Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Some Essential Elements of Water Conservation

Where funds are limited to do a set amount of work, it seems that priority setting should be an elemental and valuable undertaking.  In the case of water conservation, examples of priority setting perhaps may be:  1) anywhere a federal, state or local regulation or policy or court order exists to conserve water, lessen use, slow depletion, or however else a mandated or policy goal may be worded, that area should be prioritized over all other areas where no such goal, order or policy roadmap exists; 2) any area that is completely closed to new appropriation or development of water should be prioritized over all other areas that have no such restriction on new water development;  3) any area that is proposing a permanent reduction of water use should be prioritized over any area contemplating temporary reductions (unless there is a resultant price reduction for the temporary reductions which yield a proportional or less cost); and 4) those efforts reducing real, actual water use should be prioritized over efforts reducing unused (paper) water rights or phantom water use.

Summing up, conservation program funds should go first to anyone proposing, as a court ordered mandate or a state or local order or policy decision, to permanently reduce real, actual water use in areas formally closed to new water development.  This is where the most conservation will occur.  It's mostly a matter of common sense.  If you're really interested in water conservation, what good does it do to reduce water use where anyone can subsequently develop new uses?  Why reduce phantom water use or water rights - whether you pay for the reduction or not? 

These points should be considered carefully as we all look to next year's offering of the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) by NRCS.  AWEP is part of the 2008 Farm Bill authorized to assist ag producers in implementing agricultural water activities on agricultural land for the purposes of conserving surface and groundwater.  One of its stated goals is to help producers meet state and local regulations or the interstate compact compliance mandates of the courts relative to water conservation.  A careful look at last year's program, which doled out $57 million dollars for such conservation efforts, doesn't seem to fit much of my common sense priorities.  I'm hoping the 2010 program will do better.

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