Western Water

January 30, 1987

Report Outline
Special Focus


Water Is Growing More Precious Than Ever in the American West. Sun Belt Cities, Worried About Serving Expanding Populations and Attracting New Industries, Are Searching Far and Near for Future Water Reserves. Farmers and Ranchers, Indian Tribes, Federal Land Agencies and Environmental Groups Are Protecting Their Rights or Pressing New Claims to the Rivers and Underground Streams. the Era of Reclaiming the Deserts Is Fading, and the Vast Arid Regions of the West Now Are Adjusting to the Natural Limits of Water Supplies. Much of the Available Water in the West Has Become a Marketable Commodity.

“The West is beginning to feel the desert winds of reality,” Richard D. Lamm, the former governor of Colorado, has declared. Agriculture's long domination of western water resources is yielding, however slowly, to the growing political clout of the Sun Belt's super cities, whose future growth is jeopardized for want of adequate water supplies. It is in the metropolitan areas, not in the wide-open spaces of folklore, that the western population is concentrated. The urban demand for a greater share of the available water addresses still another reality. It is that the federal government's past generosity in funding new water projects is evaporating.

A decade ago, President Carter fanned the “winds of reality” by trying to cancel 19 of the 320 water projects then being federally funded, including several that western states had counted on to tap what they considered their fair share of the few rivers within reach. Sending this list to Congress in a revision of his predecessor's budget was one of Carter's first acts. Though he achieved a partial victory, it was politically costly. Several senior lawmakers from affected states denounced his “hit list,” souring his relation with Congress and initially reinforcing the notion that a politician could cripple water projects only at his peril.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Water Pollution
Jul. 15, 2016  Drinking Water Safety
Oct. 17, 2014  Protecting the Oceans
Jun. 18, 2010  Water Shortages
Aug. 01, 2003  Water Shortages
Nov. 24, 2000  Water Quality
Dec. 15, 1995  Global Water Shortages
Feb. 11, 1994  Water Quality
Apr. 19, 1991  California: Enough Water for the Future?
Jan. 30, 1987  Western Water
Jul. 12, 1985  Preventing Groundwater Contamination
Jan. 14, 1977  Western Water: Coming Crisis
Feb. 15, 1974  Drinking Water Safety
Aug. 11, 1965  Water Resources and National Water Needs
Dec. 08, 1960  Pollution of Water Supplies
Oct. 02, 1959  Water Needs and Resources
Jul. 01, 1955  Water for the Future
Jul. 24, 1953  Water Pollution
Feb. 15, 1950  Water Supply
Oct. 03, 1947  Unclean Waters
Sep. 17, 1935  Stream Pollution and the Disposal of Waste
Regional Planning and Urbanization
Water Resources