June 17, 1902: Bureau of Reclamation Established by Congress. “John Wesley Powell, often considered the father of reclamation, began a series of expeditions to explore the American West in 1867. He saw that after snow-melt and spring rains, the rivers of the West flooded, releasing huge amounts of water, and that for the rest of the year not enough rain fell to support any kind of real agriculture. He became convinced that irrigation was the only means by which much of the West could sustain population. He mapped locations for dams and irrigation projects. He found widespread support throughout the West, especially through the droughts of the 1890s.
Several private and local farming organizations proved the benefits of irrigation projects. However, when it became apparent that a greater effort would be required, Representative Francis G. Newlands of Nevada introduced legislation into the United States Congress to provide federal help for irrigation projects. The resulting act passed on June 17, 1902.”
“The United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR), and formerly the United States Reclamation Service, is a federal agency under the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees water resource management, specifically as it applies to the oversight and operation of the diversion, delivery, and storage projects that it has built throughout the western United States for irrigation, water supply, and attendant hydroelectric power generation. Currently USBR is the largest wholesaler of water in the country, bringing water to more than 31 million people, and providing one in five Western farmers with irrigation water for 10 million acres of farmland, which produce 60% of the nation’s vegetables and 25% of its fruits and nuts. USBR is also the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the western United States.”