Although water management in the United States has never been fully consistent with these principles, the failure to design appropriate policies and organizational arrangements to address current problems has tended to widen the gap between principles and practices since the 1970s. Basinwide and watershed planning by environmental agencies has tended to focus primarily on water quality, ignoring interrelationships among multiple uses. Capturing economies of scale of multi-objective projects has become more difficult. Planning for protection, restoration, and water uses frequently lacks regional or basinwide perspectives, and information about the state of water and related land resources is outdated.
A basic tenet of water resource planning throughout the 20th century has been that river basins or watersheds, from their headwaters to their mouths, are hydrologically interconnected systems and should be treated as such in water planning. That principle was articulated well in the Report of the Inland Waterways Commission (1908). In 1927, the Corps adopted the principle as a cornerstone of planning in support of the Federal Power Act, and it remained a basic principle throughout the period of comprehensive planning in the 1940s and 1950s. In the 1960s, the WRC recognized that in some parts of the country, notably New England, regional economic ties extended across several basins, and that proper water resource planning should recognize significant interdependencies among activities affecting demand for water-based services.
With the passing of that era, the dismantling of the federal WRC, and enactment of WRDA '86, the nature of Corps projects fell into several categories, two of which are relevant to this review. One is the single-purpose, relatively small-scale project with primarily local effects, funded through cost-sharing arrangements with a single local sponsor. For purposes of this discussion, this kind of project is referred to as type A. It represents the largest number of projects that require individual authorizations by Congress. Type B projects are watershed- or basinwide scale projects focused more toward water management than construction. In several of these projects, reallocation of storage in existing systems is emphasized; in others, environmental outputs are the primary objective. Examples include the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa/Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACT/ACF) project in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida; the Everglades restoration project (Box 4.1); the Upper Mississippi Navigation Study; and the Missouri River Basin Operations Study. All of these involve a restudy of an existing Corps project or system of projects.
In type A projects, basinwide and regional perspectives within the Corps and the larger federal water apparatus have suffered. Gone are the days when generous funding was available to support basinwide analysis. The Corps now has the incentive to concentrate on individual projects of benefit to local interests who have