Market Solution for our Water Wars

If water allocation is left to the legislatures and courts, rather than the marketplace, shortages will persist.

By Terry Anderson and Gary Liebcap

In the United States, water wars between states and between users are in full swing.

In 2001, the federal government cut water supplies to 1,400 farms in Oregon's Klamath River basin to protect endangered suckerfish and Coho salmon. Thousands of people affected by the decision rallied to support farmers by creating a bucket brigade to carry water to their dry irrigation canal. similarly, in 2009, the Bureau of Reclamation cut off water to farmers in California's San Joaquin Valley, drying up as many as 75,000 acres at a cost of approximately $350 million in lost agricultural production. A drought in 2008 -09 in the southeastern United States pitted Atlanta with its burgeoning populating against Florida and Alabama for control of water supplies. Such conflicts have led businessman T. Boone Pickens to predict that water in "the new oil."

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Defining Ideas- Hoover Institution
Terry L. Anderson is a senior fellow at PERC and the former President and Executive Director of PERC as well as the John and Jean De Nault Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His research helped launch the idea of free market environmentalism and has prompted public debate over the proper role of government in managing...
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 Growing up in Livingston, Montana, Gary Libecap was deeply influenced by the landscape surrounding his small town. In time, his professional interests focused on topics interwoven into the fabric of western society. He explores problems based on shared resources through the framework of property rights. Libecap studies the way outside factors...
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