Water Workshop 2002

Conference Addresses

Sibley, George


George Sibley, Workshop Coordinator

The concept of 'reclamation,' for Western Civilization, began in Europe where it mostly involved making land fit for cultivation by removing water from it, as was done for much of The Netherlands, which is about 40 percent below sea level. For people from those humid climates, and later from the humid eastern part of North America, the idea of aridity over much of the western half of the continent was so alien that they simply refused to believe it, until aridity had driven thousands of homesteaders off the land in Western America.

So the evolution of the idea of reclamation in America began with the realization that, to make land fit for cultivation, it was necessary to put water on it. This began primarily as a local agrarian phenomenon: a farmer would lead water out of a stream to irrigate a piece of bottomland, and other farmers downstream might enlarge and extend that ditch. Then groups of settlers established ditch companies to bring water from ever greater distances to irrigate mesas and other uplands that were fertile but dry. Sometimes these companies bit off a little more than they could chew, and their projects languished.

The federal Reclamation Service came into being in 1902 in large part as a progressive effort to encourage the settlement of small farmers on western lands as a deliberate effort to counter the growing power of ever larger corporations in an urbanizing and industrializing society, and most of the Service's early projects reflected that, picking up some troubled projects like the Gunnison Tunnel just downstream from here, and creating other local projects. This 'agrarian thrust' has remained an important thread in the weave of western reclamation.

But the urbanizing industrializing society also had needs - rather than spreading the water out onto the land, more along the lines of concentrating water, energy and food resources in centers. And by the time the 'Reclamation Service' had become the 'Bureau of Reclamation', this work also became a federal matter as the Bureau enlarged its scope to meet those needs, beginning with the boulder Canyon Project in 1928 that, by the beginning of World War II, had established the regional infrastructure for the phenomenon of Southern California.

After World War II, it became evident that large-scale reclamation work was also providing recreational 'byproducts' for the growing urban masses as well as the infrastructure for a working society. Many Americans began to look at the remaining 'unreclaimed' West more for its natural qualities than for whatever resources remained to be developed there, and both protecting and restoring natural systems became the reclamation challenge of the last quarter of the 20th century - in some placed, like the Grand Canyon, the Bureau has been challenged to 'reclaim nature' form the earlier exuberance of reclamation.

The challenge for this Water Workshop is to try to imagine and envision what reclamation will be in the future of the West. We have learned too much about the consequences of engineering streams and rivers for a relatively narrow set of human needs and desires to ever proceed again with the naïve exuberance of the first two-thirds of the past century. But it seems equally naïve to think that a still-growing West, whose population grew from around 10 million to 90 million over the century just past, can step away from the idea of reclamation and 'the engineered environment.

One thing we might all try to take out of this conference is a more comprehensive and 'evolved' definition of reclamation that truly reflects the challenge of keeping a society of 90 million westerners healthy without consuming the ecological and aesthetic attributes that make the West a desirable place to live.

Marston, Ed


by Ed Marston

Exec. Director, High Country News, Paonia, Colorado

It is astounding to me, watching the divided society we live in, that an earlier society situated on the same land could have come together to build Hoover, Glen Canyon, Flaming Gorge and scores of other major dams. We today are like barbarians left with something a higher order, or at least a more organized and cohesive society, built. The society that built those machines agreed on what they were for, and put them to work to produce food, fiber, and electricity and water for urban areas, with flat-water recreation thrown in.

Now, decades later, we have 50 ideas about what they're for. Some of us want them to be used exclusively for their original purposes. But others want them to be used to create floods to build beaches, and to provide water for rafters, raptors, or fish that are barely hanging onto their changed environments. And always, there is the tug of war between rural uses of water and urban uses of water. That rural-urban conflict does not include only the diversion of water away from irrigation and into cities' water treatment plants, but also includes the environmental uses of water.

So, the dams and Reclamation Era, which opened with the last century and declined well before the 20th century ended, is both a rebuke and a challenge to us: a rebuke for being so quarrelsome, without even having the excuse of being liquored up; and a challenge to come together and use these machines to serve our collective needs.

We are at the moment like the tribe in the movie "The Gods Must Be Crazy." The tribe found a Coca Cola bottle, which they found endlessly useful -- so useful that they fell to quarreling with each other over how to use it and who was to use it. Should it be a container to carry water? To store grain? To pound stakes in the ground?

We have found dozens of wonderful Coke bottles, left to us by a civilization that has all but disappeared, and whose vision and drive have certainly disappeared. We are fighting each other over those bottles. In case you didn't see the movie, at its end, the tribe's leader took the bottle, traveled a long way to a city, and returned this gift to whence it had come.

There are those who suggest that we, too, return the gift, which they see as a curse: that we breach the dams and let the rivers run through them. The most organized, cohesive and middle-of-the-road of these groups, the Glen Canyon Institute, has this as a mission statement:

The Glen Canyon Institute's mission is to provide leadership toward restoration of a free-flowing Colorado River through Glen Canyon and Grand Canyon.

So far as I can tell from its web site, the keeper of the traditional vision, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, has this for a mission statement:

Through leadership, use of technical expertise, efficient operations, responsive customer services and the creativity of its employees, Reclamation continues to manage, develop, and protect the water resources of the West for economic, social, and environmental purposes. Over the past 95 years, the Reclamation program has emphasized development of safe and dependable water supplies and hydropower to foster settlement and economic growth in the West.

Reclamation will continue to increase productivity to carry out its mission more efficiently. This requires Reclamation to provide the opportunity and means for its employees to excel in their work, thereby ensuring that Reclamation can effectively and efficiently carry out its mission and provide high quality customer services at the lowest possible cost. Reclamation intends to achieve a diverse workforce to promote excellence, innovation and responsiveness to the needs of our various constituencies.

The Glen Canyon Institute may or may not succeed in implementing its audacious vision, but there is no doubt what its vision is. By comparison, it is clear that the US Bureau of Reclamation has no vision.

In a few places, dams have been dismantled, or steps toward such dismantling are well underway, as in Olympic National Park on the Elwha River in the State of Washington. I don't want to take sides on the question of wholesale dismantling of dams, because I don't think that's the core issue. I don't think the West would become a wonderful place if all of our dams disappeared tomorrow. Nor do I think our world would collapse. What we're up against is how to change our Hatfield and McCoy approach to water matters. Our challenge is how to achieve the unity of purpose that allowed the Reclamation Era to be an era.

I don't like everything the Reclamation Era achieved. I think it overshot, but I do admire its unity. I do admire the fact that the people of that time came together with a purpose they believed in, and they did it democratically, for that time. The Reclamation Era, I believe, was not a product of despotic forces. I think there was as much democracy in Reclamation as we can reasonably expect in this world. I think the evidence of that democracy came in the 1960s and 1970s, when the building of dams in places that the nation held sacred - like Dinosaur National Monument and the Grand Canyon - was stopped. The nation's values changed, and dam building was stopped even though the top levels of government and most organized economic interests wanted to continue building dams.

The trouble is, we stopped Reclamation without replacing its vision with another. We were against, but we weren't clearly for something. What was Reclamation's vision? Initially, it was an agrarian, Jeffersonian vision: to make the desert bloom by putting water and tens of thousands of small farmers on the land. In places like these west-central valleys, that vision can still be seen in place today. It is what makes our areas special, I believe.

But far more typical is a place like California's Imperial Valley, which uses something like 3 million acre-feet of water a year to raise a huge percentage of the nation's vegetables, as well as huge quantities of sudan grass, alfalfa and cotton. The Imperial Valley is being squeezed today, like a sponge, as California tries to figure out how to water its 33 million people while skinnying down to its 4.4 million acre-foot/year quota out of the Colorado River.

Imperial Valley agriculture has created as close to a feudal society as you can find in the United States today. The valley has a few large growers, tens of thousands of workers, 25 percent of its population living under the poverty level, and many, many workers migrating daily from the Mexican city of Mexicali to work in the fields. This poverty, these immense land holdings, and the drying up of the Colorado River Delta are all a result of the Reclamation vision gone awry. We built the Hoover Dam and the All American Canal so that the people who produce our food can live as if they were vassals of some knight in England or France. The desert is blooming in the Imperial Valley, but the society is not.

Reclamation completely abandoned the vision of small farmers creating a Jeffersonian society in the West after World War II. That vision was replaced by a vision of growth, progress, and technological mastery. It is the vision that is at work in Southern California as that region tries to meet its Colorado River Compact quota. California and the entire seven-state basin are proceeding as if they face only a technical problem of reallocating water. I think we face a deep social problem, which is easiest to express by pointing out that we have never replaced the lost visions of making the desert bloom, settling small farmers on the land, and, finally, creating growth and progress.

What we have today, if we have anything, is the latter vision: a vision of a smoothly running, ever-growing machine. I think people expect more from their society and even from their government than simply efficiency. America is a wonderful place because, periodically, we think and dream with large, impractical strokes. If we did not do this, we could not have built the Hoover Dam in the midst of the Great Depression. We could not have built Glen Canyon Dam, Flaming Gorge, or Blue Mesa. The West had a vision for itself, and the nation bought into that vision.

But that vision has played itself out, and we are living among monuments whose technical workings we understand, but whose spirit we do not understand. And so we divide into different camps: those who still want to keep the deserts and mountain valleys blooming; those who want to divert those waters to metropolitan areas to grow houses and malls, and those who want to tear down the dams and make the rivers live again.

I would like to see us recapture the Reclamation Era not by building more dams - where would we put them? and what would we put in them? - but by recapturing the spirit of Reclamation: a vision that would unite us in pursuit of a more fulfilling future. Much as I admire the simplicity of the mission statement of the Glen Canyon Institute - to breach Glen Canyon Dam - I don't think it's a sufficient vision for the society. We need and deserve more.

The future will require the merging of two large forces: environmentalism - which I define as a desire for a more natural and less paved world, and sprawl - which accepts as inevitable a paved world, but which demands a bit of fenced and private green space within that paved world. Both are intent on natural space, but they are after that space in different sizes.

The immediate tragedy - and you can see it here in the Gunnison area - is that caught between these two pincers are people who depend on large expanses of cheap land: ranchers, loggers, farmers, oil and gas drillers, and miners. They are people who depend on nature for their livings; people who experience nature in a much different way than environmentalists or suburbanites.

I should say here that if we Americans had a lick of sense we'd be perfectly happy with our material state, happy with our politics, and that we'd thank the Lord each day that we live here and not elsewhere. We'd bless our dams and dammed rivers, and we'd bless our undammed rivers, and we'd kiss our children and relax and cut our work weeks to 10 hours or so.

But we don't have a lick of sense. I know I don't. We live as if saber tooth tigers were still at our heels, and adrenaline still courses into our systems at the slightest provocation. And individually and as a society we're addicted to adrenaline, so we will keep on churning. We will keep busy. We will keep organizing. For whatever reason, we can't stop. I accept that. The only question is: in what direction should we try to direct our churning?

At my age, and at this point in my career, I feel like the Nez Perce Chief Joseph: I am tired of fighting ... from where the sun now stands, I will fight no more.

What I want instead of fighting are colleagues and allies, especially if they look at the world very differently. I am no longer a very good ideologue. I don't believe in large, overarching ideas or in the charismatic characters who preach those ideas. I don't believe in big technological fixes. I don't believe wind energy, or the hydrogen economy, or the fuel cell, or even the dismantling of dams will save us.

I believe instead in pragmatism. I believe in working away at a knot in many different ways, with many different hands and minds and approaches, until it finally unravels. I want to be involved with people who have the patience and temperament to work away at the many knots that confront the western United States: the cattle-and-public land knot; the dam and rivers knot; the logging and old growth forest knot. Those are my people. Those are my soul mates.

Chief Joseph came to his decision to fight no more out of honorable defeat. My war was against rural, extractive uses of the Interior West. I run an environmental newspaper, and for most of the 1980s, I ran that newspaper as if only the environmental movement could save the West from ranching, mining, logging and dam building. I consider that we, the green folks, have won that war. After all, we live in a state and in a region where urban uses now trump rural uses everywhere, including the most remote county.

But for me at least, the victory is proving hollow, for much of what I loved about the West was in rural nature. This isn't a new conclusion. For much of the 1990s, I tried to run as a vehicle of reform rather than of revolution. I became especially attached to the idea that ranching, properly done, could lead the way to a New West, and I've been appalled for years at the efforts some of my fellow environmentalists make to drive ranchers off the public land.

Where did this war within the West come from? I can describe it in terms of a personal evolution. We city people came here out of an alienation with how urban America was being run. We idealized the rural West, and we ran head on into the people who were living here, and who did not idealize the rural West. They understood it was a great place to live. But they knew it was also a tough place to make a living, and that it was a left-behind part of America, with everything stacked against it. They knew the rural West was living off the crumbs of the American economy, producing commodities at rock-bottom prices for relatively well-off city people.

Of course, they were enraged when the newcomers, and city people working through national environmental groups, interfered with the production of those commodities, and also interfered with the subsidies that larger economy chose to send to the rural West. Led politically by the environmental movement, and squeezed economically by free trade, by a reaction against subsidies and regulation, and by the increasing price of land and labor in rural areas, natural-resource based economies have come under increasing pressures.

What does this have to do with Reclamation? We should see Reclamation as a spirit rather than as a set of dams. The West came together - it buried enough of its differences to get a job done. Unless we can now adopt that spirit, we will be locked in endless warfare. Nothing will work well, and those things we care about: the land, wildlife, the economy and the things a healthy economy enables us to do will all deteriorate.

The following books are helpful in understanding the spirit, if not the purpose, of the Reclamation Era:

High and Dry: The Texas-New Mexico Struggle for the Pecos River, by Emlen Hall. A University of New Mexico law professor describes how Reclamation really works in the Southwest.

Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas, and The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy's View of History, by Isaiah Berlin. What does a now dead Oxford philosopher have to tell us about the West? Plenty. Berlin is the apostle of a society which uses seemingly clashing ideas to find a workable middle.

Cadillac Desert, by Marc Reisner. A wonderful, from-the-heart book about the failures of reclamation. The wonderful thing about Reisner is that he went on to work with rice farmers and others to enhance rural economies. His death was a tragedy, for this was that rarity: a thinker and activist capable of growth.

Big Trouble: A Murder in a Small Western Town Sets off a Struggle for the Soul of America, by J. Anthony Lukas. If you like your history to be well plotted, this story of the murder of the former governor of Idaho, around 1900, is for you.

