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Would Australia’s water policies work for California?

Reforms proposed to address problems of users not paying the true cost of water, convoluted and inefficient water rights and environmental decline.

Wade Graham, adjunct professor of public policy at Pepperdine University, trustee of the Glen Canyon Institute and author, argues in an LA Times opinion for a new solution to California’s persistent hydrological challenges: follow Australia’s lead. Australia, the “driest continent on Earth” once suffered from many of the same problems that California does – users were not paying the true cost of water, water rights were convoluted and inefficient, and the environment was suffering.

In 2007, however, Australia enacted reforms that have dramatically improved its situation. Priority for water flow is given first to rivers, groundwater, and riparian ecosystems; second, to fundamental human needs of drinking, household use, and firefighting; and third, to other economic uses. After eliminating subsidies and barriers to water trade, this new system has allocated water more efficiently, shifted prices to better reflect the commodity’s value, and naturally incentivized conservation.

Graham claims that implementation of these policy changes would transform California’s water system into one based on “adapting to an unreliable climate, protecting our environment and communities first while increasing economic efficiency, and ending, not creating, a state of crisis.”

Read The water revolution California needs

Written by Stratecon staff