Markets for Federal Water: Subsidies, Property Rights, and the Bureau of Reclamation

By Richard W. Wahl | Go to book overview

amendments to Reclamation law in order to resolve legal uncertainties that unnecessarily cloud certain voluntary water transfers. (p. v)

In recent years the Bureau of Reclamation has done some soul- searching, examining its past mission and current skills in relation to what more viable roles it could play today. This culminated with the publication of its Assessment '87 report, which is an attempt to define for itself a redirected mission ( U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, 1987). The thrust of this report is captured in the following excerpt from its findings and conclusions:

The Bureau's primary role as the developer of large federally financed agricultural projects is drawing to a close. . . . The Bureau of Reclamation must change from an agency based on federally supported construction to one based on resource management. (p. 1)

Many of the recommendations in Assessment '87 focus on various ways to facilitate more efficient management of the bureau's existing facilities and water supplies. Among the recommendations for new issues to be addressed by the bureau is the consideration of its role in facilitating voluntary water transfers. On December 16, 1988, the Department of the Interior took a major step in defining the Bureau of Reclamation's role in this area. In response to the July 1987 request of the Western Governors' Association, the department issued a set of principles designed to govern Bureau of Reclamation review of requests to transfer water. These principles, which are intended to define the department's administrative policies on water transfers within the provisions of existing law, indicate that the bureau will seek to facilitate transfer requests brought to it, provided the transfers do not injure third parties. The policy will allow water users to receive additional income from water transfers, provided federal contractual and legal commitments are fulfilled. (The full set of principles is reproduced as the appendix to this volume.)

Defining its role in the transfer process and implementing water transfers could well be one of the most important tasks confronting the Bureau of Reclamation over the years to come.


References

U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation. 1987. Assessment '87: A New Direction for the Bureau of Reclamation ( Washington, D.C.).

U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of the Solicitor. 1972. Federal Reclamation and Related Laws Annotated ( Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office).

Western Governors' Association. 1986. Western Water: Tuning the System ( Denver, Colo.).

_____. 1987. Water Efficiency: Opportunities for Action. ( Denver, Colo.).

-8-

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