Agricultural, Local Issues, Politics

Analysis Shows Water Projects Value

Click to see original imageAn analysis by Ronald C. Fisher, secretary-engineer of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, serves as a timely reminder that America must continue to develop its water resources.
Citing farm. economic. energy. and recreational values, Fisher stressed this point significant to government:
“Western reclamation projects already have returned more money to the federal.treasury than they have taken out.”‘
Rep. Harold T. Johnson. D-Calif. who introduced the Fisher report into the Congressional Record. commented: “We must continue to be concerned about our water resources and their vital role in the economic development of our country.”
From 1902 to the start of 1980. some $8.75 billion has been appropriated for western projects. But. stated Fisher. “In only 38 years of that timespan. 1940 to 1978. those projects generated $25.6 billion in federal tax revenues.”
The concept of reclamation in the arid and semiarid West involves turning desert into fertile fields and developing large. dry regions to the benefit of the nation.
Has the concept worked? Fishers figures provide some clues. In 1978 alone, western reclamation was responsible for $13.5 billion of the nations economic activity.
Projects generated 88.5 billion income for people. $1.7 billion in corporate profits. $1.1 billion in state and local taxes. and $2.2 billion in federal taxes.
Of the $8.75 billion spent by government on current and completed projects, $1.7 billion already has been repaid. “No other federal program directly repays the treasury in this manner.” the report said.
“In all, 85 percent of the total will be repaid: half of that amount with interest. Some recreation. flood control and other features of benefit to the nation generally are not reimbursable by the water users.”
Fisher said that in 1978. reclamation projects delivered 24.4 million acre-feet of water (an acre-foot is 325.851 gallons) for agriculture. Irrigated lands served by the projects produced a gross crop value of $4.99 billion. An estimated $1 billion of that is exported, helping with the balance of payments.
The 9.6 million acres of 151.500 farms irrigated by water from reclamation projects produced 54.3 millio tons of food. fiber and forage – enough to meet the annual food requirements of 34.1 million people.
From 1906 to 1978 the total gross crop value as a result of reclamation projects exceeded $63.5 billion.
And don’t forget nonagricultural benefits. An additional 1.6 million acre feet of water were delivered to 16.6 million persons for municipal and industrial purposes.
Extensive flood control benefits are built into projects. In 1978, 69.9 million recreation visitor days were logged and 50 hydroelectric plants produced 40.6 billion kilowatt hours of power enough to meet residential needs of 14 million people and displace 73 million barrels of oil. Fisher said.
All in all, the report is impressive and ought to silence for at least slow downt critics of reclamation who are fond of using the misleading term “pork barrel” to catalogue water projects.