Storey, Brit Allan



Brit Allan Storey, Senior Historian



As the Nineteenth Century ended and the Twentieth Century began, a number of events meshed to create the correct political, economic, and technological setting for the creation of a Federal irrigation service. Westerners had long known that the largely arid American West receives a distinctly small share of the earth's fresh water supply. As a result, because it is essential for occupation, settlement, agriculture, and industry, water has always been a dominating factor in the arid West's prehistory and history.

The snowmelt and gush of spring and early summer runoff frustrated early Western settlers. They watched helplessly as water they wanted to use in the dry days of late summer disappeared down Western watercourses. In response to this problem, settlers developed water projects and created complicated Western water law systems, which varied in detail among the various states and territories but generally allocated a sort of property right in available water based on the concept of prior appropriation (first in time, first in right) for beneficial use.

At first, water development projects were relatively simple. Settlers diverted water from a stream or river and used it nearby; but, in many areas, the demand for water outstripped the supply. As demands for water increased, settlers wanted to store "wasted" runoff for later use. Storage projects would help maximize water use and make more water available for use. Unfortunately, private and state-sponsored irrigation ventures often failed because of lack of money and/or lack of engineering skill. This resulted in mounting pressure for the Federal Government to develop water resources.

In the jargon of the day, irrigation projects were known as "reclamation" projects. The concept was that irrigation would "reclaim" or "subjugate" arid lands for human use. John Wesley Powell's western explorations and his published articles and reports; private pressures through publications, irrigation organizations, and irrigation "congresses"; nonpartisan Western political pressures; and Federal Government studies, conducted by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers and U. S. Geological Survey (USGS), contributed to the discussions and cogitations that influenced American public opinion, Congress, and the executive branch in support of "reclamation."

During their period of dominion, the Spanish and Mexican governments in the American Southwest supported settlement and irrigation through their land grant systems. Before 1900, the United States Congress had already invested heavily in America's infrastructure. Roads, river navigation, harbors, canals, and railroads had all received major subsidies. A tradition of government subsidization of settlement of the "West" was longstanding when the Congress in 1866 passed "An Act Granting the Right-of-Way to Ditch and Canal Owners over the Public Lands, and for other Purposes." A sampling of subsequent congressional actions promoting irrigation reveals passage of the Desert Land Act in 1877 and the Carey Act in 1894 which were intended to encourage irrigation projects in the West. In addition, beginning in 1888, Congress appropriated money to the USGS to study irrigation potential in the West. Then, in 1890 and 1891, while that irrigation study continued, the Congress passed legislation reserving rights-of-way for reservoirs, canals, and ditches on lands then in the public domain. However, westerners wanted more; they wanted the Federal Government to invest directly in irrigation projects. Western interest in Federal investment in irrigation was exacerbated by the Depressions of 1973, 1883, and 1893 which successively effectively dried up private investment money in the West for irrigation and other projects. The "reclamation" movement demonstrated its strength when pro-irrigation planks found their way into both Democratic and Republican platforms in 1900. Then, in 1901, "reclamation" gained a powerful supporter in Theodore Roosevelt when he became President after the assassination of William McKinley.


President Roosevelt supported the "reclamation" movement because of his personal experience in the West, and because of his "conservation" ethic. He later wrote in his autobiography that

The first work I took up when I became President was the work of reclamation. Immediately after I had come to Washington, after the assassination of President McKinley. . . before going into the White House, [Frederick] Newell and [Gifford] Pinchot called upon me and laid before me their plans for National irrigation of the arid lands of the West. . .

To Roosevelt and others of that time, "conservation" meant a movement for sustained exploitation of natural resources by man for the good of the many through careful management -- a very different ethic than what "conservation" means today. Roosevelt also believed "reclamation" would permit "homemaking" in support of the agrarian Jeffersonian Ideal. Reclamation supporters believed the program would make homes on subsistence family farms for Americans. After some political horse trading over rivers and harbors legislation, the Reclamation Act passed in both Houses of the Congress by wide margins, and President Roosevelt signed the Reclamation Act in June of 1902.

In July of 1902, Secretary of the Interior Ethan Allen Hitchcock established the United States Reclamation Service (USRS) within the Division of Hydrography in the USGS. Charles D. Walcott, director of the USGS, also became the first "director" of the USRS, and Frederick Newell became the first "Chief Engineer" while continuing his responsibilities as chief of the Division of Hydrography.

The Reclamation Act required that

Nothing in this act shall be construed as affecting or intended to affect or in any way interfere with the laws of any State or Territory relating to the control, appropriation, use, or distribution of water . . . or any vested right acquired thereunder, and the Secretary of the Interior . . . shall proceed in conformity with such laws . . .

That meant implementation of the act required that Reclamation comply with numerous and often widely varying state and territorial legal codes. The development and ratification over the years of numerous interstate compacts governing the sharing of streamflows between states, of several international treaties governing the sharing of streams by the United States with Mexico or Canada, and numerous court decisions made Reclamation's efforts to comply with state or territorial water law even more complex. Colorado was party to the most famous of Western compacts, the Colorado River Compact signed in 1922 and ratified by Congress in 1928. However, quite a number of other compacts affected Colorado - the South Platte River Compact (March 8, 1926) , the Rio Grande Compact (1930 [temporary] and 1939) Rio Grande Compact. Approved by Congress on May 31, 1939. This compact was signed by the commissioners of the states of Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas on March 18, 1938, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was subsequently ratified by the legislatures of each state., the Republican River Compact (May 26, 1943) , the Upper Colorado River Basin Compact (April 6, 1949) , and the Arkansas River Compact (May 31, 1949) are among these. Examples of court decisions include Wyoming v. Colorado [259 U.S. 419] decided in 1922 and Nebraska v. Wyoming,[ 325 U.S. 589] decided in 1945.

In its early years, the Reclamation Service relied heavily on the USGS Division of Hydrography's previous studies of potential projects in each western state. Between 1903 and 1906, about 25 projects were authorized throughout the West. Because Texas had no Federal lands, it was not one of the original "reclamation" states. It became a reclamation state only in 1906.


Using revenues from the sales of public lands, Reclamation implemented a program underlain by several basic principles. The details have changed over the years, but the general principles remain: (1) Federal monies spent on reclamation water development projects which benefitted water users would be repaid by the water users; (2) projects remain Federal property even when the water users repay Federal construction costs though the Congress could, of course, choose to dispose of title to a project; (3) Reclamation generally contracts with the private sector for construction work; (4) Reclamation employees administer contracts to assure that contractors' work meets Government specifications; (5) in the absence of acceptable bids on a contact, Reclamation, especially in its early years, would complete a project by "force account" (that is, would use Reclamation employees to do the construction work); and, (6) hydroelectric power revenues could be used to repay project construction charges.


In 1907, the USRS separated from the USGS to become an independent bureau within the Department of the Interior. The Congress, and the Executive Branch, including USRS, were then just beginning a learning period during which the economic and technical needs of Reclamation projects became clearer. Initially overly optimistic about the ability of water users to repay construction costs, Congress set a 10-year repayment period. Subsequently, the repayment period was increased to 20 years, then to 40 years, and ultimately to an indefinite period based on "ability to pay." Other issues that arose included: soil science problems related both to construction and to arability (ability of soils to grow good crops); economic viability of projects (repayment potential) including climatic limitations on the value of crops; waterlogging of irrigated lands on projects resulting in the need for expensive drainage projects; and, the need for practical farming experience for people successfully to take up project farms. Many projects were far behind their repayment schedules, and setters were vocally discontented.

