From ABC Rural (Clint Jasper):
For Colorado State University senior water and climate research scientist Brad Udall, many of the problems with the management of water in the CRB come from the “antiquated” First in Time, First in Right system, under which owners of water rights that have held them longest are the last to have allocations cut off, regardless of how they are using the water.
Mr Udall has visited Australia a number of times, at one time being the South Australian water department’s visiting scholar.
“Australia has used water markets to minimise economic costs during droughts and we need to move toward water markets here,” he said.
“It has been very painful to get that in place and historically the powers that be don’t like it, and they feel like it does too much damage to existing interests.”
Australia’s water reforms were born out of crisis, which Mr Udall believes is not too far away for the CRB.
But he says a pre-existing framework of “shared risk” in the Murray-Darling Basin meant the introduction of water markets in Australia was easier than it will be in the USA.
“Australia continued to allocate water rights until the government imposed a cap on overall use in the late 1990s,” Mr Udall said.
“Effectively what you did was dilute shareholders and at some point in time existing shareholders said ‘hold on: we’re all going to be damaged if you don’t limit future water rights’.
“Our prior appropriation system lets people continue to get water rights today, even though there is no water.
“And so there is no collective sense that ‘we’re all being harmed here – we need to do something about it’.”[…]
“I know within Australia there are lots of complaints and criticisms of what you have done, but relative to what the United States’ water management looks like, you are on another planet, you are operating in a different century. It is amazing what you have done,” he said.
More Colorado River Basin coverage here.