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Bureau of Reclamation

Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW., Washington, DC 20240


COMMISSIONER *Camille C. Touton

The Bureau of Reclamation develops, manages, and protects water and related resources in a way that is environmentally and economically responsible and that benefits the American public.


On June 17, 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., approved an act to appropriate "the receipts from the sale and disposal of public lands in certain States and Territories to the construction of irrigation works for the reclamation of arid lands." Pursuant to Public Law 161 (32 Stat. 388), which is popularly known as the Reclamation Act or National Irrigation Act of 1902, former Secretary of the Interior Ethan A. Hitchcock established the U.S. Reclamation Service (USRS) in the Geological Survey in July.

In 1907, the USRS separated from the Geological Survey and became an independent bureau within the Department of the Interior. Sixteen years later, the independent USRS was renamed the Bureau of Reclamation.

On August 4, 1977, President James E. Carter approved Public Law 95–91, which is also cited as the Department of Energy Organization Act. The law transferred the Bureau's power marketing functions to the Department of Energy (91 STAT. 578) as part of an effort "to secure effective management to assure a coordinated national energy policy" (STAT. 565).

On November 6, 1979, former Secretary of the Interior Cecil D. Andrus issued Secretarial Order 3042, which changed the Bureau's name to the Water and Power Resources Service (WPRS). On May 18, 1981, former Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt issued Secretarial Order 3064, which renamed the WPRS the Bureau of Reclamation (BR).

The BR posts its organizational chart in Portable Document Format (PDF) for viewing and downloading.


Codified statutory material dealing the Federal Government's reclamation and irrigation of public lands is found in 43 U.S.C. chapter 12. The Reclamation Act of 1902 is classified generally to this chapter.

Rules and regulations that affect public lands and that are associated with the BR are codified in 43 CFR 400–999 (subtitle B, chapter I).


The BR is the largest wholesaler of water in the United States. It brings water to more than 31 million people and provides 140,000 Western farmers with irrigation water for 10 million acres of farmland. This irrigated farmland produces 60% of the Nation's vegetables and 25% of its fruits and nuts.

The Bureau is also the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States. Its 53 powerplants produce annually more than 40 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, earning nearly $1 billion in revenues and generating enough energy for 3.5 million homes.

The BR's approach to water resource development has evolved over the years: from single-purpose agricultural projects to projects of multipurpose whose scope includes promoting water-based outdoor recreation. Recreation sites that are developed as a result of BR water projects rank among the Nation's most popular places for water-based outdoor recreation. These projects include approximately 6.5 million acres of land and water that are, for the most part, open to the public for recreation.

The BR also engages in conservation activities to support native species and their habitats. In partnership with Arizona, California, and Nevada, the BR implemented a program to conserve native species and habitats across the Colorado River Basin. In partnership with the Bonneville Power Administration, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and U.S. Forest Service, the BR implemented a project to increase mainstem and off-channel habitat in a segment of the Grand Ronde River. The BR also tries to prevent invasive quagga and zebra mussels from spreading. These bivalve mollusks adversely affect the natural ecology, which harms endangered native species. The disruption that they visit upon ecosystems can cause new listings under the Endangered Species Act. Mussel infestations threaten agriculture, navigation locks, and biodiversity that supports the Western outdoor recreation industry.

BR operations and facilities support flood control. Its programs also mitigate the effects of drought through contingency planning, resiliency projects, and emergency response actions.

Sources of Information

A–Z Index

The BR website has an A–Z index to help visitors navigate its content.

Archived Records

The "Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States" indicates that BR records have been assigned to record group 115.

Art Collection

In the late 1960s, the BR launched a program to present its accomplishments through art. The Bureau commissioned 40 of America's most prominent artists to visit BR water resource development sites and record their impressions on canvas. When the project was completed, the artists had created more than 375 pieces of artwork. In the early 1970s, the public had an opportunity to view much of the work in a traveling exhibition that was circulated by the Smithsonian Institution and entitled "The American Artist and Water Reclamation." The BR maintains about 200 pieces of the original artwork. Many of the paintings are on display at the Main Interior Building and some regional offices.

Business Opportunities

The BR purchases a wide range of products and services and supports various Federal socioeconomic development programs by assisting businesses. The Bureau also provides financial assistance for programs related to conservation, Endangered Species Act mitigation, rural water, and water management and reclamation and reuse. Phone, 303-445-2431.

Career Opportunities

The BR relies on professionals with expertise in administration, engineering and design, environmental protection, research, wildlife management, and other disciplines to carry out its mission. Career-related information is available from the nearest regional office or from the Diversity and Human Resources Office, Denver, CO. Phone, 303-445-2684.

In 2019, the BR ranked 121st among 420 agency subcomponents in the Partnership for Public Service's Best Places To Work Agency Rankings.