The learning period for Reclamation and the Congress resulted in substantial changes when the USRS was renamed the Bureau of Reclamation in 1923 and, in 1924, the Fact Finder's Act began major adjustments to the basic Reclamation program. Those adjustments were suggested by the Fact Finder's Report which resulted from an in-depth study of the economic problems and settler unrest on Reclamation's twenty-plus projects. Elwood Mead, one of the members of the Fact Finder's Commission, was appointed Commissioner of Reclamation in 1924 as the reshaping of Reclamation continued. A signal of the changes came in 1928, for instance, when the Congress authorized the Boulder Canyon Project (Hoover Dam), and, for the first time, large appropriations began to flow to Reclamation from the general funds of the United States instead of from public land revenues and other specific sources. This was at least partially a response to the fact that many projects were not economically viable. The Congress chose to continue to invest in the West through subsidization of projects from general funds and through hydroelectric revenues.

In 1928, the Boulder Canyon Act ratified the Colorado River Compact and authorized construction of Hoover Dam which was a key element in implementation of the compact. Subsequently, during the Depression, Congress authorized almost 40 projects for the dual purposes of promoting infrastructure development and providing public works jobs. Among these projects were the beginnings of the Central Valley Project in California, the Colorado-Big Thompson Project in Colorado, and the Columbia Basin Project in Washington. With the addition of the Boulder Canyon Project which included both Hoover Dam and the All-American Canal System, these four Depression-era projects represent between forty and fifty percent of Reclamation's irrigated acreage.

Ultimately, of Reclamation's more than 180 projects, about 70 were authorized before World War II, but the remainder were authorized during and after World War II in both small authorizations and major authorizations, such as the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program (1944), the Colorado River Storage Project (1956), and the Third Powerplant at Grand Coulee Dam (1966). The last really big project construction authorization occurred in 1968 when Congress approved the Colorado River Basin Project Act which included the Central Arizona Project, the Dolores Project, the Animas-La Plata Project, the Central Utah Project, and several other smaller projects.


One problem confronted by Reclamation was laboratory testing of special problems. Testing was carried out in various locations such as Montrose and Estes Park, Colorado, Colorado State University, and Reclamation offices in the old Custom's House in Denver until Reclamation located its primary laboratory at the Denver Federal Center in 1946.. These research laboratories study modeling and designs for hydraulic structures, concrete technology, electrical problems, construction design innovations, groundwater, weed control in canals and reservoirs, various environmental issues, water quality, ecology, drainage, control of evaporation and other water losses, and other technical subjects.


The earliest hydroelectric plant on a Reclamation project was in place in 1908, and it was soon followed by hydroelectric generation on two other Reclamation projects in 1909. However, it was only during the 1930s that generation of hydroelectric power became a principal benefit of Reclamation projects. Reclamation built the major hydroelectric plant at Hoover Dam only after a hard public debate about whether the Federal Government should become involved in public power production or whether private power production should be the rule. It was the Hoover Dam precedent which ultimately allowed Reclamation to become a major hydroelectric producer. Once the issues received public airing at Hoover Dam, major hydroelectric plants became a feature of many Reclamation projects. Hydroelectric revenues have subsequently proved an important source for funding repayment of Reclamation project costs. In 1993, Reclamation had 56 power plants online and generated 34.7 billion kilowatt hours of electricity. In 1999, revenues from Grand Coulee hydroelectric generation alone returned to the U. S. Treasury about two-thirds of Reclamation's entire appropriated budget.


Allocation of the waters of the Colorado River was addressed in 1922 in Santa Fe when Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover moderated a meeting of commissioners representing Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The meeting developed and signed the Colorado River Compact (Compact) to divide and allocate the waters of the Colorado River. For Reclamation, this is the most complex and difficult of the interstate compacts, and it was ratified by the Congress in 1928 without the concurrence of Arizona. California and Arizona argued for years over how to calculate Arizona's share of the waters of the lower Colorado River. The Arizona legislature ratified the Compact only in 1944 and then later sued California over its interpretation of the Compact. The lawsuit lasted from 1952 until issuance of the Supreme Court decree in 1964. Concern over the Compact has only heightened over the years as it became increasingly apparent that there isn't consistently as much water in the Colorado River as was presumed by the signers and ratifiers of the Compact. In addition, the Compact did not anticipate provision for 1.5 million acre-feet of water promised to Mexico in a 1944 treaty. Reclamation is deeply involved in these complicated Colorado River issues because Reclamation reservoirs largely store and regulate the flow of the Colorado River. Reclamation dams in the Upper Colorado River Basin deliver water to Glen Canyon Dam which then stores the water in Lake Powell. From Lake Powell, the water is delivered in accordance with the terms of the Colorado River Compact to the Lower Colorado River Basin states. Once delivered to the Lower Colorado River Basin, Hoover Dam stores the water in Lake Mead.

The Colorado River Compact is the most complex and difficult of the interstate compacts. As already mentioned, Reclamation is affected by other compacts and court decisions all over the West where the waters of interstate streams are shared among states.


Reclamation's traditional area of operation is the 17, arid, continental states of the West. Reclamation has, however, at times been assigned work outside that traditional operational area. For instance, during the late 1920s Reclamation studied "planned group settlement" in the South in cut over areas and swamps. This project was supposed to create new farms, but it ultimately died as impacts of the farm depression of the 1920s and 1930s were recognized. Other projects in the eastern United States were also undertaken, and Reclamation's photograph collection includes hundreds of photographs from areas outside the arid West. Beginning in the 1930s Reclamation studied possible projects in Hawaii, and in 1954 the Congress authorized investigations on Oahu, Hawaii, and Molokai among the Hawaiian Islands. In the 1940s and 1950s Reclamation studied many water development projects in Alaska and ultimately built the Eklutna Project outside Anchorage. The Eklutna Project has since been transferred out of Reclamation.


In the early years of its history, Reclamation was actively involved, in conjunction with the Indian Service, in irrigation projects for Indian tribes including the San Carlos, Blackfeet, Flathead, Crow, and Yuma. However, the majority of Reclamation project water went to non-Indians. In the early years, Reclamation's mission to develop water supplies appeared to carry the potential for injuring the rights of tribes. If non-Indians began using Reclamation-provided water, it was feared they would establish a senior right under the appropriation doctrine, leaving little or no water for the tribes when they were ready to develop their reservation lands.

In the landmark 1908 decision, Winters v. United States, the Supreme Court attempted to reconcile this potential conflict through the "Winters Doctrine." This case concerned the Milk River in Montana, and actually delayed development of Reclamation's Milk River Project. The Winters Doctrine established the principle of reserved rights - Indian tribes with reservations have reserved water rights in sufficient quantities to fulfill the purposes for which the reservation was established, and the date of the reserved right is the date of the treaty or Executive Order setting aside the land. The dates of reserved rights generally are very early in relation to non-Indian settlement and, thus, establish very high priority for Indian water rights. Further, unlike appropriative water rights, a reserved water right does not have to have been used to remain in effect. A reserved right remains in effect regardless of how many years have passed. A congressionally authorized and funded Reclamation project could not take precedence over senior water rights. Thus, if a tribe had senior reserved water rights, its right to the future development of reserved rights should not be affected legally by Reclamation project development. Nevertheless, there are situations in which tribes have encountered difficulties in attempting to develop their senior reserved water rights for various reasons - situations the United States, with Reclamation's participation, is trying to address through the Indian water rights settlement program and other initiatives.

In recent years the Federal Government has become much more sensitive to Indian tribal water issues. Many Reclamation projects include provision for honoring the Secretary of the Interior's trust responsibility for Indian water rights. Among notable examples are the Central Arizona Project, the Dolores Project, and the Animas-La Plata Project. Reclamation is also involved in water-related activities such as the Mni Wiconi water distribution system in South Dakota which provides rural culinary water supply in a large area that includes several reservations. Reclamation personnel often serve on negotiating teams or provide technical expertise to negotiating teams working for the Secretary of the Interior to develop equitable water solutions for Native American tribes. Reclamation has amended its procedures so that before any new actions are undertaken, Reclamation first determines if the action could adversely impact Indian trust resources. When it appears that adverse impacts are possible, Reclamation will work with the tribe to seek to avoid the impacts, or when unavoidable, to determine appropriate mitigation.


Conservation and environmental issues are not as new to Reclamation as many think. The nature of conservation and environmental issues and how they have affected Reclamation, however, has changed considerably. Very early in Reclamation's history between 1908 and 1912, for instance, there was a public outcry about conservation of Lake Tahoe's natural lake level and scenic beauty when Reclamation proposed to build a dam both to increase storage capacity and to sometimes lower the existing lake level to benefit the Newlands Project. In a distinctly different direction, Reclamation's Belle Fourche Project in South Dakota was specifically designed to avoid mixing hazardous industrial mining wastes in Whitewood Creek with its irrigation water.

Subsequently, proposals for Reclamation projects raised public consciousness about major dams and their impacts on various resources. Reclamation, by the mid-1930s, was looking at fishery issues as it addressed construction of Grand Coulee and other dams. On another front, in the mid- to late-1930s, Coloradoans and their congressional representatives pushed Reclamation to build the Colorado-Big Thompson Project which would require construction on the fringe of and under Rocky Mountain National Park. The project was ultimately built because Rocky Mountain National Park was created with a provision in the enabling law that specifically authorized a water development project infringing on the National Park. In the 1950s, the controversy over construction of Echo Park Dam in Dinosaur National Monument heightened public awareness of issues surrounding construction of a dam in a National Park Service-managed area. Ultimately, public opinion forced cancellation of plans for Echo Park Dam and resulted in construction of the alternative, Glen Canyon Dam. By the 1960s, Marble Canyon and Bridge Canyon dams were proposed, but Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall canceled those dams because of public pressure in support of preserving parts of the Grand Canyon. Ironically, opposition was based at least partly on the public's belief that nuclear power generation was a viable alternative for meeting growing electric power needs in the West.

Although effects on the environment were always, to a limited extent, a part of Reclamation's work, during the 1960s, Reclamation's work began to change substantially as public awareness reached new heights. There was a sea change in America and the way Americans looked at natural resources exploitation. This change resulted, in part, from improved communication which meant that the average American's news came not from newsreels, radio, and newspapers, but from television, with same-day information and images which visually reinforced issues. It also came, in part, from transportation changes which meant that the average American could travel to the "West" on airliners or in powerful cars on much improved highways. Americans were coming to understand issues about the West better and to consider the West "theirs." Thus, expanded knowledge and accessibility resulted in an increasingly proprietary feeling on the part of large new groups of Americans toward public lands and public works.

At the same time, communities across the country began to pay increasing attention to water and air pollution issues. This new situation combined with far more sophisticated science and resultant understandings of the complex interactions of the communities of nature as well as of water and air pollution issues. Among other items, the effects of wetlands loss on fisheries and bird populations were better recognized. Improved understanding of the natural world and its issues combined with a shifting political power which moved away from the rural and agrarian population and components of the economy to the urban population and components of the economy. The change was signaled in many ways. Wide-open, little-regulated exploitation of historic and natural resources, even on private property, lost support in America as effects on animals, birds, fishes, plants, water, air, archaeological sites, and historic sites were better recognized.

Rachel Carson's Silent Spring appeared in 1962 and increased public support for more environmentally sensitive project development. While even popular music expressed growing environmental concerns, increased public consciousness and support manifested itself in political action when the Congress passed the Wilderness Act in 1964, the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act in 1965, the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, and many other subsequent laws. Accompanying and buttressing these Federal laws were presidential Executive Orders, Federal regulations; and state and local laws, orders, and regulations.

The specific effects of Reclamation projects were also better identified in this period. Dam construction adversely affected some native fish populations while also often creating blue ribbon fishing waters below dams. Dams often altered the flow characteristics and ecology of rivers and streams. Land "reclamation" and construction projects affected plant, animal, fish, and bird populations through displacement or destruction because of ecological changes. In addition, land development made possible by water development often destroyed historic or archeological resources. Destruction of non-arable wetlands was a special environmental problem. Hydroelectric production, often considered pollution-free, was recognized as carrying environmental effects because of altered water temperatures, effects on native fish populations, effects on migratory fish, and water fluctuations. Environmental issues that conflicted with traditional bureau missions were not unique to Reclamation. Americans identified long menus of environmental effects throughout construction and natural resources exploitation programs in both the government and private sectors in American society.

After a period of adjustment to the new laws and regulations, and as a result of increasing public and political pressure, Reclamation developed staffs to deal with environmental and historic preservation issues. Reclamation invests a great deal of time and money in issues such as: endangered species; instream flows; the preservation and enhancement of quality freshwater fisheries below dams; preserving wetlands; conserving and enhancing fish and wildlife habitat; dealing with Endangered Species Act issues; controlling water salinity and sources of pollution; ground water contamination; and the recovery of salmon populations on both the Columbia/Snake and the San Joaquin/Sacramento River systems. Reclamation implemented "reoperation" (revision of the way hydroelectric power generation is scheduled and carried out) of hydroelectric facilities at Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River to better achieve environmental objectives. Reclamation has made costly modifications to dams such as Shasta and Flaming Gorge to achieve environmental goals. There is a major effort underway among Federal and state agencies and other interest groups to improve environmental and water quality in the delta at the mouth of the Central Valley of California where the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers join and flow into San Francisco Bay.

Ironically, Reclamation's attempts to use drainage water to support environmental objectives at the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge in the Central Valley of California resulted in unexpected and difficult environmental problems. The drainage water mobilized selenium and concentrated it in water of the refuge causing death and deformity among the affected animal populations. The selenium issue was a problem neither Reclamation nor the Fish and Wildlife Service foresaw, and it has been dealt with.


Reclamation reservoirs provide flat water recreation opportunities all over the West. From the very beginning of Reclamation's history, westerners were quick to identify and enjoy recreation opportunities on and in the water captured behind dams on Reclamation projects. However, recreation was not recognized legally as a project use until 1937. Reclamation transferred Lake Mead, behind Hoover Dam, to the National Park Service for recreation management in 1936 and initiated the still-existing pattern of seeking other agencies to manage recreation at Reclamation facilities. That pattern means that today Reclamation manages only about one-sixth of the recreation areas on its projects. From the 1930s to the early 1960s, authorizations by Congress for recreation identified specific projects; but in the mid-1960s, the Congress began to give Reclamation more generalized authorities for funding recreation on all projects. Fishing, hunting, boating, picnicking, swimming, and other recreational opportunities developed over the years.

In 1992, Reclamation had over 300 recreation areas on its projects with almost 5 million acres of land (a little less than five-eighths of Reclamation-controlled Federal lands) open to various recreational uses. In recent years, Reclamation has "reoperated" some facilities seeking to improve recreational fishing, commercial fishing, and white water recreational opportunities. Three recreation areas managed by the National Park Service - Lake Roosevelt behind Grand Coulee Dam, Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam, and Lake Powell behind Glen Canyon Dam - as well as the U. S. Forest Service's Shasta Lake behind Shasta Dam, are among the most prominent recreation areas on Reclamation projects. Other managing partners for recreation areas include other Federal agencies, state agencies, counties, and cities. These partnerships result annually in millions of recreation days of use on Reclamation projects and raise numerous issues in terms of interagency coordination, water quality, public safety, public access, cost-sharing, law enforcement, etc.. As water is converted from rural to urban uses in the West, resulting in urban population increases, recreation visits to Reclamation projects are expected to increase.


Flood control is one of the benefits provided on many Reclamation projects. Reclamation's facilities are operated in a way that annually, prevents millions of dollars of flood damage. In the 42 years between 1950 and 1992, Reclamation projects with the most flood control benefits prevented in excess of 8.3 billion dollars in flood damage.

Flood control is needed in very wet years. In drought periods, Reclamation becomes involved in drought management activities. In some cases, Reclamation projects fare better than other water users because many Reclamation projects have carryover storage which can provide water during a few consecutive years of drought. In some areas, however, growing demand stresses the water supply even in normal water years. Water shortages, often drought-influenced, will probably increase in the Reclamation West, thus forcing more effective and efficient use of water supply. Possible Reclamation drought activities are quite varied, e.g., assisting water users with planning during drought periods for use and allocation of limited water supplies, participating in cooperative contingency planning for future drought, water conservation, loans, involvement in water banking, deepening wells, and water purchases are among the many possible activities.


International assistance is an important aspect of Reclamation's program. Reclamation employees have worked in more than 80 countries providing technical assistance on a wide range of water resources issues, and Reclamation has welcomed more than 10,000 visitors from nearly every country in the world to its facilities. Reclamation routinely provides training programs for foreign visitors. All this activity is done in accordance with United States policy and in cooperation with the U. S. State Department.

In addition, Reclamation provides technical water assistance within the United States to various public and private entities through a variety of programs.


Reclamation currently has more than 180 projects in the 17 Western States which are managed out of over twenty area offices. The area offices are within five regions which are organized around western watersheds. Many projects are actually operated and maintained by the water users on the projects. Reclamation's projects provide agricultural, municipal, and industrial water to about one-third of the population of the West. Farmers on Reclamation projects produce about 13 percent of the value of all crops in the United States, including about 65 percent of all vegetables and 24 percent of all fruits and nuts. As a result of initiatives under the presidency of Bill Clinton, Reclamation's staffing level is about one-fifth smaller than it was in 1993; and as Reclamation enters into additional partnerships with the beneficiaries of the water and electricity produced on its projects, Reclamation's staffing levels are expected to shrink even further in the Twenty-first Century.

Nevertheless, in Colorado alone, Reclamation has twenty-four projects - notable among these are the Uncompaghre Project of 1903, Grand Valley Project of 1911, Colorado-Big Thompson Project of 1937, the Wayne Aspinall Unit of the Colorado River Storage Project of 1956, and the Animas-La Plata Project authorized in 1968 and currently under construction. In Colorado alone Reclamation normally annually serves some 1.1 million acres of irrigated land, from a net water supply of well over 2 million acre feet of water. In addition, Reclamation water serves in excess of 1,200,000 of Colorado's non-agricultural population.

As we move into the Twenty-first Century in Colorado and the West, Reclamation is the largest single supplier of water and one of the largest suppliers of electricity in the region. Because of that, Reclamation undoubtedly will continue to be an important player as the drama that is Western water is played out on the stage of the arid West.


Armstrong, Ellis L., ed. "Irrigation," Chapter in History of Public Works in the United States, 1776-1976. Chicago: American Public Works Association, 1976.

Cannon, Brian Q., Remaking the Agrarian Dream: New Deal Rural Resettlement in the Mountain West. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1996.

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Dawdy, Doris Ostrander. Congress in Its Wisdom: The Bureau of Reclamation and the Public Interest. Boulder, San Francisco, London: Westview Press, 1989.

Dean, Robert., "'Dam Building Still Had Some Magic Then'": Stewart Udall, the Central Arizona Project, and the Evolution of the Pacific Southwest Water Plan, 1963-1968." Pacific Historical Review 66 (Feb 1997): 81-98.

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Gressley, Gene M. "Arthur Powell Davis, Reclamation, and the West." Agricultural History 42 (July 1968): 241-57.

Harvey, Mark W. T. A Symbol of Wilderness: Echo Park and the American Conservation Movement. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1994.

Hess, Jeffrey A. "A Mile High in the Mountains: The Planning, Design, and Construction of Deadwood Dam." Idaho Yesterdays 36 (Fall 1993): 2-17.

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Jackson, Donald C. "Engineering in the Progressive Era: A New Look at Frederick Haynes Newell and the U. S. Reclamation Service." Technology and Culture 34 (July 1993): 539-74.

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McCool, Daniel. Command of the Waters: Iron Triangles, Federal Water Development, and Indian Water. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987.

Miller, M. Catherine. Flooding the Courtrooms: Law and Water in the Far West. Lincoln, London: University of Nebraska Press, 1993.

Morgan, Robert M. Water and the Land: A History of American Irrigation. Fairfax, VA: The Irrigation Association, 1993.

Pisani, Donald J. "Conflict Over Conservation: The Reclamation Service and the Tahoe Contract." Western Historical Quarterly 10 (April 1979): 167-190.

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Robinson, Michael C. Water for the West: The Bureau of Reclamation, 1902-1977. Chicago: Public Works Historical Society, 1979.

Rowley, William D. Reclaiming the Arid West: The Career of Francis G. Newlands. Bloomington, Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1996.

Smith, Karen L. The Magnificent Experiment: Building the Salt River Reclamation Project, 1890-1917. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1986.

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Tyler, Daniel. The Last Water Hole in the West: The Colorado-Big Thompson Project and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1992.

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Wilkinson, Charles F. Crossing the Next Meridian: Land, Water, and the Future of the West. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1992.

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Peterson, Randall


by Randall Peterson, Manager
Adaptive Management and Environmental Resources Division
(also Program Manager, Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program)
Upper Colorado Region, Bureau of Reclamation

It seems such a simple question: Why have dams on the Colorado River? They are viewed by some as life-givers, and by others as intruders. Some perceive that we can't live without them; others perceive that we have somehow outgrown them, their necessity faded away. The past debated their existence. The present debates their operation, dividing the surplus; traditional water and power benefits, and instream flows. Like most societal issues, there can be no segregation of humans, their values, and their surroundings. As the West continues to press the boundaries of population growth, the future will debate our use of limited resources, particularly water. We will have to address the hard questions of why, how, and what's next.

There can be no getting around it, we live in a desert. It took early settlers just one year to realize that this wasn't Ohio. Streams dried to a trickle. It would take some type of water storage to supply human needs during the parched summers. Early attempts were humorous; buckets, vats and tubs were scripted into service. For a settlement of just a few, small efforts might have worked. But for our current population, we speak in a language of water demands that the early settlers could never have understood. And the demands are still growing.

