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: Dead floppy drive: Kenya recycles global e-waste

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

Dead floppy drive: Kenya recycles global e-waste

4 hours ago

In an industrial area outside Kenya's capital city, workers in hard hats and white masks take shiny new power drills to computer parts. This assembly line is not assembling, though. It is dismantling some ...

New paper calls for more carbon capture and storage research

9 hours ago

Federal efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must involve increased investment in research and development of carbon capture and storage technologies, according to a new paper published by the University of Wyoming's ...

Coal gas boom in China holds climate change risks

14 hours ago

Deep in the hilly grasslands of remote Inner Mongolia, twin smoke stacks rise more than 200 feet into the sky, their steam and sulfur billowing over herds of sheep and cattle. Both day and night, the rumble ...

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...