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Water Deeply Talks: Water Markets

Effective water markets in California could help solve some of the state’s water woes, but that is easier said than done. Water Deeply talks with experts about how to thoughtfully structure water markets.

Written by Ian Evans Published on Read time Approx. 1 minutes
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Groundwater well pumping into a holding pond on Cardello Winery.Citizens of the Planet/Education Images/UIG via Getty Images

In this episode of “Deeply Talks,” Tara Lohan, the managing editor of Water Deeply, discusses emerging water markets in California with Maurice Hall, the associate vice president of water for the Ecosystems Program at the Environmental Defense Fund, and Michael Kiparsky, the director of the Wheeler Water Institute at the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment at the University of California, Berkeley.

Markets might be effective at regulating surface water throughout the state, said Kiparsky, but where they are needed most is in regulating the state’s groundwater. Unfortunately, that might also be where markets are most difficult to implement. Groundwater is difficult to monitor and is usually only traded at a very local scale. In fact, groundwater is so local and so opaque that water managers can have a difficult time enforcing any market rules and catching cheaters. This is not a problem that is unique to California.

“Globally, effective groundwater governance is arguably the exception rather than the rule,” said Kiparsky.

Still, water needs throughout California differ so wildly that these small-scale local markets might be the state’s best hope for regulating groundwater. Hall pointed out that the Mojave Water Agency created one of the first effective groundwater markets in the state at a very local scale. To that end, data is key. Good groundwater data is difficult to collect, but it could allow water managers to implement durable, local markets throughout the state. “There could be 10 [markets], there could be 50,” said Hall, but by decentralizing them, every area could more effectively deal with their own unique water needs.

To find out more, you can listen to our full 35-minute conversation. To learn about upcoming Water Deeply Talks, make sure that you subscribe to our weekly newsletter by entering your email in the box on this page.

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