In the Colorado, Congress provided the Boulder Canyon Project and the Colorado River Storage Project (CRSP) as water resources to satisfy these life demands, about 30 million acre-feet of storage in both the Upper and Lower Basins. For the Lower Basin, the purpose was storage delivered directly to the thirsty states of Arizona, Nevada and California.

But upstream the purpose seems less clear. In truth, CRSP was a giant exchange agreement. Compact and potential treaty requirements would be delivered from the lower end of the Upper Basin, while depletions were allowed to develop upstream. Absent the storage to fulfill our Lower Basin commitments, upstream users would be forced to abandon, as the Anasazi, their water use during cyclic periods of drought. With CRSP, those threats were subdued. The Colorado is a system of extremes, with annual flows varying historically by a factor of five. Reservoirs smooth the extremes and society benefited from this certainty.

So the answer to "Why?" is simple: CRSP exists because we have chosen to live in this part of the West. Absent our existence in this basin, there would be no need for reservoir storage. We could point to others and their excessive water demands, but in truth the answer to "Why?" will be found in the mirror.

Not only was CRSP designed to provide water; it also was a power generation project. Revenues from the sale of power not only were to repay the construction costs of the project (with interest), but also provided financial assistance for the development of irrigation projects in the basin. The irrigation subsidies designed to support farmers and keep food prices competitive came not from the federal government, but from the basin's power users. Initially, the projected power rates to accomplish all this were higher than the open market, and non-profit public power municipalities took some risk in signing contracts for CRSP power. In recent years this situation has reversed, and public power customers now enjoy CRSP rates lower than the open market.

The development and financing scheme developed during the 1950s has worked flawlessly. Much of the original construction cost has been repaid, and numerous water development projects are providing upstream water supplies. What wasn't completely foreseen was the change in society's expectations or the resource implications of constructing CRSP. River restoration and endangered species are now part of the demands that are placed on the reservoir system, necessitated by human demands on the water resources of the West.

What's Next?
The regulating nature of reservoirs reduced sediment load, spring peak flows and river temperatures, while increasing base flows during the summer, fall and winter months. The natural functioning of watersheds and river systems has been altered, with declining native species the result.

It seems fair to ask the value of these natural resources; indeed, this question often frames the debate over the Endangered Species Act. What is sometimes lost in the debate is the recognition that there is something about the Intermountain West that either drew us away or keeps us from either coastal metropolis. We choose to live here. There is a premium that we place on the quality of life in the Colorado Basin. That premium is the currency that bridges human demands and human surroundings.

It's no surprise that there is a multitude of beliefs and positions on this issue, but perhaps it will be a surprise how we address these differences of opinion in the future. One emerging technique that may assist in this discussion is adaptive management. Adaptive management can be viewed as an admission of incomplete knowledge, which leads us to experiment to find solutions to current challenges. This incompleteness results from the extraordinary complexity of both ecosystems and our relationship to them. When CRSP is viewed through this filter, the debates over operational issues can change from polarization to solution-finding. It is inaccurate to assume that solutions only exist which result in winners and losers. Clearly we stand at a point in time when the possible universe of solutions has been only partially explored.

Future exploration depends on commitments to scientific rigor, respect for all needs, and a willingness to try. Litigation seems a failure of all three. The greatest creativity we can muster will be required, nurtured by trust. CRSP and its original purposes will continue to endure, but it will adapt as water use pressures continue to increase. That adaptation will bear the same marks of ingenuity as the early settlers, who not surprisingly were drawn here by the quality of life. Surely, that deserves our best efforts.

DeAngelis, Carol



Carol DeAngelis, Area Manager
Colorado West Area, Bureau of Reclamation
Grand Junction, Colorado

Thank you for the opportunity to speak. For those of you who do not know me, I am Carol DeAngelis, the Area Manager of Reclamations' Western Colorado Area Office, with offices in Grand Junction and Durango. We oversee projects in Western Colorado, Northwestern NM and Northeastern AZ.

First I'd like to read you a short quote from a June 17, 2002 Sacramento Bee Editorial "What's Left to Reclaim? Bureau of Reclamation must reassess its mission."

"As this proud agency celebrates its centennial, its role for the next 100 years isn't as clear as the first. Is it still the master plumber and dam builder? Or is it the diplomat that solves water conflicts between people and fish? Or is it the rebuilder of habitat, the demolisher of dams, the conservationist demanding water meters?

The correct answer is likely to vary state by state, watershed by watershed, tributary by tributary. If the Bureau continually reassesses its role to match the challenge of the moment, it could loom larger in its second century than in its first. If the bureau stands still, paralyzed by a revolving door inside the bureaucracy and the partisan politics of Washington, it diminishes into an agency that operates some valves. That would be a shame."

I began with this quote because I think it is thought-provoking and it's conclusions are accurate. I believe Reclamation's role in the future will be similar to our role in the past. This may come as a surprise to you , but here's why I think it's true.

Throughout this conference, you have heard our history. Our original mission was to reclaim the west. If you look at a map with all of Reclamation's projects on it, you will find that these projects are at the heart of most cities in the west. Our water projects allowed settlers to inhabit what otherwise would have been uninhabitable areas; getting water where it was needed, when it was needed.

Throughout our history, Reclamation has changed with the public's needs and desires -We were originally authorized to build irrigation projects to settle the West. Then small towns began to grow up around our facilities, and we were further authorized to deliver domestic and industrial water to these towns. As the towns grew, our authorities continued to grow - we were authorized for flood control purposes to protect the citizens, for hydropower purposes to generate energy, for fish and wildlife protection and recreation development, as these issues became more important to the public.

Many people would say we've accomplished our mission. The west is developing so fast that there doesn't appear to be enough water for the growth we are experiencing. Especially during this time of drought, there appears to be a need for new water projects, enlarged projects, new ways to use water more than once, water banking, water transfers, water conservation and management, and drought planning. Reclamation is still involved in all of these issues.

As we have changed to meet the needs of the public in the past, we will continue to change in the future. We are currently working together with our partners to ensure that we can recover endangered fish and continue water development in several basins. We continue to protect the original purposes of our facilities while complying with laws that were passed long after our facilities were built.

But we cannot do it alone. Our partnerships with many of you are the key to the innovative solutions that we all share. We have been involved in several innovative partnerships during this drought. This is what Secretary Norton likes to call the 4 C's - conservation through communication, cooperation, and consultation. We currently operate in this fashion and will continue in the future.

Reclamation's role in our existing projects will continue as we ensure our dams are safe and operated and maintained, as intended. We have a heightened awareness of security at all of our facilities since Sept.11. Again, we continue to do our jobs while taking on new or changing roles.

We will continue to ensure delivery of water and power benefits consistent with environmental and other requirements. We will continue to honor state water rights, interstate compacts, and contracts with our users. In the future, we will continue to play an important role in meeting increasing demands for finite water resources and enhance effectiveness in addressing complex water management issues in the West.

Specifically with regard to the role of Reclamation in Colorado in the future, the first and most important thing that would have to happen is that the State would have to request our involvement. If that request is for an action that we already have the authority to do, like providing funding for studies under the Technical Assistance to States program, contracting for Reclamation to do design work, participating in a demonstration program, or providing assistance in any of our existing programs, it should be a simple matter of working out the details and providing the assistance. If the request is for feasibility studies or implementation of a large project or environmental assistance not related to one of our projects, new authority would be needed from Congress.

