US Army Corps of Engineers
Institute for Water Resources Website

News Story Manager

New Book of Historical Importance – The Development of Water Resources Planning in the US from the Reclamation Act of 1902 to the Principles and Standards of 1973

Published Feb. 21, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA.   The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Institute for Water Resources (IWR) recently released a book titled The Development of Water Resources Planning in the United States from the Reclamation Act of 1902 to the Principles and Standards of 1973:  An Assessment Based on Original Sources by David C. Major and Eugene Z. Stakhiv.  This book is a continuation in the series of publications for IWR’s Maass-White Library Series in Water Planning and Management.

The book provides a review of the development of water resources planning in the United States from the end of the 19th century through the 1970’s, based on original sources. The authors have undertaken this study to provide planning practitioners, especially newer planners, with concise reviews of the original sources, assessments of their meaning and relevance to the present, and how they will help to provide a basis for further development of 21st century water resource planning methods. 

Water resource planning methods have a long history in the United States, much of which remains highly relevant today. Valuable perspectives from the past, however, are often not fully incorporated into current planning; this is in part because of a lack of familiarity with key materials in the development of water planning methods and procedures. This volume will go some way toward resolving this problem and provides insights into the further development of planning criteria.

The twelve essays each focus on a significant law, original report, or book.  They aim to provide a concise description of the works and their background and explain their importance both at the time they were written and later.  Section I focuses on the three key laws prior to World War II, covering the Reclamation Act of 1902, the 308 Reports, and the Flood Control Act of 1926.  In the second section, the emphasis is on the beginning of standard multipurpose planning with benefit-cost analysis just before World War II and its development thereafter. This section covers the development of river basin planning from key critiques and analyses by Gilbert White (1945), Arthur Maass (1951), and John Krutilla and Otto Eckstein (1958), through the Green Book (1958) and a typical example of classic river basin planning of the time, the Delaware River Basin Report (1960). 

The third section covers the development of new methods through 1973. It includes works from 1962 through 1973, beginning with well-known discussions of criteria in Senate Document 87-97 (1962), through Design of Water-Resource Systems (Harvard Press, 1962), the North Atlantic Regional (NAR) Study (USACE, 1972), and the U.S. Water Resources Council’s New Standards (1973). This era marks a decisive break with the classic economics-focused river basin planning discussed in the second section. A short final section offers perspectives on the work.  It provides a summary of the key developments treated in the book, knowledge of which may contribute to dealing effectively with the complex challenges of the present time.

The publication serves as a reminder of the need for the continued injection of scholarship into water resources planning practice as evaluation tools and our understanding of the hydrologic, geomorphic, biologic and social sciences have continued to advance.  This need remains as compelling as ever today as the Nation faces a new set of water resources challenges both on the domestic front and around the world. In fact, as the pace of technological and social change has accelerated, the infusion of contemporary engineering and scientific scholarship into public policy is critically important to the future of U.S. water resources and to the future of the Corps’ Civil Works mission itself.

This is the fifth in the series of books published by IWR in its Maass-White Library Series in Water Planning and Management. The series is devoted to the advancement of water resources planning and management practices along the continuum that was broadly influenced by the pioneering research of Drs. Arthur Maass and Gilbert White. USACE, through its Office of History and IWR, isistroy  honored to serve as the custodian and repository for the personal libraries of these two great scholars.  The intellectual foundations provided by Drs. Maass and White and other 20th century scholars have proved essential to the maturation of the practice of planning and managing water resources both in the U.S. and around the world. It speaks to the foresight of their scholarship that the underlying principles that flowed from their collective works remain highly relevant today, and which, to Maass and White’s credit, were gradually adopted and then applied by several generations of water resources practitioners, policymakers and decision-leaders over the last half-century.

  The book is available for free download from the IWR Library.

Learn More

For more information, visit