Market-Driven Solutions to Economic, Environmental, and Social Issues Related to Water Management in the Western USA

A Water and Marine Sustainability Month Feature Article


Still water with Duckweed, Czech Republic. Original Image.

Jordan A. Clayton  of the Department of Geosciences, Georgia State University has published an interesting analysis titled „Market-Driven Solutions to Economic, Environmental, and Social Issues Related to Water Management in the Western USA,“ the abstract of which reads as follows:

Water management issues continue to plague the western United States, including rapid population growth, degraded aquatic ecosystems, unfulfilled claims to American Indian users, the threat of global warming, an economic recession, and many other issues. This essay outlines some advantages of market-driven reforms to the management of water resources in the western USA. Historical and contemporary western water resource issues are examined from economic, environmental, and social viewpoints. In all such contexts, it is argued that regulated water markets provide flexible and just solutions to western water dilemmas, and reallocations may provide much-needed additional water supply.

It is increasingly recognized that international competition for water resources may lead to conflict , particularly where resources are diminishing. A microcosm of the international situation occurs in the United States, where conflicts over water resources in eastern states have become more numerous in recent decades; in western states water disputes have been more commonplace. It was recognized early on that the arid conditions that affect much of the western USA would limit widespread development and precluded western regions from adopting the riparian water law system used in eastern states. However, the strict seniority principle that was adopted to govern water law in the West, the prior appropriation doctrine (described in detail below), remains problematic because it does not consider societal values of different market uses of water, sets up barriers to water transfers, ignores the legal owners of the water (the federal and state governments), ignores the nonmarket players (such as environmental and aesthetic concerns), and disadvantages or poorly represents impoverished communities. It is suggested herein that market-driven solutions to these problems may be incorporated into the existing appropriation scheme and may be best-suited to resolve difficult and complex western water allocation issues.

Read the full paper in PDF format by clicking here.

Citation: Clayton, J.A. Market-Driven Solutions to Economic, Environmental, and Social Issues Related to Water Management in the Western USA. Water 2009, 1, 19-31.

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