Could cap and trade for water solve problems facing the United States' largest rivers?

May 17, 2012

Lake Mead, on the Colorado River, is the largest reservoir in the United States, but users are consuming more water than flows down the river in an average year, which threatens the water supply for agriculture and households. To solve this imbalance scientists are proposing a Cap and Trade system of interstate water trading. The proposal, published in Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA), builds on the success of such an initiative in Australia.

The research was inspired by a first-year university assignment by Noelani (Olenka) Forde, who was studying at Quest University Canada. Two years later Forde's assignment has led to the newly published research paper, co-authored with her then Professor Dr Rich Wildman, now a postdoctoral researcher and an environmental fellow at the Harvard University Center for the Environment.

The paper evaluates policy regarding the management of the and explores the of interstate water trading as a way to add flexibility into the system during times of .

Forde and Wildman examined Australia's successful Murray-Darling Basin interstate water trading system, to demonstrate the concept's viability for the U.S. The paper explores what features of the Colorado River Basin law and culture might act as barriers to creating a system similar to that in Australia.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is currently seeking to present with options for restoring the Colorado's imbalance. Forde and Wildman's paper has been published in response to the Bureau's solicitation for comments and ideas from the public for how to solve the problem.

Forde's original first-year assignment calculated the water balance of and asked what should be done if the users of the Colorado River face the prospect of running out of water in the next two decades.

"Olenka proposed a Cap and Trade system such as that being applied to CO2 emissions," said Wildman. "I had never heard of anything like this proposed for the Colorado River Basin, so I suggested we write a paper to share it with a broader audience."

Explore further: US proposes stricter ozone limits

More information: Richard A. Wildman Jr., Noelani A. Forde, Management of Water Shortage in the Colorado River Basin: Evaluating Current Policy and the Viability of Interstate Water Trading, Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA), Wiley-Blackwell, May 2012, DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2012.00665.x

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Colorado River Basin vulnerable to drought

Feb 22, 2007

A National Research Council study of the Colorado River Basin found that the area could suffer severe droughts as the climate warms and population grows.

River streamflow reconstructed to 1490

May 26, 2006

A tree-ring-based study of 508 years of the U.S. Colorado River streamflow confirms droughts have occurred that were more severe than those of 2000-04.

Rio Grande River basin snow is studied

Jul 18, 2005

A multi-million dollar, 10-year study is under way in the Rio Grande basin to track the water cycle from the river's Colorado headwaters across New Mexico.

Recommended for you

Education is key to climate adaptation

44 minutes ago

Given that some climate change is already unavoidable—as just confirmed by the new IPCC report—investing in empowerment through universal education should be an essential element in climate change adaptation ...

India court slams Delhi's worsening air pollution

10 hours ago

India's environment court has slammed the government over the capital's horrendous air pollution, which it said was "getting worse" every day, and ordered a string of measures to bring it down.

US proposes stricter ozone limits

21 hours ago

The US Environmental Protection Agency announced plans Wednesday to strengthen emission regulations for ozone, a smog-causing pollutant blamed for respiratory ailments affecting millions of Americans.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

rubberman
not rated yet May 22, 2012
Why not just invade a country with plenty of water, I'm sure they must be building nuclear weapons there...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.