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Lyndon B. Johnson: Remarks to Delegates to the International Conference on Water for Peace
Lyndon B. Johnson
230 - Remarks to Delegates to the International Conference on Water for Peace
May 23, 1967
Public Papers of the Presidents
Lyndon B. Johnson<br>1967: Book I
Lyndon B. Johnson
1967: Book I

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Secretary Udall; Secretary Rostow; Members of Congress; Mr. Hagan, Secretary General of the Conference; Mr. de Seynes, the Under Secretary of the United Nations for Economic and Social Affairs; ladies and gentlemen:

This Conference has a vital mandate: The questions that you will consider deal directly with the future of life on this earth.

No President has ever welcomed a gathering with greater expectations.
I come from land where water is treasure. For a good many years, I have done my share of agitating to increase the water resources of my native State. I have known the frustrations of this task. A member of the Texas Legislature once recited some lines on this subject:

"Oh the glamor and the clamor
That attend affairs of state
Seem to fascinate the people
And impress some folks as great.

"But the truth about the matter,
In the scale of loss and gain:
Not one inauguration's worth
A good, slow two-inch rain!"

As man faces the next century, one question stands above all others: How well--and how long--can the earth sustain its evergrowing population?

As much as anything, water holds the key to that simple question: water to drink; water to grow the food we must eat; water to sustain industrial growth.

Today, man is losing his race with the growing need that he has for water.

We face, on a global scale, the plight of the Ancient Mariner:

"Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink."

For a planet two-thirds covered with water, this seems to be a very strange shortage.

There is so much plenty all around us. Yet 97 percent of our waters are in the ocean--thus far, but I hope not for very long, of little use to us for either drinking or irrigation.

Another 2 percent lies frozen in glaciers and icecaps.

The 1 percent remaining could meet most of man's needs--if only it were distributed when and where we need it most.

But today, while millions suffer the ravages of storms--and simultaneously suffer the ravages of floods--other millions are thirsty.

While men barely tap the abundance of lakes and rivers and streams, others watch their crops shrivel with drought.

More and more, people dwell in cities, where dean water means the difference between sickness and health.

Yet today, 40 percent of the world's city dwellers--four out of ten--have no water service.

If this is the problem now, think for just a moment what the future will bring you.

By the year 2000, the world's population will have doubled to 6 billion--now it is a little over 3 billion. Our need for water will have more than doubled.

I ask this conference to take, as its point of perspective, the year 2000. That is not very far away.

Imagine, as you meet here, that you are facing the needs of your children and your children's children. Imagine what we must do to move the world from now until then. Ask yourselves the big questions:

How can we engineer our continents and how can we direct our great river systems to make use of the water resources that all of us are wasting today?

How can we tap the vast underground waters that are now undeveloped?

How can we modify the weather and better distribute the life-giving rain?

How can we desalt the waters of the ocean and how can we freshen our brackish waters?

How can we use our water supplies again and again before we finally yield them into the sea?

How can we curb the filth that pollutes our streams?

During the 3 years or more that I have been President, I have recommended and the Congress has approved programs in each and all of these areas--water management, river valley development, desalting, pollution control, and research on weather modification. But I realize, as you must have, that that is a beginning--but we have only begun.

You must consider, finally, the most important question of all: How can we, as responsible leaders and spokesmen, awaken the world's people and the world's leaders to the urgent problem that confronts the World?

Even at the risk sometimes of being called dreamers, I think you must ask these questions and I think you must seek the answers. Unless you do, you will not measure the true dimension of humanity's greatest need. You must chart the specific steps toward a more abundant future.

One step must be this: to quicken the pace of science and technology.

Last week, in the East Room of the White House, I signed an act of Congress to make possible a new plant which will more than double the world's present capacity for desalting water.

A decade ago, the best plant design could produce only 50,000 gallons per day at a cost of $5 per thousand gallons.

This new plant, powered by nuclear energy, will eventually produce 150 million gallons of fresh water per day--at a cost approaching 20 cents per thousand gallons. That is 3,000 times as much as could be produced 10 years ago at one-twenty-fifth the cost.

But the world needs fresh water and it needs it at much lower costs.

This is my country's pledge: to continue work in every area which holds promise for the world's water needs. And my country pledges to share the fruits of this technology with all of those who wish to share it with us.

American scientists will begin discussions next month with India on experimental rainmaking projects which may hold promise for drought-ridden countries all over the world.

A second need we must face up to is to train more manpower.

We must attract the best technicians and the best planners to this life-giving science. And we must devise programs to educate all our people in the wiser use of water.

Third: We need to build better institutions for managing water resources.

This point cannot be overstressed. We need improved management just as much as we need new technology.

We must support the United Nations and the international agencies which are trying to provide world leadership in this field.

We must develop more effective forms of local, national, and regional cooperation.

For this truth is self-evident: Neither water nor weather is a respecter of boundary lines.

Finally, we need to support new programs in water resource development.

Projects of international cooperation must be multiplied many times over what we have ever done before--projects like those now underway in the Mekong and the Indus River Basins.

Frankly, I am not--and I know you are not--satisfied with the progress that we are making in these fields now. We are not using all the imagination and all the enterprise that our problem requires. We need agents who will push, prod, shove, and move ahead with these international efforts. We need planners to help develop concrete projects. We need financial experts who know how to interest the world's lending institutions, and educators that can recruit and train additional skilled manpower for us.

To set top priority for these endeavors in our own Government, I have already directed the Secretary of State, Mr. Rusk, to establish immediately a Water for Peace Office. Its major role will be to lead and to coordinate this country's efforts in the world's water programs.

But we also need to create strong regional offices throughout this world to provide us with the leadership and to stimulate cooperation among all nations. The United States is prepared to join you and all others in establishing a network of regional water resource centers. We will provide our fair share of the expert assistance, the supplies and the equipment, and the financing that is needed.

We are confident that the United Nations and other international organizations represented here today can and will play a key role in this enterprise. We should seek to put the first two centers in operation within the next 24 months--to serve as the spur and the goad in promoting Water for Peace-and freedom.

We have called this Conference here in order to learn--and in order to share.

No group could have a more exciting or more worthwhile mission.

You study the life cycle of our planet. You deal with nature's elements as men have always known them: the river, the sea, the sun, and the sky.

Man once looked to these elements and found his poetry. Now he must look to them and find his preservation.

You will grapple with the political as well as the physical problems of mankind.

For ages past, men have fought wars over water without adding one single drop to the world's supply.

Now we face and share the challenge to use water--more abundant water--as the enduring servant of peace, freedom, and liberty. Let this be your vision during the next week and let this be your achievement in the years to come.

We are glad that you could come here and meet with us. We look forward to the productive and constructive results that will flow from your thinking.

We want you to know that we welcome you. We want to work with you. We truly believe that there are few problems that could engage men that offer such limitless opportunities.

We hope you enjoy your visit. We look forward to working with you in the years ahead.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:35 a.m. in the Grand Ballroom at the Sheraton Park Hotel in Washington. In his opening words he referred to Stewart L. Udall, Secretary of the Interior, Eugene V. Rostow, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Richard C. Hagan, Secretary General of the International Conference on Water for Peace, and Philippe de Seynes, Under Secretary of the United Nations for Economic and Social Affairs.

For the President's remarks upon signing a bill providing for a plant in California doubling the world's capacity for desalting water, see Item 227.

The International Conference on Water for Peace was held in Washington May 23-31, 1967.

Citation: Lyndon B. Johnson: "Remarks to Delegates to the International Conference on Water for Peace," May 23, 1967. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=28262.
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