Unbundling Water Rights: Issuing and Accounting for Allocations, pg 17-18

When I read this section the first time, my reaction was that if we had metering on every water right, linked to an online “bank-like accounting system”, we’d be in such a different world that a water market would be a nearly trivial addition.

As always, I am not sure why the emergence of water-brokering businesses is a good thing.  I can tell from the writing that it is, but don’t know why.

This time, as I read it, I may have just understood something new.  The discussion of unregulated systems made me realize that the Australian version of this happens in an entirely controlled river basin.  Every piece of water in the system is fully under human control; they can choose when to release it or hold it back, presumably to match the totals in the traded bank accounts.  That is so far from the case here.  There are unmanaged tributaries, return flows, direct rain events.  We barely have enough gauging to know how much water is in the reaches of the major rivers, and the funding for even those gauges is perennially at risk.  Our reservoirs may or may not have capacity to hold substantial water from year to year.  Even if they have the physical capacity, their storage is governed by flood control rule curves and those will not be violated because someone downstream is holding back water to sell next year.  Changing that would require the U.S. Congress to change each reservoir operations manual.  Fucking Australians with their simple-ass systems, come here to suggest physically impossible management.  Honestly, they need new hobbies.

There is a paragraph about how adjust this for unmanaged systems (which is how I realized the default expectation is a fully regulated river basin).  I understand their suggestion for issuing shares in flow rates.  But what I don’t understand now is the extent of each market.  Each river basin (magically monitored and controlled) is its own market, and trades within that market are super convenient?  But trades along the major rivers of California already take place.  Trades along rivers would be east-west trades, good for getting water to agribusiness on the West Side of the Valley, but not for moving ag water to the cities in the south.

The more I read this paper, the more I don’t understand how to apply it here.  That’s probably why the paper is about converting to a market-based system in Nevada.  Sweet simple Nevada, where even Australian ideas might be progress.


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