World
Amid Drought, California Experiments With Leasing Water Rights
California’s cities need water. Its farmers have it. Could leasing rights to it solve the crisis responsibly?
 
This analysis was co-published with the Los Angeles Times
 
Last fall, farmers working the flat land along the Colorado River outside Blythe, California, harvested a lucrative crop of oranges, lettuce and alfalfa from fields irrigated with river water. But that wasn’t their only source of income. They made almost as much per acre from the seemingly dead squares of dry earth abutting those orchards and row crops, fields left barren for the season.
 
The money crop that the fallowed land produced was one of the West’s most precious commodities: water. Under an experimental trading scheme set up by the Palo Verde Irrigation District in Blythe and the Metropolitan Water District — which supplies municipal water to the Los Angeles area, Orange and San Diego counties, and much of the Inland Empire — the farmers essentially leased millions of gallons of their Colorado River water to California’s coastal cities.
 
It’s a prototype of a trade that may soon become much more common, and the kind of win-win scenario that could help solve the West’s water crisis.
 
The Colorado River basin — which provides water to California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming — is entering its 16th year of drought. The nation’s largest reservoir, Lake Mead, is nearly two thirds empty, in large part because even in wet years those seven states take more water from the river than the Colorado, on average over the last century, has provided.
 
This overuse — coupled with arcane laws discouraging conservation, subsidies encouraging profligate water management and political gamesmanship — has helped make the West’s water desperately scarce and left its governments unprepared for a changing climate. ProPublica has reported extensively on these failures in its five-part series “Killing the Colorado.”
 
But, as experts such as former Arizona Governor and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt point out, there is, in fact, a great deal of water available in the Colorado River basin. There is just a gross imbalance — institutionalized through law and policy and tradition — in who has access to it.
 
At the core lies a fundamental tension between agriculture, which uses about 80% of Colorado River water, and the watershed’s growing cities, which desperately want to use more of it. Both present convincing claims: Colorado River-irrigated agriculture — including lands in Southern California — provides about 15% of the nation’s food supply; meanwhile, cities such as Las Vegas, Phoenix and L.A. want to continue to grow in order to remain vibrant and serve their millions of residents, who drive the region’s other economies.
 
This standoff has long shadowed development in the West. It stirs up divisive politics, a fight generally couched in terms of which water user is more important, more deserving and more responsible in its stewardship of a scarce natural resource — agrarian food growers or the urban pioneers of new economies.
 
But debating whether farms or cities are “more deserving” ignores a simple fact embedded in the foundation of law governing the West and its water: Though most water is technically a public asset, the right to use it was long ago promised to individuals and is virtually irreversible, so long as the water is put to good use. Those rights are viewed by many as inviolable private property rights.
 
Farms — many of which were granted their water rights 100 years ago — believe they earned them, through more than a century of pioneering and risk they shouldered to settle and build the growing regions that now covet their water. And in most cases, the courts and state governments of the Colorado River basin back them up. Yet very few deny that in a rapidly urbanizing region, shifting more water to the cities is an existential necessity. The real question is how best to do it.
 
State leaders could boldly try to redesign — to modernize — the legal architecture that assigned all that water to farmers on a first-come-first-served basis. But policymakers seem unwilling to take on such a daunting task, in part because it could bring hefty political consequences and would inevitably draw legal challenges. Protecting claims to water, for instance, is written into Colorado’s Constitution. Many view the taking of water rights — or redistributing them — as a form of…Continue Reading…
 
Courtesy: ProPublica

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Guidelines sought from SC for orderly functioning of parliament
In the wake of continued disruption of the monsoon session by the opposition, an NGO moved the Supreme Court on Wednesday to seek the framing of guidelines for parliament's smooth functioning.
 
The PIL filed by NGO Foundation for Restoration of National Values (FRNV) sought laying down of guidelines to ensure that parliament functioned without disruptions and impediments from its members, in the discharge of its legislative and representative responsibilities.
 
The PIL sought sought the guidelines so that public at large and public exchequer were not adversely affected on account of parliamentary proceedings being "unreasonably and unjustifiably obstructed, stalled and disrupted" by the opposition.
 
The non-governmental organisation (NGO) said it was concerned over the "deterioration in the standards of governance in India and the commensurate inability of the State to abide by the commitments and principles enshrined in our constitution".
 
"The fact that governance is indeed on the decline, is borne by the fact that numerous Committees and commissions appointed by the government of India have, over the years, pointed to systemic and other lapses that are still in need of urgent remedy," the PIL said.
 
The PIL filed by advocate Ravi Prakash Mehrotra said the Foundation was "deeply concerned that any further lack of action on part of the State to redress the lapses will gravely hinder its ability to adhere to its constitutional obligations".
 
"There is urgent and pressing need to improve the overall structures, systems, skills, styles, policies and procedures needed for good governance, with a robust, wholesome and socially responsible administration," the non-governmental organisation said.
 
It said this has to be done by simultaneously instilling in those responsible for public administration "a deeper understanding of their responsibility to further the welfare of the people of our country".

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COMMENTS

Ganga Bishnu Agarwala

2 years ago

Every Indian has right to seek help from any appex body.Is it fare to challange the integrity of the NGO ?

manoharlalsharma

2 years ago

Guidelines sought from SC for orderly functioning of parliament/ONLY HOPE OF A POOR INDIAN-CITIZENS nothing to get WITHOUT SC/HC we need this EVEN TO GET ISSUE of a CIRCULAR.

Meenal Mamdani

2 years ago

I agree with SRS that the judiciary should has no business interfering in the functioning of the parliament.

It is suspicious that this new NGO is so concerned about parliamentary function at this time.

Parliament has been dysfunctional several times in the past few years. Where was this NGO then? What are the credentials of the board members of this NGO? Are they a front for any political party?

SRS

2 years ago

The Supreme Court will take up this case at their peril. If they interfere in the operation of Parliament, the reverse is just as likely to happen too.

Parliaments guard their privileges zealously, even if those privileges turn them into tragic laughingstocks.

SRS

2 years ago

The Supreme Court will take up this case at their peril. If they interfere in the operation of Parliament, the reverse is just as likely to happen too.

Parliaments guard their privileges zealously, even if those privileges turn them into tragic laughingstocks.

Maggi ban lifted, fresh tests ordered
The Bombay High Court on Thursday lifted the ban on Nestle's flagship instant noodle brand Maggi and called for fresh tests within six weeks to again check if it complies with the country's food safety norms.
 
The relief came following a petition filed by Nestle India, challenging the withdrawal and recall order of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). The food safety watchdog had passed its orders on June 5, following which Nestle had withdrawn Maggi from the market.
 
A similar order was also passed on Maggi's oats variant.
 
The food safety regulator said tests conducted on a batch of Maggi was found to contain more-than-permissible levels of lead and high quantities of mono-sodium glutamate.

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