Climate Change Risks

The SECURE Water Act (123 STAT. 1329) is part of Public Law 111–11 (123 STAT. 991–1456), whose short title is the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. Section 9503(c) authorizes the BR to assess climate change risks for water and environmental resources in major river basins that it manages. Section 9503(c) also authorizes the BR to evaluate potential climate change effects on water resource management and development of strategies. Since the law's enactment on March 30, 2009, the BR has prepared two "SECURE Water Act Section 9503(c)—Reclamation Climate Change and Water" reports for the U.S. Congress.

"SECURE Water Act Section 9503(c)—Reclamation Climate Change and Water 2016" is the second and most recent report that the BR has prepared for Congress. In the report's first chapter, its authors wrote: "[The Act] recognizes that climate change poses a significant challenge to the protection of adequate and safe supplies of water, which are fundamental to the health, economy, security, and ecology of the United States." The next SECURE Water Act report is scheduled for preparation and delivery to the U.S. Congress in 2021.

Contact Information

Contact information for the Washington, DC, and Denver, CO, based offices and Upper Colorado, Great Plains, Lower Colorado, Mid-Pacific, and Pacific Northwest regional offices is available on the "Addresses and Contacts" web page.

Media contact information is posted online.

Contact information for the Acquisition and Assistance Management Division is posted online.

Cooperative Agricultural Weather Network (AgriMet))

In cooperation with local, State, and other Federal sponsors, the BR promotes energy and water conservation through AgriMet, which is a network of more than 90 automated weather stations that collect and telemeter site-specific weather data. The original AgriMet program started in the Pacific Northwest in the 1980s and was expanded into the Great Plains region.

Great Plains Region—

Pacific Northwest—

Environmental Resources and Reports

The BR maintains a list of links to online resources that provide environmental information.


The BR posts a factsheet on its website.

Federal Register

Significant documents, from 1995 (volume 60) to the present, and recent documents that the BR has published in the Federal Register are available online.

The BR maintains a "Federal Register Notices and Rulemaking" web page.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

The FOIA establishes a presumption that records in the possession of Federal agencies are accessible to the public. Before the law was passed in 1966, the individual had to establish a right to examine Government records. Passage of the FOIA shifted the burden of proof from the individual to the Government: A "right to know" doctrine replaced a "need to know" standard. The law established standards for determining records that must be disclosed and records that can be withheld. The law also provided administrative and judicial remedies for information seekers who have been denied access to records.

The BR maintains an electronic reading room that contains frequently requested records and documents that are currently of special interest. Information seekers should avail themselves of this online resource to determine if the information that they seek is immediately available and readily accessible without the additional step of filing a FOIA request.


Definitions for terms commonly used by the BR are accessible in its online glossary.

The BR maintains a separate online glossary of recreation-related terms.

Hydrologic and Meteorologic Monitoring (HydroMet)

The BR operates a network of automated Hydromet stations, including their communications and computer systems, throughout the Great Plains and the Pacific Northwest regions. The Hydromet network collects remote environmental and water data and transmits them via radio and satellite. The Hydromet network provides cost-effective, near-real-time water management capability. Streamflow forecasts and current river and resevoir operations conditions are then calculated by combining Hydromet data with other information.

Great Plains Region—

Pacific Northwest—

Invasive Mussels

Two species of dreissenid mussels, namely quagga and zebra, have become established in U.S. freshwater lakes, reservoirs, and rivers. Invasive dreissenid mussels pose significant challenges for all agencies and industries that manage water because they are prolific breeders and settle on or within water facility infrastructure.


The BR's website has an online search tool that allows visitors to search the electronic library catalog. External patrons may use the library, which is located in Denver, CO, by appointment only, 8:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m. Phone, 303-445-2072. | Email:

Multimedia Media

Links to BR's historic photographs and photograph database are available on the "Reclamation Multimedia" web page. Other links that lead to podcasts on water management and to Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds also are available. BR Social Media links include Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.


The BR posts news releases and stories, as well as congressional testimony, factsheets, photos, and speeches.

Outdoor Recreation / Cultural Activities

The BR participates in This partnership of twelve Government agencies provides information on all recreation facilities on Federal lands, including those owned and managed by the BR. Online visitors may use the website to make reservations at facilities requiring them.


The BR posts publications on its website.

Reclamation Manual

The BR's website has an online tool that allows users to search for keywords and terms in the "Reclamation Manual." The manual comprises a series of policy and directives and standards, which collectively assign program responsibility and establish and document agencywide methods of doing business.

Research / Science

The Research and Development Office publishes the quarterly magazine "Knowledge Stream," whose content centers on mission-critical news about research and science and on the challenges of managing water and generating power in the American West.

Water Conservation

The WaterSMART program allows all Department of the Interior bureaus to work with States, tribes, local governments, and nongovernmental organizations to pursue a sustainable water supply for the Nation by establishing a framework that provides Federal leadership and assistance on the efficient use of water, that integrates water and energy policies to support the sustainable use of all natural resources, and that coordinates the water conservation activities of the various departmental offices.

The Sources of Information were updated 2–2020.