Kindra McQuillan at High Country News interviewed Dan Beard, former head of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, on his provocative new book Deadbeat Dams: Why We Should Abolish the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Tear Down Glen Canyon Dam:
(Dams) distract us. We’re mesmerized by the construction of new facilities, as if it’s going to solve a problem, and it’s not. The only way we’re going to meet future needs is to promote water conservation, reuse and efficiency improvement. Building a dam is a lot sexier than implementing a toilet rebate program, but the reality is, in an awful lot of communities, that toilet rebate program is going to have a bigger impact than any reservoir.
Beard, whose experience driving the Reclamation bus gives him a unique perspective on its problems, has interesting comments about the agency’s tangled incentives:
They never question the water nobility, they never look them in the eye and say, “Sorry, can’t do that.” The Bureau of Reclamation looks upon them as their clients, doing everything that the nobility says. The bureau works for the taxpayers, and it ought to be making the best decisions in the interest of all Americans, not just the narrow group of people who are receiving subsidies.