23 Aug 2010

Disaggregated community water management

DR tells me about a VERY COOL project he's working on...
In Michigan, the legislature has adopted a law that makes all of the users of water in a catchment responsible for not having an impact on the resource. All property owners have a right to reasonable use of the water under their property. Riparians have a right to reasonably use the water in streams that abut their property.

If any new use has the potential to cause a problem to the critters in the stream- all users have to modify their uses. The hope is that this happens voluntarily and through private deals. It will, however, end up in court at some point and we’ll see what happens then.

This is all enabled by a web-based tool that anyone can use to estimate what would happen if, for example, a new well is placed in the watershed. Ecological impacts are estimated and displayed. If no impact is predicted, the system approves a permit and the well is registered with the state.

As of early this summer, some 170 new withdrawls have been reviewed, and only 25% of those now go to an agency staffer to review. Of all requests, less than 1% have been declined.
Check it out!


  1. Generally, the private solutions would be better, with government acting only as referee to private contracts. But it also depends on what sort of government one has. If it's a reasonable local government, then even #2 might be tolerable. But if it's a distant, unreasonable government -- what America now has -- then expect the worst.

  2. Doesn't this provide incentive to dig wells and whatever else you can think of to maximize your claim to water rights before water rights become scarce? Isn't this just a form of homesteading water rights?

  3. @Eric -- that incentive already exists, but this system registers those claims, a valuable service in itself. (And scarcity in the Great Lakes is still aways away...)


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