Is Water-banking the Key to California’s Water Woes?
It’s been a bad stretch of years for farmers in California…and things don’t look like they will be getting better any time soon.
Three years of consecutive drought in the state have ravaged the agricultural industry, leading Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to declare a state of emergency. The announcement was accompanied by pleas for municipalities to cut their consumption by 20% – or potentially face mandatory rationing.
Yet, because agriculture accounts for up to 80% of water use in some areas of the state, it is both the cause of the problem and one of it’s largest victims.
As a result, some farmers have turned to water banking . Water banking is a tool for leasing water for a limited period of time on a voluntary basis between willing water rights holders and users. Under such a system, upstream users are paid to abstain from using their water, so that more water will be available for higher priority users downstream. Yet, the owners of the land are not required to permanently sever their water rights from their land.
It’s a plan that could potentially alleviate water shortages in parts of the state, while providing economic incentive for those who have more water than they need to conserve.
Lawmakers have been pushing for the creation of a water banking system in California to ensure that municipalities, and other high priority users, will not be left in the lurch. There have been calls for the creation of a water bank that could transport as much as 600,000 acre-feet of water from willing sellers in the north to areas in the south that are experiencing severe water shortages. (For more information on water banking measures in California for 2009, follow this link.)
Yet, water banking can be complex and there are questions regarding how effective the system will be in the face of increasingly severe drought. We will explore some of the challenges associated with water banking in the following posts. Stay tuned for more updates on this topic, coming soon!
(This is the first in a multi-piece story regarding measures to cope with the ongoing drought in California.)