150. Action Memorandum From the Acting Director of the Office of International Scientific Affairs (Pollack) to Secretary of State Rusk1


  • Water for Peace Program

As you may recall, you and Secretary Udall agreed last November to set up an interdepartmental committee to produce a report recommending what the United States, with other nations, should do to contribute to the solution of water problems throughout the world. (Tab B)2 Interior chairs the committee and you named me to represent the Department. A task force set up for the purpose has prepared a draft report and our committee is now considering final recommendations. The Interior Department is proposing that these recommendations be submitted by you and Secretary Udall jointly to the President. Since we will be at the final drafting within a few days, it would be helpful to have your reactions at this time.

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This endeavor goes back to a speech (Tab C)3 the President made last October 7 at the Desalting Symposium in Washington in which he announced the beginning of a Water for Peace program. This speech has been the main source of guidance for the Interdepartmental Committee and its Task Force. The essence of what he said was to call upon other nations to join us in creating an “international crash program to deal with the world’s water resources” and a special international water fund. He announced his intention to convene within a year an international conference “to deal with all the world’s water problems” and his support for international research programs and other efforts to improve knowledge and skills in the water resources field.

Our Committee has selected twelve from the comprehensive recommendations in the draft report of the Task Force that seemed especially appropriate for priority attention and action. (Tab A)4 In arriving at these, the following considerations were relevant:

We singled out community water supply for the direct personal use of people as warranting high priority. This is also fully in line with the emphasis in the President’s speech. However, we recognized that water resources are only one important economic resource and that plans and programs for water projects must be based on each country’s own broader development needs.
We found that in virtually all developing countries there is a lack of understanding of many aspects of their water problems, lack of basic data, lack of trained personnel and, in short, an inability to deal with their problems. Hence, we placed a high priority on training, education and related efforts to improve this situation.
Capital assistance will be required in larger amounts than in the past, but in the immediate future existing international sources seem adequate. We should be watchful to see that capital sources are replenished if and when needed to finance expanded water development projects. The obstacles to establishing a new international fund for water projects at this time are formidable and it has not been included in the initial program. If normal international sources are ever inadequate, we should, of course, reconsider the idea and explore with others the desirability of forming a special international water fund.
Desalting has an especial appeal; it is dramatic; the United States has a leading position in this field; large-scale projects might well contribute to technological progress. We favor using this technique in areas where it makes good economic sense. The relative costs of other [Page 273] methods of providing new water must always be weighed. We realize that certain imponderables, including political considerations, should be taken into account. Each case should be judged on its individual merits.
Although the United States has done a good deal to assist other nations to improve their water resources, it is in our interest to follow through on President Johnson’s initiatives and to provide new leadership and stimulus to efforts to solve the world’s water problems. International water programs are closely related to food and health programs, in which the United States is very active. We also would appear to have a responsibility and an opportunity to be of all possible assistance in this critical area. We should embrace the opportunity as a contribution to our foreign policy objectives to help bring peace and well-being to mankind.
The United States is not only doing a big bilateral job through AID but it supports the multilateral water programs carried out under the United Nations family and affiliated international banking institutions. Yet our efforts and those of other countries are not keeping pace with global needs. The water problem, like the food problem, is partially the result of the population explosion.
It is tentatively estimated that the priority recommendations might cost about $30 million the first year, $50 million the second year, and might level off at about $90 million the third year. These are still very rough estimates. We do not plan to suggest any specific year for the first year, leaving the White House strategists to decide whether an FY–67 Supplemental is desirable or practical.

At the moment it is not clear what sort of draft legislation, including appropriations, should be suggested to the President nor can I indicate very precisely when the report will be in your hands. It is possible you may have it by the end of June.

In this memorandum I have tried to give you a brief picture of the course we are following and some of the rationale behind it. I would appreciate an indication as to whether you subscribe to the program as it is evolving.


It is recommended that you

1. Approve the priority recommendations at Tab A.5


2. Meet with SCI and IO to discuss the Water for Peace Program.6

  1. Source: Department of State,SCI Files: Lot 68 D 383. No classification marking. Drafted by Lightner (SCI) and Pollack and cleared by Kotschnig (IO). Also sent to U. Alexis Johnson.
  2. Not attached; see footnote 5, Document 144.
  3. Not attached; see footnote 3, Document 144.
  4. Not printed. The recommendations included establishment of a Water for Peace office and sponsorship of an international Water for Peace conference in May 1967.
  5. U. Alexis Johnson approved this recommendation on June 16.
  6. No option was checked.