Our Water Resources: The Need for a Unified National Policy

May 1, 1953

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Project Note No. 33

Foreword The long-range development of the natural resources of the United States is a vast undertaking, affecting all aspects of American life. As the Water Resources Policy Commission has asserted, “How great a share of this investment in the future should be financed by the Federal government and what should be the division of responsibility between the many agencies of Federal state, and local government, private groups, and individuals, are matters of proper concern to every citizen.

The sums which the Federal government has already invested or planned to invest in future water resources development are a substantial factor in the total Federal budget and in the over-all national economy. The present lack of a unified national policy on water resources means continuing waste of money and effort in the pursuit of conflicting goals. The American people, through their elected representatives, must examine those diverse goals and help fashion a national policy that will avoid waste and give proper direction to future water resources development.

Of serious implication, also, is the increasing activity of the Federal government in the development of hydroelectric power as a part of irrigation, navigation, and flood control projects. The result has been the firm entrenchment of the Federal government in the electric power field. This, too, needs careful examination. It relates closely to the over-all problem of how directly the Federal government should be involved in business-type enterprises.

This study traces broadly the development of Federal water resources programs. Particular attention is directed to reclamation and irrigation, rivers and harbors and navigation. flood control, power, and multiple-purpose projects. In pointing out the conflicting policies and lack of direction that underlie these programs, the Tax Foundation, a private, non-profit research organization, seeks to help inform the thinking citizen who has ultimate responsibility for far-reaching decisions that must soon be made on water resource development.


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