The Role of the Federal Government in the Conservation and Utilization of Water Resources

James Lawrence Fly
1938 University of Pennsylvania Law Review and American Law Register  
It is a truism of history that rivers have been the arteries, while their valleys have served as the cradles, of civilization. James Henry Breasted and other great historians have written the stories of nations in terms of their rivers. In America, as elsewhere, expansion has occurred along the lines of the waterways, and the development of those waterways has been a response to the pressure for expansion. River estuaries have afforded many of the best harbors.' Cities built at such locations
more » ... at such locations or near the head of river navigation for ocean-going vessels have served as natural transshipment points for export, import, and coastwise trade. 2 Our rivers were the highways over which many of the pioneers surged westward. 3 And the locations of many inland centers of manufacture and commerce were fixed by the geography of the rivers. 4 From earliest times the use and control of our rivers has been a major concern of government. That concern is evidenced in any account of our national problems, and nowhere better than in the reports of the Supreme Court which have written and reflect so much of our history. Volumes picked almost at random from among the early or recent reports reveal the active interest of government in the waters of the nation. The Federal Government's responsibility for conservation and utilization of those resources is broadly and deeply rooted in over a century of our history. It covers navigation, flood control, reclamation, irrigation, soil conservation and reforestation, and other beneficial uses of water. But it must be remembered that basically our water resources are unitary. They consist of the waters themselves, the channels in which they flow, and the reservoirs in which they may be stored. Each phase of the problem has its own peculiar history, but all deal with the same basic elements. This article cannot attempt more than to sketch the development of the Government's responsibilities for the principal uses of our water resources.
doi:10.2307/3308848 fatcat:2z6sbudczrf6ba2jmvikq7uitm