“If you think about it, the rules, the laws that govern water in the West were created in the 19th century. And yet here we live in the 21st century,” Ralph says. “Weather predictions have been improving over the last decades.”
Time to seriously look at the problems in our water systems. The problems that show up in the press like Flint, or the Cali drought are only the tip of the iceberg. Systemic improvements and infrastructure upgrades are needed.
Like fossil fuels, water is another case where we are not paying the true price of the resource we’re consuming. We need to price continual improvements and upgrades into the cost to users.
These problems are compounded by an antiquated system of regulations, dysfunctional water markets, policies that encourage overpumping, and contracts that discourage conservation by requiring customers to pay for water they don’t use. These approaches depress investment and inhibit innovation.
Regulations can ensure that the first few gallons per person per day are cheap or free, with escalating costs beyond that. Water for necessities such as drinking, cooking and hygiene should be affordable. Beyond that, water for lawns, filling swimming pools, washing cars and other uses should be more expensive.
The water industry’s risk-averse culture has resisted innovation. Higher prices and government-backed research and development could help prompt a wave of innovation and investment. This is what happened with hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, two technologies advanced through government research that kicked off the shale boom.
The water problem is daunting. But putting a sensible price on water to invite investment and encourage conservation, increasing the availability of information and doubling down on innovation can go a long way toward solving it.
Our Water System: What a Waste http://nyti.ms/22Bnqv3
It’s the ancient system of water rights and the current morass of water legislation that’s to blame for the problems caused by the drought.
Instead of asking eaters to wade through this complexity every time they pick up a fork, we need policies that make water expensive for farmers in places where it’s scarce. A market price for water would simply eliminate inefficient crops.
And, in fact, California already has a functioning water market … with one massive market failure: It’s still legal for landowners to pump as much water out of their ground as they can in many places. And it’s that market failure that is causing the true shortages in poor farming towns.
The important part of the article is that they can do something in California to adjust and adapt.
What’s hard for Californians, Americans, and the world at large to accept is that there is a new normal and we can’t keep doing things the same old way.
Eliminating 150 year old water rights is a good start. Let farms compete as businesses with access to scarce resources.
A Wet Winter Won’t Save California http://nyti.ms/1LnFVN1
The drought out West has brought the insane water use issues out there to national attention again. The way water is being apportioned and used is not at all inline with whats best for the citizens out west, the free market, or the country in general. Unfortunately things are stuck that way out there because of some old outdated laws and practices. Time for change.
What we have now, he added, is “a government bureaucracy that gives the most powerful interests all the water they want, for low cost.”
A freer water market would almost certainly revolutionize water consumption in the West. You’d see more high-priced crops like almonds and fruit, less alfalfa for export, probably fewer dairy farms in California and perhaps more microchip manufacturing. “It would change the economy,”
“If people who owned water rights could make more money by selling them rather than using them locally, and they could move it … I’m absolutely certain it would change the face of water use in California.”