Pressure is building for President Bush to increase spending at the dam building US Bureau of Reclamation, as demand for more electricity and water grows in Canada and the western US states.

Philip Burgess, founder and a senior fellow at the New West Think Tank in Maryland, has warned the American House Subcommittee on Water and Power that the western states of the US are facing ‘gunfights over water’. Citing the 2000 census, Burgess said that all five of the fastest growing states – Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Utah and Oregon – are in the west. He added that although many refer to the intermountain west as the ‘empty quarter’, it is rapidly filling up with people, and that most of these people live in urban areas.

Recently Colorado and Kansas went before the Supreme Court in the latest replay of their decades-old fight over the Arkansas river. But William McDonald, the Bureau’s acting commissioner, said that there is only one major project planned to store more water in the west. This is southwestern Colorado’s recently-approved but long-stalled Animas-La Plata scheme.