Friday, November 06, 2009

Looking at a Tiered-Water Severance Tax

A tiered-water severance tax is worth reviewing in addressing the issues of raising revenues and developing research and development. This would be assessed to municipalities and irrigator associations and water authorities based on the allocated supplies of state water. The fund established by this would be applied to R&D to upgrade infrastructure, increase urban and rural conservation and develop new sources of supplies.

User fees can never be equitably assessed when individual users are put side by side. Farmers will inherently use more water then individual residential users. But, by assessing the water districts, etc., you create a scenario for self-motivated conservation measures that will demonstrate greater changes in the volume of water consumed. By putting equivalent amounts of consumption as the point of assessing cost formulas, such as urban use and agricultural use, you increase the ability to change individual behaviors not only by increasing the costs to individual users but also making wasteful management have a cost associated with it.

The equity lies in establishing formulas that are based on accurate compilation and measurement of water use and projecting the scenarios that define the most efficient means of reduction of consumptive uses.

The goal is not to simply transfer water from one basin to another, as is so often done in California. The goal is to define the priority of regional uses in the context of local entities that are responsive to local needs and concerns. Very few people advocate true-cost pricing when it comes to water. But the source of most the opposition is that there remains the myth that water can continuously be delivered below cost without real consequences. Urban users think water grows from a tap and agricultural users think it comes from the ground. So the problems create a repetition of responses rather than substantive solutions.

If water is piped into L.A. then why shouldn't it be piped into the Central Valley just as "easily".

Because aqueducts are not a solution, just an avoidance of the issue. A tiered-severance tax says, if you want it you have to pay for it. It also provides the funding for the regions that is connected with the consumptive uses and provides an incentive for reducing them. I personally think this can be done by stakeholders, the environment, the science and the local water managers integrated into a regional water planning authority that defines its water budget, uses the most accurate data, develops regional priorities and implements a 50 year plan moving towards the goal of regional self-sufficiency for the water resource. This doesn't mean that surface waters can't be used locally, but it does mean that the allocation of them needs to be in the context of available supplies and uses upstream and down.

We need to pressure state legislators to begin to empower their localities to make their own plans and the state needs to provide ways for them to reduce consumptive use. Solving problems together will accomplish more in the long run then just watching the state legislature pass around the pork. A tiered-severance tax will incentivize conservation and effective water management. let’s try something that has a chance of actually working. For a Change. And by all means, let's keep it Green.

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