Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Socialized Water Resources

Owning water resources in the desert is a novel idea, especially moving water such as rivers and streams.

The fact that litigation regarding various water "rights" has been stalled in Arizona courts for decades might lead anyone to the conclusion that water can't really be owned. . .at least not comfortably. . . and not in the sense that Arizona law seems to dictate.

The law is currently based on a "first use" concept.

Unfortunately, water is valuable in the Southwest because of its scarcity and attracts people who would try to own it -- and sell it.

What emerges is a suspicion that water, like the air, is a public commodity...that water may belong to everyone and should be handled that way.

If water is privately owned, on the other hand, the delivery of it is accomplished for a profit motive, not from the perspective that it is a resource necessary for living. Money is the motivator, at least on the supply side.

The current concept stretches the credulity of private ownership. I'd suggest, as an alternative, that all water resources be governed by a Public Utilities Commission that sets rates for consumers. And profit levels for suppliers.

What does a Public Utilities Commission do? It governs the utilities that gather, purify, treat, and deliver water to its customers. At least in that way water resources would be in a public trust and administrators would handle it for the public good.

Does this mean socialized water?

Of course...and, with "public" ownership comes equal distribution of the resource itself. If it belongs to everyone, a water resource manager could ensure that it is distributed more or less equally around the state.

That Water Resource Manager might operate from a measurable inventory of water resources or, at minimum, a rough idea of how much water exists. . . at least surface water.

There might be two provisos; 1. The resource not be irreparably depleted by use, and 2. Upstream uses not reduce downstream availability.

There could be a per capita allocation and possibly a cap-and-trade system for those who have wells.

Per capita? density limits? Look out your backdoor. The desert sets density limits of its own...and the limits aren't generous.

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