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Whose Water? Ours! How to End California’s Water Crisis

The California Constitution says the water belongs to the people. Yet the state gives water almost free to agriculture–resulting in enormous waste and dire “shortages” during droughts. If the state were to charge for water, that would end the water crisis–and solve California’s fiscal crisis too. . . . → Read More: Whose Water? Ours! How to End California’s Water Crisis

Whose Water? Ours: Clearing Fallacies about Implementing Common Rights

The late Senator Albert Beveridge of Indiana in 1922 suffered the fate of Oregon’s Congressman Al Ullman: he was retired by the voters for proposing a national sales tax. Thereafter, he mellowed into being a scholar and biographer. In these philosophical years he wrote “You know, I’ve learned in the Widener Library at Harvard that most of what I was taught . . . → Read More: Whose Water? Ours: Clearing Fallacies about Implementing Common Rights

The Taxable Surplus in Water Values

Taxes or rental charges for water use are bearable and legal and would spur water economy, but the following fallacies impede acceptance of these ideas: (1) water rights are real property, (ii) a charge on water would be passed on to consumers, (iii) the cost of water is just its development cost, (iv) markets solve most problems if property rights . . . → Read More: The Taxable Surplus in Water Values

What Price Water Marketing? California’s New Frontier

We can multiply the value of output from limited natural water supplies by allocating them to higher uses. To this end we need a market in raw water, but existing markets work badly, for several reasons. Sellers are undermotivated, absent taxes or debt. Free groundwater subverts the pricing of surface water. Loss of elevation, and damage from effluents, and in stream . . . → Read More: What Price Water Marketing? California’s New Frontier

How a Water Market Might Work

This will not be a perfect market. There will be only one seller, and the buyers will surely form a user’s association. But this should not deter us. No human institution is perfect, except some that are perfectly awful. The present water market is one of these, and the point is to make it less awful. Maximum feasible improvement is the . . . → Read More: How a Water Market Might Work

The Water Giveaway: A Critique of Federal Water Policy

The many wasteful policies and procedures in federal water resources programs have been much analyzed by economists and other scholars. Agency benefit-cost practices have been found wanting. Benefit estimates have been biased upward and cost estimates downward. Environmental effects of projects, often adverse, are not weighted enough. I generally endorse the thrust of these criticisms and will not repeat them . . . → Read More: The Water Giveaway: A Critique of Federal Water Policy

Economic Aspects of Water Policy

This article reports what I as an economist think I have learned from the experience of the western states in economizing on water, which may suggest what eastern researchers might learn by directing some of their efforts toward sifting and evaluating the western history. This is one area in which history flowed backwards: the western evolution anticipated that in the East . . . → Read More: Economic Aspects of Water Policy

Irrigation Districts and Economic Development in the San Joaquin Valley of California: The Role of Land Taxation

The rapid growth of intensive irrigated agriculture in California is one of the more striking developmental achievements of modern tines. In 1870 California was noted for its cattle, wheat, and inordinate concentration o landholding. Today the highly developed farm areas of California look to the easterner more like gardens, and more like towns than countryside, so close are the homes, so . . . → Read More: Irrigation Districts and Economic Development in the San Joaquin Valley of California: The Role of Land Taxation

Water Law and Economics Transfers of Water: A Reply

THIS is a reply to Dean Frank Trelease’s comment on a case study of western water law as applied to the Keweah River, California. That case study finds diseconomies in water allocation, and lays much of the blame to water law. Dean Trelease Ends this “very disturbing,” which reaction I, in turn, find a little puzzling, since he is himself . . . → Read More: Water Law and Economics Transfers of Water: A Reply