Arizona Law Alumna Becomes the First Woman Commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Nov. 21, 2017

Brenda Burman (‘96) has been unanimously confirmed as the commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. She is the first woman to lead the agency.

Burman previously served as the bureau’s deputy commissioner for external and intergovernmental affairs and as the deputy assistant secretary for water and science during the George W. Bush administration.

The Bureau of Reclamation’s mission is to manage, develop and protect water and related resources in an environmentally and economically sound manner in the interest of the American public.

She will lead the agency of nearly 5,000 employees and assist in maintaining almost 500 dams and 330 reservoirs managed by the bureau across 17 Western states.

“Brenda is a wonderful choice to be the commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, which is the most important federal water agency,” said University of Arizona Law professor and water policy expert Robert Glennon, who taught Burman in his Water Law class.

“I’m not surprised at the trajectory of her career. She has so many talents,” Glennon recalled. “She’s a very bright, hard-working and even-keeled water lawyer who brings years of experience to the position.”

Glennon credits Burman with being the guiding force behind the 2004 Arizona Water Settlements Act, which she worked on while serving as legislative counsel for energy and water for U.S. Senator Jon Kyl. The federal legislation settled major Indian federal reserved rights and brought greater clarity to water rights across Arizona.

Burman’s prior positions include director of water policy for the Salt River Project, special projects manager at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and senior water policy advisor at The Nature Conservancy.