Cutting the Loss from Federal Irrigation Water Subsidies


Irrigation water, Taxpaying, Irrigation, Subsidies, Farmlands, Land ownership, Dams, Water consumption, Farmers


The Bureau of Reclamation recently announced that its prime mission since 1902--building dams to make the desert bloom in the American West--is pretty much complete. While never really admitting that its newer projects have been economically infeasible, Bureau management has at last recognized that the days of the big public water project are gone. The Bureau now plans to turn its attention and resources to other more pressing problems, such as helping other agencies with construction projects needed to cope with hazardous waste.

But getting the Bureau out of the dam-building business goes only part of the way toward solving some critical economic problems. For the Bureau policies have left a legacy--irrigation projects that supply water to farmers at subsidized prices--that will continue to impose costs on society greater than the benefits they provide. It is now time to take some steps also to bring those costs and benefits more into line

Original Publication Citation

Cutting the Loss from Federal Water Subsidies, (with Ray G. Huffaker), Choices, Fourth Quarter, 1988, pp.24-26.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Agricultural and Applied Economics Association




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor