On June 17, 1902, the US Congress passed [PDF] the Reclamation Act of 1902. Prior to the passage of the act, people in the western US had difficulty obtaining sufficient water supplies due to arid conditions and the overconsumption of limited resources. The Reclamation Act addressed this issue by requiring that money obtained through the sale of public lands in the western US be used to fund irrigation projects and reclaim arid lands. Congress delegated the authority to examine, survey and construct irrigation projects to the Secretary of the Interior, and created the Bureau of Reclamation to manage the projects. To date, the bureau has been responsible for the construction of over 600 dams and reservoirs in the western US.
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