Remarks at a Meeting With the National Water Commission.
WELL, I'm glad I could meet here with you. I wanted to say a few words at your first meeting. It was back in March that I sent a message to the Congress, in which I said that: "We will not have served the water needs of Americans if we meet only the requirements of today's population. A prudent nation must look ahead and plan for tomorrow."
So it's going to be up to you gentlemen to do the planning for us.
We can already make some predictions. We know that in 1965 we were using 348 billion gallons of water a day, and it's estimated that by the year 2020 that figure will have more than quadrupled.
America was blessed with an abundance of water, but not so much that we can afford to continue to use it as we are--squandering it through waste and pollution and misuse.
So you men will have to find us ways to preserve this most precious resource--not just for this century, but for the next, and the ones after that.
And working closely with Federal, State, and private agencies, I think you'll have to tell us: where the faults lie in existing programs; how we can best use our lakes and rivers for the benefit of all of our countrymen; which plans for the reuse of water and for augmenting existing supplies are most feasible.
You must do this not in the narrow context of gallons-per-day, but in the larger context of protecting and enhancing the total human environment.
Water has played a great part in my life-a greater one than almost any other force of nature. I have seen livestock die and families ruined--ruined beyond recovery-for lack of it. I have seen livelihoods laid waste by its uncontrolled fury.
I know just how much we have to thank you for your willingness to give your energy and your wisdom to this commission. And I know of no more important undertaking to which you could devote your talents.
Water is a great force for good and evil. And some of the bitterest enemies that I've ever made were over water--and some of the strongest friends. There's nothing like it to influence people or populations or States.
So I hope as you undertake this long term assignment that you'll recognize that our future, in my judgment, is limited only by our water.
I am very, very proud of the record made by the Congress in recent years in the conservation field, particularly under the leadership of Secretary Udall. I'm delighted to see the costs of desalinization substantially reduced. It's a great field where a lot more must be spent and a lot more must be done.
But, I think that you're the navigators and you'll have to chart the course. This idea, I think, was first suggested back by the Deputy Director of the Budget 3 or 4 years ago. It took us some time to get around to adopting it. And even after it got to conference it stayed there a long time.
I believe that we have picked the most competent men that we knew or that any of our friends knew. And now it's in your hands. And in so placing this, I think we also place a great deal of our future with you. So good luck and God bless you.
Thank all of you for your interest in this field, for your willingness to serve your country in this regard.
And happy landing.
Note: The President spoke at 11:45 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. During his remarks he referred to Stewart L. Udall, Secretary of the Interior.
For the President's message to Congress of March 8, 1968, on conservation, see Item 122.
Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at a Meeting With the National Water Commission. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/236647