Unbundling Water Rights, Conversion from Existing to New Rights System, pg 15-16

Conversion from Existing to New Rights System

Yes, of course the first step in the process is to shut out all newcomers.  I do understand why.  However, this is just one more way that this proposed process rewards existing wealth holders.

The formula for issuing shares is clever.  The formula given only addresses appropriative rights.  With minor tweaking, it could include pueblo rights, and possibly also Indian rights.  I haven’t thought about how it would include riparian rights, but I am sure some clever graduate student could work in a formula that grants all riparian holders the same priority, perhaps adjusted by parcel size.

Issuing shares is where the first major qualitative change in right occurs.  That is the point where the most senior appropriative rights holder changes over from not experiencing any cuts until everyone with a more junior right has been completely shut off to accepting a proportional cutback with everyone else.

Then, a quick reminder that third-parties should have no say in trades and that trades shouldn’t be reversed.

I found this paragraph striking:

Unbundling of rights should reflect the status quo as closely as possible. In over-allocated systems, a case can sometimes be made for simultaneous re-assignment of shares, but unless there is broad community consensus about the best way to do this, great care needs to be taken. The entire conversion process can be destroyed by arguing that the existing regime is inequitable or that now is the time to give someone else an opportunity, to give additional shares to the environment, or both. As a general rule, these conversations are best dealt with separately from the process used to build a register.

Whatever you do, don’t use the conversion process as a time for redistribution, or introducing justice concerns, or anything other than preserving the existing wealth order. Do that separately from converting from old-style rights to water shares, says this paper, but even though I read to the end, we never returned to the idea.

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