Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Water water everywhere?

Colorado Water Conservation Board

Colorado vows that downstream states and countries in accordance with interstate compacts and treaties will get every drop of water they are legally entitled to... and "not a drop more".

Western water law is an odd beast and by those treaties and compacts, court rulings, etc.  one third of the Colorado River water belongs to Colorado.  Western water law operates on the first use-senior claim premise, which means that a junior claim upstream can not pull water if it impacts "beneficial use" of a senior claim downstream.  Now I'm no lawyer but I believe that beneficial use is defined as "up to the point of waste".  Out here in the west water is and has always been a big deal.  Believe it or not, here in Colorado while you may direct the water from your downspouts towards your landscaping, it is illegal to collect and store the water unless you are permitted and own the surface water rights.

Colorado's new plan is to create storage for trillions of gallons of Colorado water that currently slips between our proverbial fingers on its way to the Gulf of Baja which it now seldom reaches.  Fortunately for me my water rights predate more than half the population of the state.  Fortunately for California... it's started to rain, so we're not at the point where bottled water as a vanity becomes the greatest invention since... bottled water as a necessity. 

An interesting question we need to ask is that if we have an interstate natural gas distribution grid.

 And an interstate electrical distribution grid.

Why haven't we considered an interstate water distribution grid?  It seems that we seldom have a national scarcity of water, we simply suffer from drought in some locations while others suffer inundation.  Now I'm a small government libertarian, but it is these types of national infrastructure projects that the federal government should be focused on, project for the general welfare of the nation.

Problems that are currently handled regionally, or by compacts by small numbers of states, for example the Colorado River Compact consists of Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California, have a national influence.  To illustrate, water rights can be bought and sold like any commodity, agricultural holders sell those rights to enable municipal development taking farm and ranch land out of circulation, decreasing the supply and increasing the price of food.  The problem is that it is a dead end street, once water rights are allocated to a municipality, there is not a municipality that can turn around and sell them again, and all this is done without a coherent national policy.  As watershed water is diverted to municipalities farmers resort to aquifer water for irrigation, as the aquifers deplete, there is no alternative source for replenishment.

What do you think?

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