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water plan: better to act than react

Here's an editorial about water from a North Carolina newspaper - http://www.salisburypost.com/Opinion/080108-edit-water-plan and it gets into issues pretty much all of us will be grappling with in the near future, if we aren't already.

I'm curious what people think of more government intrusion into water use, whether by regulation, pricing or whatever. I'm especially interested in what people think about this quote - "Municipalities and counties have little authority to regulate withdrawals of groundwater during droughts. Yet in counties such as Rowan, a majority of residents are on private wells. What safeguards could help sustain underground aquifers and other groundwater sources?" Taken to its logical conclusion, that could even mean metering & billing for private wells. The word socialist is only mentioned once in the comments following the article, but it's clearly what some people are thinking.

However, a similar thing recently blew up in NM, where a court recently ruled that the state's water laws were being violated by allowing homeowners to sink wells. Like other western states, NM's water law is the law of prior appropriation, meaning it belongs to whoever started using it first. When homeowners sink wells, they can be taking water already belonging to someone else. It wasn't government that sponsored the change, by the way, it was some of those prior appropriators. The state has appealed the ruling.

It's complicated and, since this is what I do now, I'm interested in the range of opinions about issues around water. People aren't shy about stating opinions at Terraforums, so I thought I'd ask. It's also relevant become environment often gets ignored in water wars and a few feet of drawdown can eliminate the homes of CPs and other wild things.
varies from state to state.....water laws and such are a much more gray area in the east than in the west.....i can tell you right now Montana is in the process of nailing down all its citizens water rights #1 to clear up legal disputes #2 we are looking to keep more water in the state.....ive got a close friend who is working for the state helping land owners bring their water claims up to date and getting on paper all its legal water rights......alot of land owners here are looking to use this to help control how much water the feds are letting out of the state through their control of the dams on the Missouri.......think oil is high.....wait 50-75 years from now a good solid water right out west will be worth big $$.....two things out here you dont give up cheaply now are water rights and mineral rights and we arent likely to ever be hurting for water.....however we arent terribly interested in having ppl down stream telling us what we can and cant use......
Here is the Great Lakes region, we are sitting on the largest supply of fresh water in the world..there has been a lot going on lately between the US, the states bordering the lakes, and Canada, concerning protecting the water in the Great Lakes..

such as passing laws to prevent any tanker in the world from coming in, filling up with water, and heading back out to somewhere else in the world.

Right now, we are pretty "safe" with the supply of water we have..the USA and Canada have an amazing resource in the Greal Lakes...but as time goes on, the whole world is going to be eying those lakes...im glad people are working to protect that water supply even now..

In California, water is a HUGE issue. We've got agriculture in the middle of what was deserts, aquifers moving huge amounts of water to the Southern part of the state, a good portion of the state's energy in to moving that water, densely populated cities in desert areas, and we boarder a LOT of coast.

Wells are a particularly big issue here due to our proximity to the ocean. We draw water from the ground too quickly for it to be replenished naturally. The void is usually filled by saltwater. Salt water intrusion causes people to move their wells further away, or just move deeper. We're not addressing the problem, only the symptoms. Since ocean water is fairly salty, it stands to reason that it doesn't take much salt water to ruin a foot-acre of water.

Almost 20% of California's energy in 2005 went to moving water. (2005 Integrated Energy Policy Report)

It was a winter about 2 years ago that I saw my "local" reservoir filler higher than ever before; trees on islands and along edges of the body of water became fully submerged (and we're talking good, fullgrown Pines and the like.) Since then, California has been a bit dryer than usual and I've seen the reservoir go to the lowest I've seen it. Obviously, if we can go from one extreme to the other so quickly, we lack buffers, something is wrong with our usage and infrastructure.

Everybody worries "energy, energy, energy..." but it seems like we only have a few folks who remember water. It was, however, nice to see the issue recognized by Schwarzenegger and Pelosi in a recent bipartisan article that they wrote together.

however we arent terribly interested in having ppl down stream telling us what we can and cant use......

As a citizen in a state that relies on water from other state(s), I can tell you that it aint comfortable for us either. I'd LOVE to see California become more independent in its water needs.

But as long as some of the agricultural practices of California persist, water will be an issue. But maybe a little be of water shortage is just what we need to give everyone a kick in the rump to get them thinking.
People downstream from MT have legal rights to water in MT, just like CA has legal rights to water in CO. Anyone seen Chinatown?
yeah Bruce but the issue becomes if our water rights are properly documented how do you say who gets what.....since the water comes through here first its kinda hard to force Montana residents to give up water to someone in Iowa or Missouri since we actually have it in our possession first....im fully willing to take the water rights(as in drinking and agricultural ones) of those down stream into consideration if we dont have to dump water out of our reservoirs to float barges on the Mississippi which is what is happening now.....i dont know what the right answer is but its going to be a very hot issue from here on out cause i dont see fresh water getting any more plentiful but the population is going to keep growing.....

EST unless you start distilling it from seawater on a huge scale California will never be water independent.....you have to many ppl and to much agriculture to support it with what water you naturally have..
Water law is a mishmash of state laws and federal laws and isn't enforced evenly, but MT has to let water flow downstream. The key problem in the west is that outrageously expensive federal projects are providing water for way below its value. Without the storage and elevation gained behind a dam, plus massive subsidies, a lot of western agriculture wouldn't exist. When I did some agriculture-related work in Maine, I thought about how Maine had some ideal citrus-growing soil and plenty of water, but it was too cold. All that was needed was federally-subsidized space heaters and then Maine could compete with citrus grown in deserts with subsidized water. It's the American way.