In 1902, Congress passed the Newland Act which called for "...appropriating 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."

Named after its chief sponsor, Sen. Francis G. Newlands, the act calls for setting aside the proceeds from the sale of public lands in sixteen Western states as a fund for the development of irrigation projects. In the future, settlers benefitting from these projects were to repay the costs of these projects, thus creating a permanent revolving fund.

The importance of this Act is that, through Theodore Roosevelt's vision, it committed the Federal government to support, and ultimately, control the large-scale irrigation projects which forever transformed the landscape, economy, and sociopolitical structure of the western United States.