[NB: I had a great time at the water footprinting thing; blog post to come.]
In this 40 minute water chat [7MB mp3], Rob Harmon of the Bonneville Environmental Foundation and I discuss how they have implemented a market for in-stream water in which farmers are paid to leave water in-stream (restoring ecosystems) in exchange for money paid by businesses and individuals.
According to Rob, these in-stream markets are only possible in Oregon, Washington and Montana, where laws ensure that farmers who sell water for in-stream use do not "lose it." That means that they cannot function in California until the legislature approves "a simple amendment" to water rights laws. What are we waiting for? (I am wondering how environmental water accounts in Scott Valley and elsewhere in CA are "legal.")
Listen to the whole chat and learn about who pays, how easy it is, how streams are chosen, how auditing occurs, and who's putting money at risk. Oh, and read this blog post for Rob's emotional reaction to seeing steelhead trout fry dancing about in the shallows of a previously-dry creekbed.
Rob and BEF deserve some prizes for this excellent work!
Oh, and I am interested to hear if these types of markets function elsewhere, clear laws or not, USA or not.
Bottom Line Farmers and environmentalists can trade water for money, leaving both better off.