18 February 2011

Droplets of wisdom from Down Under

Last year, I talked to Mike Young in Adelaide about water policy in Australia.

He referred me to a series of "droplet" briefings that he had written with Jim McColl between 2006 and 2009. I finally got 'round to reading them recently, and I recommend them highly if you want to learn a little more about water policy in Australia or take some new ideas for use in your local area.

I've put a few reactions after each title.
  1. Stormwater: Expensive nuisance or an opportunity? Use credits to turn nuisance into opportunity, at lowest cost.

  2. Thinking like an accountant about rivers and aquifers How to do a proper accounting for flows (e.g., the Jordan River).

  3. Undermining water – Accounting for flow reducing activities A discussion of the tricky problem of knowing where the water goes, and who's allowed to divert it.

  4. Governance of large water bodies National, basin and catchment -- what to do where.

  5. Urban water pricing: How might an urban water trading scheme work? Cap and trade among urban consumers? You bet (similar to my idea for turning a human right to water into a property right).

  6. Irrigation Water: Use it or lose it because you can't save it! Storage smooths supply for irrigators, reducing the chance of shortage, increasing the value of water rights, etc.

  7. MDB Authority: Keeping the devil out of the detail Things to consider when managing the Murray Darling basin.

  8. The unmentionable option: Is there a place for an across-the-board purchase? A few thoughts on how to buy/retire over-allocated water rights in the Murray Darling basin.

  9. New water for old: Speeding up the reform process How to set up a register for water shares, to facilitate trading.

  10. Pricing your water: Is there a smart way to do it? Fixed charges plus increasing block rates are regressive ($50 + $1/unit means that someone who uses 10 units pays $6/each; someone who uses 20 units pays $3.50/each). Strong scarcity pricing is a good idea.

  11. Cullenisms: Thinking about water Wisdom from a recently-deceased colleague. Why meter water? "Disconnecting the fuel gauge might be one way to stop worrying about how much fuel might be left, but it's a pretty stupid strategy."

  12. A sustainable cap: What might it look like? Don't manage flows in a river with quantified diversions (hear that Colorado River?) -- use inflow sharing, storage, minimum base flows, etc.

  13. Grounding connectivity: Do rivers have aquifer rights? The interaction of aquifers and groundwater.

  14. Yucky Business: Paying for what we put down the drain Use a fixed charge plus percentage of inflow based on indoor (winter) use. Greywater credits? No (less sewage, yes, but higher density).

  15. Shepherding Water: Unregulated water allocation and management Trying to reform Australia's complex system of rights based on flow thresholds.

  16. More from less: When should river systems be made smaller and managed differently? Trying to maximize the "services" from shrinking rivers and lakes (e.g., Aral, Salton)

  17. Water-security: Should urban water use, like rural water use, be capped? Live within your supplies instead of assuming water will come from elsewhere (got that, Vegas? Beijing?). A cap will create incentives to conserve efficiently.

  18. Securing water: What is the best and fairest way to secure water for the environment? Maybe buy it, but certainly better to set a minimum flow that's shared by the environment and irrigators.
Bottom Line: Lots of good ideas here (with references) from some clever guys. I am stealing a few for my book :)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would be interested to know if you have studied the barrages at the end of the River Murray? Did you know that the barrages have changed the nature of the River Murray estuary from estuarine to fresh water? During the worst of the drought, the dry estuary or lake bed dries out. This is a man-made problem. Even Mike Young chooses to not comment on the barrages. Some background for you at this site http://www.lakesneedwater.org/barrages . Cheers.