18 Feb 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 :)