Monday, November 17, 2008

Water Efficiency info at your fingertips

I was recently clued into this site, courtesy of the good people at Aquafornia. This site includes a library of water efficiency related resources that should be bookmarked by anyone with an interest in sustainable water use practices. I haven't had a chance to search through it very much yet, but plan to jump in during the next few days.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Radical? ... I don't think so.

A recent article in Popular Mechanics suggests 6 radical solutions to water shortages in the Southwest. I guess if you are discussing strictly engineering solutions, those might be the most likely candidates. But those are ideas that have been under discussion for some time now and could hardly be considered radical. What about pricing water to reflect its true societal value? How about reallocation of water among use sectors, i.e. agricultural to municipal - which would be a natural result if water was priced sensibly and real markets existed. What about strict conservation measures? Not just reuse of existing water supplies, but e.g banning most outdoor water uses (where most water is used in arid areas) or tiered pricing structures create strong disincentives for excessive water use (as some cities such as Tucson now have in place). Now those are ideas I would call radical.
Their suggestion that removing salt cedar will increase supplies is debatable. Some recent studies (such as this) have indicated that salt cedar actually uses less water than many native tree species. I think the jury is still out on that assertion, but in any event my guess is that the possible gains from riparian modification are overblown.
Look for plenty of discussion on the topic of supply enhancement as long as drought in the Colorado River basin continues.
Speaking of which, I hope plenty of people saw the program on PBS recently about water supplies in the Southwest (called The American Southwest: Are we running dry?; it was on the local PBS station in Tucson last Thursday). It's message was slightly alarmist, but some good points were made.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

More on using water policy to manage development

I've been catching up on some other people's blogs lately and gathering loads of interesting and useful information. This post is from David Zetland's Aguanomics blog and contains links to some interesting policy proposals by Don Wood of the Pacific Energy Policy Center.
I think his proposal on implementing "net zero (water use) impact" development is interesting and ties in nicely with the City of Peoria's "Principles of Sound Water Management", which I previously posted on.
The main problem I see with his idea is that it will surely lead to more expensive housing (at least in the short term). Maybe longer term, innovation will create more affordable housing that meets the LEED standards he recommends. Or maybe that problem has already been solved? I'd love to hear from anyone that knows more about that than I do.

Shameless self-promotion

A short article based on one of my law school research projects has been published this month in Southwest Hydrology. The paper looks at the effect of differing legal regimes on the behavior of groundwater pumpers in adjacent areas of eastern New Mexico and west Texas. The paper can be found at the above link in the "On the Ground" section, under Property Rights and Groundwater Use.