Restoring Harmony in the Klamath Basin (No. 27)


Today, the agricultural region surrounding the Klamath River, which straddles southern Oregon and northern California, is embroiled in conflict. For a century, farmers have used the Klamath's water for irrigation, but the federal government and Indian tribes have strong claims to the irrigation water as well. In 2001, the federal government cut off water to farmers in order to protect two endangered fish, an act that aroused anger and caused financial distress.

"Restoring Harmony in the Klamath Basin" explains how this conflict developed and offers a solution—markets in water. Written by Roger Meiners and Lea-Rachel Kosnik, this paper persuasively argues that clarification of property rights to water is fundamental to ending the crisis. If these rights are clarified, voluntary markets in water can set the stage for a more harmonious future in the basin.

Lea-Rachel Kosnik is an adjunct professor at Montana State University and was a PERC Research Associate when preparing this study. Kosnik received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles.
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 An economist and lawyer, Roger Meiners defends the superiority of the common law--legal traditions developed through the courts--over federal regulation. In his view, the success of markets is intertwined with the common laws strong protection for property rights. Common law protects the environment by allowing individuals to take action against...
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