Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks Upon Signing Bill Providing for a Desalting Plant in Southern California

May 19, 1967

Mr. Vice President, Members of the Cabinet, distinguished Members of the Congress, ladies and gentlemen:

For many centuries, men have been searching for ways to produce fresh water from our oceans. Three hundred and fifty years before the birth of Christ, the ancient Greeks were struggling to try to solve that problem.

Today, with the signing of this bill here in the East Room of the White House, we take a step toward the end of that struggle that was begun so many years ago. Today we begin the greatest effort in man's history to produce water and electric power from the sea.

This bill makes possible a new desalting plant which will more than double the world's total capacity for desalting water.

And in the process, it will lower considerably the cost of making fresh water from the sea.

Two years ago, when speaking at an international meeting on desalting, I asked the Congress to authorize this plant for us: to make full use of today's scientific knowledge and to produce, by 1970, 100 million gallons of fresh water per day.

Two years ago that seemed to all of us a very ambitious goal. But this plant will produce not 100 million gallons, but 150 million gallons--50 percent more than we even dared to predict.

Each hour, each day, it will produce more electric power than the Hoover Dam produces.

This 'plant alone will not suddenly and overnight make our deserts bloom. But more than anything that we have done yet, it does point to the day when lands now dry and empty will sustain life and will feed the people of the world.

In our own country, we know, I think, what hardship is caused when neighbors have to depend on a single river for their water supply, and when we must share those meager resources with each other. One single stream--the Colorado River--must now serve seven dry States, and must provide water in addition for many of our good neighbors in Mexico.

For years, that stream has been the source of much too little water--and much too many arguments. It has been the subject of quarrels, lawsuits, interstate compacts, international treaties, and has affected elections from time to time.

All of that worry, and all of that effort, added not one new drop of water to that great stream.

This bill will help us change all of that. Mexico, the States of the West and the Southwest need much more water, and they need that water now.

This bill will help them get it.

This bill, as you know, marks the beginning, not the end, of all of our efforts.

Our sights are set on a whole family of desalting plants--to help not only our coastal communities, but our inland towns also, which are troubled by brackish water supplies.

Some of these new plants are going to be powered by atomic energy.

Others will be fired by coal, gas, or oil. Others--some day--may even get part of their energy from reconstituted waste products.

Until we build those plants, we are going to continue to face very urgent water problems.

With every tick of the clock, more people are being born into this world. As their need grows for food, clothing, and industry, our water tables continue to drop. This venture-this venture that we are launching-must be the first of many ventures of this nature throughout the world.

So many people deserve credit for this success this morning that I dare to mention not even one name. But I shall just have to refer to a few who have come in and out of our office in the months that have gone by:

--Members of the Senate, like Senator Jackson, Senator Anderson, Senator Kuchel, almost all the Members of that body.

--Congressmen Craig Hosmer, Wayne Aspinall, Harold Johnson, Richard Hanna, Ed Reinecke, my good friend Chet Holifield, my friends from the California delegation, Bernie Sisk, and others.

--Secretary Udall, and all the people in the Interior, Assistant Secretary DiLuzio.

--I don't want to overlook the Mayor of Los Angeles because I made him come in and ante up a little extra when the going was real hard. I guess he appropriated some of it to bring him here today. We are happy that he is at this ceremony to launch this experiment.

--The Vice President and all public officials everywhere who have participated in this, and, more than that, are willing to enlist in the war ahead.

We will outline plans as soon as that distinguished Californian, the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, gets them ready for any other ventures that some of you want to take.

Finally, I want the citizens and public officials of the Federal Government, and the State of California--and particularly southern California--to know that we appreciate this partnership in this very special effort.

And to the Members of the House and Senate, the Governors of the States, we are all deeply in your debt.

This achievement is really a symbol of not only our partnership and our working together, but our power to act together. Often there is too much talk and too little action. What is needed for the future in this whole field of water is the will and the determination to act.

So I am very happy to sign this bill. I am very pleased that you could come here.

I am glad that all of you will witness it. As you witness it, and become a party to the fact, you will enlist with us in the fight that is ahead for all of us.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:20 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey. During his remarks he referred to, among others, Samuel W. Yorty, Mayor of Los Angeles, and Glenn T. Seaborg, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission.

As enacted, the bill (S. 270) is Public Law 90-18 (81 Stat. 16).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks Upon Signing Bill Providing for a Desalting Plant in Southern California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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