Many people do not realize that the Bureau of Reclamation has only the authority to do what Congress specifically tells us to do, through individual laws. The Bureau of Reclamation does not have an organic act that gives us broad powers like some other agencies. In order for us to build every existing project, Congress had to pass a specific law. So, depending on what the request from the state may turn out to be, Reclamation would need to make sure that the authority already existed for us to do the work, or the State and other project sponsors would have to go to Congress to get us the authority to do the work.

In summary, I'd like to answer a few questions that I will pose. Have we accomplished our original mission? Yes. Is there more that we can do? Yes. Is the Bureau of Reclamation the right organization to do it? We are ready to use our expertise in any way we can, when requested and when authorized by Congress.

Sudman, Rita Schmidt


Rita Schmidt Sudman
Executive Director

What is the Foundation?
This year the Water Education Foundation is celebrating its 25th anniversary as a nonprofit, impartial, tax-exempt organization. Its mission is to create a better understanding of Western water issues and help resolve water resource problems through educational programs. A 25 member Board of Directors representing a true cross-section of the water issue community: environmental, business, agricultural and public interest communities and a variety of public agencies, private foundations and stakeholder groups, sets general policy goals for the Foundation. A staff of ten develops and maintains an extensive menu of educational products: 3-day water tours, conferences and briefings, television documentaries and educational videos, school curricula, and a wide range of publications, including the well-known Western Water magazine.

Educating key policy-makers and members of the public and bring stakeholders together are the main elements of the Foundations program to improve water management in California and the Southwestern states.

Earning our Reputation

For many years major authorities- including the press - have recognized the Foundation for publishing factual information on Western water issues. This is the most important part of the Foundation's education program and the basis for our reputation.

The Foundation has become the leading disseminator of impartial, timely, balanced and easy to understand educational materials about water issues in California and the Western states. Such materials are especially critical today as the region faces the twin pressures of continued economic growth and the desire to preserve and protect the environment.

Experts and stakeholders review material produced by the Foundation in draft form. Comments that provide factual information are accepted by the Foundation. This thoughtful review process has increased the shelf life and accuracy of the published information.

The Foundation focuses its educational efforts on three main audiences:
S Policy-makers in the government, and leading stakeholders in the agricultural, environmental and urban water communities:
S Members of the media, who assist our efforts to educate the general public; and
S School children - and their families- in grades K-14 (kindergarten through college sophomores). Recognizing the need to educate students about water quantity and water quality issues, the Foundation has created games to explore they types of common activities that contribute to pollution.

The Foundation's primary objective in all of these efforts is not to advance one particular viewpoint or solution, but to explain the complexities of various opinions and ideas so that people can make better-informed decisions.

Funding our program

In the early days of the Foundation, funding sources were small contributions, subscriptions to Western Water magazine and briefings. As a way of maintaining its highly valued independence, the small Foundation staff began to develop products, including many publications to help fund programs. Staff then added water tours and school programs. The Foundation is a leading disseminator of Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) program. Teaching reaching over half a million students has been trained in use of the Foundation school programs.

As its reputation grew, the Foundation was able to begin receiving, state, federal, local and private grants. In 2001 the breakdown of the sources of revenue for the Foundation were: 40% grants, 22% contributions, 16% tours and briefings, 13% product sales, and 1% interest. The Foundation's budget is about $1.7 million. Western Water magazine now goes to about 17,000 people.

About 10 years after the Foundation was established, the Foundation's impartial reputation was strong enough to satisfy PBS stations throughout the country and public television documentaries on water were added to the Foundation's program. (In 2002, the Foundation won a regional Emmy for Fate of the Jewel - a documentary on Lake Tahoe hosted by actor Bruce Dern. These public programs are seen by millions of people all over the country.) A popular Water Leaders program to mentor young professionals was added to the program five years ago.
Expanding our program

In 1995 the Foundation began a focus on states and interests that share the Colorado. Since that time the Foundation has held three invitation-only stakeholder symposiums and published and widely disseminated the conversional proceedings of these symposiums. River Report, bi-annual a newsletter on Colorado River issues, other specific Colorado River products has been published and sent to about 3,000 stakeholders. A bi-national conference proceeding, on Mexican-U.S. border issues) was edited by Foundation staff and is currently being published by the Foundation.

Final Thoughts: Making a difference

With water at a premium in the West, there is increasing interest in better coordinating the use of surface water and groundwater to further stretch the total supply of good quality water.

Although the impacts of Foundation programs are sometimes difficult to quantify, the Foundation can tell through attendance and conferences and tours, the sale of these low-cost materials and the letters and phone calls received that the Foundation has played an important role in helping people better understand the complexities of water resources. The Foundation's success also has been recognized through state and national awards and the partnerships forged with stakeholders on all sides of these issues. The Foundation has changed the very nature of how the main competing stakeholder groups communicate. Many have thanked the Foundation for helping them better understand other points of view and recognizing important areas where there are common goals. Formal partnerships between these groups and informal exchanges of ideas have been often resulted.

The lessons learned by the Foundation could be valuable for governmental and nongovernmental organization working in other parts of the U.S. and the world. The core issue of honest reporting, education and responsiveness to the search for knowledge and information of key audiences is a universal need.

Hobbs, Greg


The Honorable Greg Hobbs, Jr.,
Justice, Colorado Supreme Court

The Hon. Gregory Hobbs, in his closing presentation to the workshop, provided the following ten observations about the history and experience of men and women in the Americas regarding water:

(1) Water is a public resource. Speculation and waste at the expense of community deserve no respect;

(2) The construction and use of waterworks is a required adaptation to living in the Americas. Always has been, always will;

(3) The role of law in water resource policy is to allocate and administer the water by means of a fair system that promotes water planning and serves human and environmental needs;

(4) Public debate about water law and policy must be free and open. The rights of individuals and the community must be respected in the discussion. The discussion must be reflected in decisions that are implemented certainly and have flexibility for further adaptation, based on experience;

(5) At its core, prior appropriation is one of the most fundamental adaptations humans have made to living in the Americas. Prior appropriation is a drought-planning system. By study of the historic water data, planners and decision makers can determine what is available to a proposed community need, taking into account the use of others who have established their uses previously;

(6) In the third year of a drought, the summer of 2002 demonstrates how reservoirs are fundamental to life in the West. Saving in the ample time for the lean time is civilization at its best and most necessary. When the snow pack diminishes and storage water is not available to be released into the streams, so that water might run through the river channels to its place of use, humans and the environment suffer greatly;

(7) Our over-appropriated western and Colorado watersheds reveal the limits of our settlement. Now we must live with settling in. Local and state governments in all land use decisions must consider water use and its efficient availability. If not, the people will hold officials accountable for default in their elected and appointed community roles;

(8) We must allow our water officials to make sound decisions that involve curtailment of uses in priority and that forward efficiency of use. A system of fair allocation demands fair enforcement and respect for the enforcers;

(9) We must allow the market to function to redistribute water. We must employ reservoirs, including the storage opportunities available in our groundwater systems. We must negotiate and reach agreements that make Colorado's interstate water allocations available to as many needs for as many benefits, locally and statewide in Colorado, as possible. Ducks and people need water;

(10) We must pray for the blessing of insight, patience, and common sense-for what we must and must not do-as individuals in community. In scarcity is the opportunity for community. Civilized sacrifice is a sacrament.