25 Apr 2017

My piece on water rights versus duties

I wrote this piece on the request of Learn Liberty. It's certainly worth a read if you're interested in how California -- and other places in the world with "rigid institutions" -- is vulnerable to paralysis in the face of changing political, social and environmental conditions.
Blame outdated rights for California’s water woes.

Most water policies reflect some balance of rights and duties. Farmers have right to use water but a duty to leave remaining waters intact for their neighbors. Urban dwellers have the right to receive drinking and wastewater services but a duty to pay for them.


We can apply these ideas to water, where the right to use it coexists with the duty to avoid harm; and government plays a role in giving rights and enforcing duties. Although some people assume that “the government” will manage the process in the public interest, there are many ways that this process can go wrong.
Continue reading here
Addendum: Here's a recent paper discussing reform of water rights LAWS


Ed Bourque said...

David, isn't this where your water auctions idea comes into play?

In addition to some fairness doctrine where one of the often voiceless stakeholder (nature) gets a say, shouldn't water use be moving towards higher value uses?

David Zetland said...

@Ed -- both of your points are "on the next step," i.e., deciding the nature/human split and reallocating to higher/better use (also with auctions!). My point here is that "dysfunctional rights/obligations have led to conflict with regulations that need to be reconciled with current social priorities...(perhaps with compensation)."

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