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🗣️ "Water In The West: Bankrupt?"

The Indicator from Planet Money

Photo by Melinda Gimpel / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Hosts: Stacey Vanek Smith & Cardiff Garcia
Guest: Christine Klein | Professor of Law | University of Florida
Category: 🗣️ Opinion

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[0:50] “If you've ever been in Denver, underneath the Golden Dome of the Capitol, there's what I think of as a cathedral to water. And it has a poem and it starts with, “Here is a land where life is written in water.” So it's just cannot overstate the importance of water in the West.”

[3:01] “The lore is that Western water law began in the mining camps. So if you think about the gold rush in California […] in the 1850s, […] it was trying to decide who gets to use water for various purposes. […] The basic doctrine is first in time, first in right. So the first party to take a certain amount of water, put it to beneficial use without waste, and they would be entitled to every last drop of their water right until the next most junior person was entitled to a single drop.”

[4:04] “The Colorado River Compact from 1922 allocated 15 million acre feet of water, thinking that was what we had, and that was an exceptionally wet year. And so they divided a pie that's bigger than we've really had. […] If you added up all the water rights people have on paper, […] nature in some years can only provide just a fraction of that amount. And in extreme cases, […] parts of California being over-appropriated 800%.

[6:00] “We're having instances where farmers and ranchers are almost to the point of armed conflict with water managers that are holding back water for fish. It's not working, if we're to that point where we're so water stressed that we just can't work together. We just need a reset.”

[6:42] “If you think about real bankruptcy, it's when someone can't pay their debts. And if you think in the water law context, most of the Western States, perhaps all, are in a situation of too many promises, too little water. […] Everyone has to be to the point where they're frustrated enough, they're willing to give a little to get a little. And so in water law, what would that mean? It might mean a little bit different allocation [of water rights] that’s a little more sustainable.”

[8:05] “No matter what we do, we have a lot of stress ahead of us, a lot of climate and water stress. But I'm just trying to think of a way to make it […] the least painful that we can make it.”

Rating: 💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 10 min | 🗓️ 08/30/2021
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