From the warehouse-sized where-have-I-heard-that-before department comes a piece in The Wall Street Journal by a couple of bean counters for the usually reliably liberal Brookings Institution suggesting that the socialistic means of water distribution doesn’t work.
The writers point out:
“Traditional solutions — diverting more water from rivers, building new reservoirs or drilling additional groundwater wells — are no longer ways to substantially increase the water supply. In a new report for The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution, we, along with co-author Peter W. Culp, propose that states use market tools to promote water trading. That is, farmers or other users who reduce their consumption should be allowed to lease or sell the conserved water.
“A major overhaul of Western water law is overdue, but implementing such reform would take years. In the near term, states should authorize short-term leases of water, build basic market institutions, deploy risk-mitigation tools such as dry-year options, and implement basic controls such as regulating how much water can be pumped. The current absence of viable market opportunities and incentives is producing perverse results.”
In November 2011 in a column that has long since disappeared into the ether, I suggested that the best way to allot water was through a free market.
I, of course, quoted Thomas Sowell’s comments from his book “Basic Economics”:
“There is no need for government officials to decide arbitrarily — and categorically — whether it is a good thing or a bad thing for particular crops to be grown in California with water artificially supplied below cost form federal irrigation projects. Such questions can be decided incrementally, by those directly confronting the alternatives, through price competition in a free market.”
Other commentary on this topic:
When it comes to water no one dares speak about free markets and cost competition
Stop thinking of water as a communal property, but as a marketable commodity
Just say no to the rural groundwater grab, once and for all
Nobody seems willing to address the one solution for making water available along the Colorado River
Commentary: Open market would solve water shortage problem
Water grab: The laws of economics trump the state and federal lawful approval
Let them drink whiskey — further blathering on water distribution
In that last one I quote Murray Rothbard, one-time UNLV professor of economics:
“If the government wants to conserve water and lessen its use, all it need do is raise the price. It doesn’t have to order an end to this or that use, set priorities, or decide who should be allowed to drink more than three glasses a day. All it has to do is clear the market, and let people conserve each in his own way and at his own pace.
“In the longer run, what the government should do is privatize the water supply, and let water be supplied, like oil or Pepsi-Cola, by private firms trying to make a profit and to satisfy and court consumers, and not to gain power by making them suffer.”