The next reason it is hard to apply techniques from Australia’s water market to California’s drought is that I’ve never seen a description of what California’s water market would be. This isn’t my usual gripe about no-defined-goal. Even among people who want a market just ’cause they know it would be so great, I haven’t seen a description of what that market would be.
Next year, if it is a dry Year 5 and we heed the calls for a water market, what would we do?
- Intra-basin markets in the Sac Valley and the San Joaquin Valley? Those already exist, to some extent.
- More ag to urban transfers? To whom? City of Sacramento? City of Porterville, on behalf of East Porterville?
- More sales within each water project? Sales between the water projects?
What is the extent of the hypothetical water markets for better drought management? Is this all about Metropolitan Water District as a buyer? Or the districts that lay low on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley (Lost Hills, Dudley Ridge), as buyers? Is this all about Feather River water going to LA?
The different potential markets could use different pieces of the conversion process to Australian-style water markets. The first, less-mentioned, part of the Australian unbundling process for any type of market is setting instream flows and designating refuge water. Without trying to revise water rights into shares and allocations by next year, markets within the major valleys or water project could be facilitated with centralized complete water diversion information, a centralized exchange board, and upstream (and possibly downstream) carryover storage. But if “the market” that advocates really want is Sac Valley water for Southern California, then from what I read, we don’t need anything from Australia. We need more conveyance capacity through the Delta.
Without an actual proposal for a market (the region, the scope, the type, the intent), I can’t say whether anything from the Unbundling Water Rights report could be helpful. I don’t actually want to see water markets here, but if that’s where the momentum is going, we need some solid proposals. How big? WHY? What mechanism? WHY? Where, whom? WHY? Why, for the love of god? In small words about tangible things that people care about, WHY?!