144. Information Memorandum From the Director of the Office of International Scientific Affairs (Pollack) to Secretary of State Rusk1


  • Recent Desalting Activities

Over 2400 persons representing 65 nations and 6 international organizations, registered at the highly successful First International [Page 259] Symposium on Water Desalination which was held during the week of October 3–9.

Secretary Udall addressed the opening session of the Symposium, Monday morning, October 4 (copy of speech at Tab A),2 noting U.S. willingness to: share our information, receive foreign visitors at research laboratories and test centers, assist the training of foreign water resources engineers, assist other countries in regional and national water surveys, give increased attention to water supply problems under the AID programs, and render advice to countries seeking assistance in water resources.

The President addressed the official Delegates and Observers in the East Room of the White House Thursday afternoon, October 7 (Tab B). He announced a Water for Peace program which he described as a massive cooperative international effort to find solution for man’s water problems. The specifics of the program include: (1) presentation to the next session of Congress of a plan and program for constructing practical prototype plants; (2) a call to all nations to join the U.S. in creating an international fund to bring the fruits of science and technology to all the corners of a parched and thirsty world; (3) an offer to contribute to an international crash program to deal with world water resources; (4) the convening within a year of another large conference to deal with all the world’s water problems; (5) an increase in U.S. support for scientists now working on water problems for the United Nations; (6) an offer to send our best experts abroad when requested; and (7) a program of grants and fellowships for scientists from other lands to study on water resources in the United States.3

Following his speech, the President witnessed the signing of the Mexico-U.S.-IAEA Study Agreement which provided for the study of the practicality of a large nuclear-powered water desalting-electric power plant to assist in meeting the needs of northwestern Mexico and southwestern U.S. Speculatively, the plant might produce over 200 million gallons of water per day and supply 300 megawatts of power.

In his closing remarks to the Symposium Saturday noon, October 9, Secretary Udall announced preliminary agreement with Saudi Arabia [Page 260] which would lead to construction of a dual-purpose plant for Jidda (5 million gallons of water per day and 36 megawatts of electricity) (Tab C).4

SCI sponsored, and Interior and AEC attended meetings with several country delegations to further our programs of cooperation in desalting. In addition to meetings with representatives of Mexico and Saudi Arabia, we met with the UAR, Israel, Italy, Greece, Kuwait and the USSR.

The Symposium provided a major impetus not only to U.S. efforts in the field of international desalting cooperation, but also to enlarging the area of cooperation to water resources generally. Although the “Water for Peace” program is at this point little more than a concept, it is a valid concept and one of undeniable and wide appeal.

It is clear that the Department shall need to make a major input into this program during the weeks ahead. In order to develop preliminary Departmental proposals on the “Water for Peace” program SCI has established a working group within the Department of representatives from E, H, IO, CU and AID. It is also intended to use, initially at least, the Committee on Foreign Desalting Programs to provide liaison with some of the other agencies concerned with this program.5

  1. Source: Department of State,SCI Files: Lot 68 D 152. Unclassified. Drafted by Salmon. Copies were sent to Ball, Mann, Thompson, and Sisco (IO).
  2. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, November 1, 1965, pp. 716–720.
  3. Tab B was not attached. The President said: “Let future generations remember us as those who freed man forever from his most ancient and dreaded enemies—drought and famine. And now our efforts to free him from the enemies of draught and famine will be extended to free him from ignorance by an international education program, free him from disease by cooperative health adventures together. And what a great satisfaction it would be to everyone in this room if at some future date we can point back to this year when the United States of America was willing to put forth leadership to free humanity from the ancient enemies of mankind—poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, disease, thirst.” The full text of the President’s statement is in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965, Book II, pp. 1054–1056.
  4. Not printed.
  5. On November 8 Rusk wrote to Udall proposing use of a similar structure to staff and implement the Water for Peace program. (Department of Energy, Archives, Records of the Atomic Energy Commission, Secret) The committee held its first meeting on December 10. (Memorandum from Pollack to Rusk, December 11; Department of State, SCI Files: Lot 68 D 152)