24 March 2011

Irrigation -- Australia WIN California FAIL

The New York Times blog (via JWT) has a nice summary of the differences:*
  • Water rights are separated from land and traded in Australia, but not in California.
  • Water rights vary with water supply in Australia, but not in California.
  • Surface and groundwater are jointly managed in Australia, but not in California.
  • Water goes to high-value crops in Australia, but not in California.
  • Irrigation efficiency is higher in Australia, but not in California.
Bottom Line: What are we waiting for? The end times are coming, but Jesus is not bringing more water.

* In case you missed Saturday's flashback, here are relevant posts from a year ago: Water chat with Mike Young -- An economist at the center (centre!) if Australia's debates over water policy and water markets, and Water chat with Tom Rooney -- the guy who makes lots of trades in those markets.

4 comments:

Francis said...

This is odd. For years you have railed against bureaucrats. Yet Australia has a far more bureaucratic system than California and you declare this a win.

David Zetland said...

@Francis -- please quantify that claim ("far more bureaucracy"), wrt water sales/marketing in Australia and California. Feel free to point out that there are no markets in California due to excessive or ineffective bureaucracy.

Francis said...

hmm, looks like my last comment got bloggered. Let's try again.

1. Claim -- Water rights are separated from land and traded in Australia, but not in California.

Response -- False. Water rights are separated from land, sold and leased on a regular basis in CA. See, eg, Chino Basin, IID - SDCWA (but you hate the QSA), MWD's lease of various ag rights, CLWA's purchase of SWP rights.

2. Claim -- Water rights vary with water supply in Australia, but not in California.

Response -- Really? Try telling this to South-of-Delta SWP and CVP contractors. This is beyond false; it's stupid.

3. Claim -- Surface and groundwater are jointly managed in Australia, but not in California.

Response -- Historically true, but increasingly less so. New legislation is forcing water districts to develop Integrated Groundwater Resource Management Plans.

Also note that groundwater management is inconsistent with your libertarian philosophy. Telling farmers that they can't pump water from beneath their own property is almost as outrageous as telling them what crops to grow.

3. Claim -- Water goes to high-value crops in Australia, but not in California.

Response -- As well it should. Junior rightsholders who plant high-value crops should either buy a senior right or take the risk of shortage. Why create a government bureaucracy to determine which crops are high-value and how to allocate between high-value and other crops when the 'market' can do the same? Coase would be appalled.

4. Claim -- Irrigation efficiency is higher in Australia, but not in California.

Response -- So? When shortages get bad enough, the economic incentives to do more with the same amount of water will drive investment. Note also that 'efficiency' in this context is extremely complicated. One farmer's wasted water is another farmer's groundwater recharge project.

5. Your claim -- there are no markets in California due to excessive or ineffective bureaucracy.

Response -- False. As you should know by now, the primary impediment to water markets is a lack of large-scale infrastructure. There is no reliable way of moving large amounts of surplus water across the Delta without serious environmental damage (yet you claim to not want a Peripheral Canal). There is no way to move water from Imperial County to San Diego County without using MWD's aqueduct. There is enormous political opposition to the Peripheral Canal / Tunnel; there is relatively little opposition to a Imperial County / San Diego County direct pipeline, but the residents of San Diego don't want to pay for it.

David Zetland said...

@Francis -- thanks for taking the time on these claims.

1) Those are exceptions to the rule. It's the opposite in Australia. Fail.

2) I know that you like calling me stupid, but you need to study the difference between permanent and temporary rights in Australia -- if you don't want to *sound* stupid (note the difference from your personal attacks). Fail.

3) So I am right, except for some desperate claims? And since when do libertarians agree that others can take your property? (Common pool groundwater if you're not seeing it.) Fail.

Your second #3) Water in Oz goes to high value via trade. Fail.

4) "Efficiency" appears to be the holy grail in politics (cf, Pac Inst.) so this is a useful result. If junior holders CANNOT buy water, then efficiency is irrelevant. Fail.

5) And how does SDCWA get access to the CRA? Not via infrastructure, but bureaucratic rules (in this case, MWD's board). DWR's drought Water Bank failed b/c of over-regulation. Fail.

Francis -- you've done a terrible job trying to... what? I don't know. Is it a personal insult that CA water management doesn't work? Let's admit that it sucks compared to Australia, even if it gives lots of work to water lawyers.

Zero for six. Not too good.