Scarcity is sparking quarrels with national neighbors, too
America is at war with itself over water
Can people be motivated to share water the same way they can be spurred to share land -- that is, by taxing its value? The below is from MoneyWeek (an English ezine of financial stories and how to profit from them) of Feb 29, which got it from a free daily email, ‘Garry Writes’.
by Garry WhiteWhen I discussed water wars there was one country I did not mention… that’s the US.
While I am not expecting armed conflict in the country just yet, it has started fighting water wars already using a very American weapon… lawyers…
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago the dispute between Georgia and Tennessee over the border at Lookout Mountain. This fight is for access to watercourses around the Tennessee River that would allow Georgia to quench the thirst of the baking city of Atlanta… but Tennessee wants the water rights to itself. This dispute over the borders is expected to go all the way to the Supreme Court… and it is probably the first of many.
Then there are the Native Americans…
Tribes in the west have their rights enshrined in law… In 1908, the Supreme Court gave tribes the primary rights to streams on their reservations. Not all tribes had taken up these rights; 19 in total in the US west did not. However, they are now starting to take their legal water rights very seriously indeed…
An article in USA Today this week claimed that tribes in Montana, New Mexico, Idaho, Nevada and California were on the verge of securing their claims. The result: non-Indian agricultural producers are expected to have less water for their crops or to have to pay more for it to the Native Americans.
This will be a fierce battle. David Gover, an attorney for the Native American Rights Fund in Colorado, has even said publicly that the diversion of Indian waters by non-Indians was "a direct attack on their resources." Bob Sill, who grows barley for Anheuser-Busch beers in Montana, said that growers are worried that the allocation sought by the local Blackfeet Tribe would reduce the value of their 80,000 acres of irrigated land… it will also increase the cost of their crops… margin will be squeezed and their goods will ultimately cost more.
But isn’t all this just down to the weather… If they get more rain next year won’t it go away?
Well, no actually…
John Abatzoglou of the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno believes that rain in the US southwest was expected to fall 10%-20% by 2050… and food demand will rise because of population issues…
By 2050, the US population is projected to increase by 47% from 296 million in 2005 to 438 million. The majority of this boost will be caused by immigration, as it will in the UK. All these people will need water and food…
And then there’s Mexico…
The Rio Grande delineates the border between the two countries… which have been in dispute for decades over water. The latest action involves South Texan farmers, who are taking the country of Mexico to court in Canada. It’s all to do with a historical dispute of water rights from the 1990s.
A private group of US-based water rights holders is using the North American Free Trade Agreement to challenge the long-term practice by Mexican farmers to divert water from the Rio Grande before it reaches the US.
And then there’s Canada…
In 2006, for the first time since 1817 US ships on the Great Lakes were armed with machine guns. While the reason cited for this is security… water rights are likely to play a factor too.
A joint commission set up to oversee these waters was bypassed by the governors of the American states bordering the Great Lakes, who passed an amendment to the treaty governing the lakes that allows for water diversions to new communities off the basin on the American side. Canadian protests fell on deaf ears in Washington. They are at war with Canada on the issue, but there has been no gunfire yet. Well, apart from a number of gun tests where thousands of rounds were fired into the lake. These waters have always been considered joint US-Canada waters… It appears that the American government has other ideas.
Water wars have hardly started yet… but expect more and more events as the population grows. The Southwestern part of the US is suffering significant water stress. This is just going to get worse.
JJS: Yet it need not get worse. People could adopt geonomics, an economic policy that drives efficient sharing of resources. First, get rid of subsidies to agri-business and other industries that waste so much water. Second, charge those taking water its full market value. That’ll make alternatives like reclamation and recycling cost-efficient. Third, use some of that raised revenue to pay citizens a dividend, so they’ll always be able to afford water as it grows expensive. And fourth, remove taxes from labor and capital, to make it more remunerative to invest in water treatment. Why use water once then throw it away when people can keep reusing it over and over? As people would, once prices told them to.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
Attempts to Make a Water Monopoly Result in Violence
Middle East Water Conflicts Escalate
Himalayan Water Problem
Email this article Sign up for free Progress Report updates via email
What are your views? Share your opinions with The Progress Report:
Page One Page Two Archive Discussion Room Letters What's Geoism?