-Net online, H-HistGeog