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Lyndon B. Johnson: Remarks Upon Signing the Colorado River Basin Project Act.
Lyndon B. Johnson
501 - Remarks Upon Signing the Colorado River Basin Project Act.
September 30, 1968
Public Papers of the Presidents
Lyndon B. Johnson<br>1968-69: Book II
Lyndon B. Johnson
1968-69: Book II

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Secretary Udall, Senator Hayden, Senator Jackson, Congressman Aspinall, Congressman Udall, other distinguished Members of the Congress, distinguished guests:

We have asked you to come here this morning to consider several very crucial facts of the time in which we live.

Fact number one: Next to the air we breathe, water is our most precious resource.

Fact number two: Each year, civilization's appetite for water doubles and then redoubles. It takes 70,000 gallons of water to produce a single ton of steel. It takes 500,000 gallons of water to irrigate a single acre of California orchardland.

Fact number three: As our demand surges, and our population grows, the earth's supply of water remains constant. That supply has not changed in 5,000 years.

So it is clear that we must make wiser use of the water that we have and wiser use of the water that remains untapped. We have already begun to put modern science to work--trying to reclaim our rivers, trying to purify our rivers, trying to seed the clouds, trying to desalt the oceans. And in the last few years we are doing everything that we know how to accelerate that effort.

Three days ago, we created a National Water Commission to conduct the most comprehensive study of America's water resources that has ever been conducted in American history. This study should tell us what we have, what we need, and how we can satisfy those needs, at least through the 20th century.

So this morning we have come here to sign another bill that will help assure us of the water that we need. This bill is, as all of you know, the Colorado River Basin bill. This will be one of the largest reclamation projects ever authorized in any single piece of legislation.

The Colorado River begins high in the snowcapped Rockies. It flows to the southwest--a journey of 1,400 miles through a wilderness of desert, plateau, and mountain-before finally emptying into the Gulf of California. With its tributaries and its basins, the Colorado River touches seven States and it spans almost a quarter of a million square miles, one-twelfth the area of the continental United States. Most of this land is arid and dry.

For an entire region of America, this great river, therefore, is the lifeline of survival, the lifeline of growth, of prosperity, and of hope.

For two decades, the Colorado River has been the subject of unrelenting controversy and competing claims. And I have been in the middle of a good deal of it over the years. I have a feeling of freedom this morning when I see California and Arizona sitting there arm in arm smiling with each other. [Laughter] And Isaiah must be proud to finally recognize that they have come to reason together.

But now, because good and reasonable men have put aside their differences--and put them aside in favor of their Nation and in favor of regional progress--this bill will soon become law.

It is a landmark bill, a proud companion to the other 250 separate conservation measures that I have signed in the White House since I became President. For the millions of Americans west of the Continental Divide, it will provide more water for growing cities; it will provide more water for expanding industries, for the farmers' crops, and for the ranchers' cattle.

It will let us build aqueducts and powerplants and a network of projects for irrigation, for community water supplies, for flood control, for electricity, and finally for recreation.

We will do all of this without defiling or without despoiling the ancient and the spectacular landscapes along the Colorado. That will make it easier, too, for me to live at home. These beautiful canyons and gorges are among the great natural wonders of the world. We will preserve these priceless legacies for the enjoyment of all of our children, and their children--and very much to the pleasure and satisfaction of some of our great men of our time.

One of the things that I am proudest of is to get a wire the other day in connection with this and a number of other bills from Mr. Grosvenor of the National Geographic, in which he summarized for me what had happened in the Congress this year and in the last few years in the conservation field, and what he thought it had done for this land that we all love.

I think I know what a plentiful water supply can mean to a barren and parched countryside. I have carried a lot of irrigation pipe myself. I have seen irrigation ditches flow. I have seen the spring rains harnessed. I have seen floods prevented. I have seen dozens of towns lighted by the power of electricity of the little Colorado River where I lived after we dammed it with six dams. I have seen families enjoy the serenity of a new lakeshore, where once there was only dust.

I have seen happiness come into the faces of the average farmer, the sharecropper, the worker, and the man who left his last and his bench to go spend a few hours at the lake.

So by taking this action today, I know from what I have seen that we are making the waters of the West a little sweeter and we will make the grass of the West a good deal greener.

Many, many men have worked for and looked forward to this day. While I was waiting to be sworn into the Senate, both Senators from Arizona, Senator Hayden and Senator McFarland, the leaders, propositioned me on this measure--the Arizona project. California was not without its voices through the years either. I heard from many of them.

I am glad that "Scoop" Jackson and Congressman Aspinal, and all the others, could have finally made this day possible. Because the time and the moment has come when their dreams and their vision can come closer to reality.

But if I had to give any one man credit for this project, and give him more than all the rest put together, it would be that happy warrior, that great statesman, that beloved human being, who in the twilight of his career sees his vision come true.

He moved to Washington from the seat of a county sheriff. And he became one of the most beloved and popular and influential figures of our time. Today we meet here on Carl Hayden day, really, in the White House to sign this great project for the people that he loves and in honor of him whom men of both parties love and respect and admire.

Note: The President spoke at 12:17 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall, Senator Carl Hayden of Arizona, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Henry M. Jackson of Washington, Chairman of the Senate Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, Representative Wayne N. Aspinall of Colorado, Chairman of the House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, and Representative Morris K. Udall of Arizona. During his remarks the President referred to Dr. Melville Bell Grosvenor, editor in chief of the National Geographic Magazine, and Senator Ernest W. McFarland, Senator from Arizona 1941-1953, who served as Governor of Arizona 1955-1959.

As enacted, the Colorado River Basin Project Act (S. 1004) is Public Law 90-537 (82 Stat. 885).

On October 9, 1968, the White House announced the appointment of the Chairman and members of the National Water Commission (4 Weekly Comp. Pres. Does., p. 1465).

Citation: Lyndon B. Johnson: "Remarks Upon Signing the Colorado River Basin Project Act.," September 30, 1968. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=29140.
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