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Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Transmitting an Assessment of the Nation's Water Resources

November 18, 1968

Dear Mr. President: (Dear Mr. Speaker:)

I transmit the first assessment of the Nation's water resources under the Water Resources Planning Act of 1965.

A nation that fails to plan intelligently for the development and protection of its precious waters will be condemned to wither because of its shortsightedness. The hard lessons of history are clear, written on the deserted sands and ruins of once proud civilizations.

The report I submit today is part of a national effort to assure that America will not neglect the management of her water resources in the years ahead. It is a sobering report, challenging our technology and spurring our conscience.

A paralyzing drought holding 30 million Americans in its grip, when the water taps almost ran dry in major northeastern cities . . .

Pollution infesting and destroying our most productive and scenic waters . . .

The nightmare of ravaging floods still hovering over too many American communities . . .

These are some of the stark warnings that nature's abundance cannot be taken for granted.

These are some of the forceful reminders that a plentiful and reliable water supply is the elixir of our national life and future growth.

Rapid population growth and economic expansion foretell even more complex problems for the future.

--Expanding economic activity is consuming available water supplies in some regions.

--Some natural resources lie untapped, and opportunities for employment and economic expansion go unrealized because of lack of water resources.

--The need for swimming, boating and other recreational facilities close to urban centers is growing rapidly.

--Floods still plague many watersheds and downstream areas.

--Erosion from rural and developing urban areas continues to wash away our lands and choke streams and lakes with sediment.

--Organic and chemical wastes and heat from our industrialized society threaten the purity of streams, lakes, and estuaries.

--Conflicts are widening between the needs to develop water resources and to preserve the scenic and natural quality of water-related environment.

These problems only illustrate the need to analyze and then to take positive action to assure water resources adequate to the demands of America's future.

That positive action has already begun. The Water Resources Planning Act of 1965 created a cooperative framework between the Federal Government, States, local governments and private enterprise. It established the Water Resources Council, a Cabinet-level agency, to develop unified plans and policies. Under that legislation:

--I have established four river basin commissions--the Pacific Northwest, the Great Lakes, the Souris-Red-Rainy, and the New England--to coordinate development of water and related land resources.

--49 States are participating in comprehensive water-resources planning as a result of the matching grant program provided by this Act.

The recently authorized National Water Commission will review and advise the Nation on the entire range of its water-resource problems. The assessment prepared by the Water Resources Council will help the Commission in devising more effective water resource policies.

The Water Quality Act of 1965, requiring standards and clean-up plans for all interstate and coastal waters, establishes a blueprint for future actions. All States have submitted water quality standards, and most have already been approved. These standards will allow us to carry out comprehensive, river-basin pollution control plans, coordinating all Federal, State, local and private investments to achieve our goals for water quality.

These landmark legislative actions, together with others in recent years, have created the framework for action. But this is not enough.

It is important that we have a composite, national view of water problems and needs if we are to attack them intelligently and comprehensively.

The national assessment I am transmitting is the first attempt at this most difficult problem. It represents the coordinated efforts of many Federal, State and Regional agencies and organizations, working with the Water Resources Council. This assessment identifies several problems requiring priority attention and should serve as a basis for further analysis.

Through such analysis as well as other activity under the Water Resources Planning Act we can continually assess, plan, and develop our water resources in an intelligent and thoughtful manner.

Responsible government cannot overlook the importance of water management to the Nation's economy and health. This assessment merits your close attention.



Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Hubert H. Humphrey, president of the Senate, and to the Honorable John W. McCormack, Speaker of the House of Representatives. It was not made public in the form of a White House press release.

The report, prepared by the Water Resources Council, is entitled "The Nation's Water Resources" (Government Printing Office, 464 pp.).
The Council was established by the Water Resources Planning Act of 1965 (Public Law 89-80, 79 Stat. 244), approved by the President on July 22, 1965. See 1965 volume, this series, Book II, Item 375.

The Water Quality Act of 1965 (Public Law 89234, 79 Stat. 903), was approved by the President on October 2, 1965. See 1965 volume, this series, Book II, Item 543.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Transmitting an Assessment of the Nation's Water Resources Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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