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Author Topic: Western Water Rights  (Read 7518 times)

glen

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Western Water Rights
« on: January 03, 2003, 10:07:04 pm »

There are at least three aspects of the water rights issue that need to be looked at:

1) Water rights in the west are a tricky business which will require careful study by all persons who intend to buy rural or wilderness land.

2) Government at all levels (including tribes) are deeply involved in this issue. What might be an FSP alternative?

3) A study of this issue will help to determine which of the five western states are most (or least) suitable as a free state candidate. Alaska is not included here as water is usually so plentiful that there is no need to ration it by the government.

Here are a few links to get the ball rolling:

Idaho Department of Water Resources:
http://www.idwr.state.id.us/

Montana Department of Natural Resources
Water Resources Division:
http://www.dnrc.state.mt.us/wrd/home.htm

North Dakota Water Commission:
http://www.swc.state.nd.us/

South Dakota Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources
Water Rights Program:
http://www.state.sd.us/denr/des/waterrights/waterprg.htm

Wyoming State Engineer’s office:
http://seo.state.wy.us/
« Last Edit: January 03, 2003, 10:35:41 pm by glen »
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wes237

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Re:Western Water Rights
« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2003, 10:14:16 pm »

Absolutely, water rights can really detour one's efforts. I know some folks who went in together to buy property in Colorado, only to find later they had no water acccess ... and a well was futile. They lost a lot of $$$.
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JasonPSorens

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Re:Western Water Rights
« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2003, 11:06:28 am »

The original rule in the West was that water belonged to whoever claimed it first and was able to use it.  I think this is a principle we should in general seek to defend.  Today a lot of Western governments are starting to meddle with water rights, reassigning them on the basis of "equity," "balanced growth," and so on.  By and large, interfering with the security of property rights is a Bad Thing that we should oppose.
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Zxcv

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Re:Western Water Rights
« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2003, 12:49:20 pm »

Well, it's a little more complex than that, Jason, since sucking all the water out of a creek does have an effect on people downstream!

I understand (but haven't read that much about it) there is some notion being kicked around in libertarian circles, of making water rights marketable. That means others who need water more (including environmentalists who might want more water in a stream) can buy rights to the water from an existing owner. Maybe that's what you're talking about?
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JasonPSorens

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Re:Western Water Rights
« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2003, 12:53:20 pm »

Absolutely - water rights should be marketable.  But that policy benefits the owners of first-claim water rights, because their ownership rights then have significant economic value.  So I see that as part & parcel of the property rights approach.
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glen

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Re:Western Water Rights
« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2003, 02:02:03 am »

Here is a link to a quick and informative introduction to the water rights problem:

http://www.if.uidaho.edu/~johnson/ifiwrri/sr3/watrts.html

Here is a link to an article about the problems with state water management practices vs. individual property rights in Idaho:

http://proliberty.com/observer/20020309.htm
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SethA

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Re:Western Water Rights
« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2003, 09:24:43 am »

Each state in the West approaches water rights a little differently. For example, Nevada, which I'm familiar with, has a State Watermaster. They take the position that the State has the final approval on all water right use and transfer. You can buy/sell water rights but Nevada also has a use it- or - lose it policy which basically gives you a certain amount of time to show beneficial use of your water rights or you could lose them. Municipal water depts. must have enough water rights to show the State that they can serve new customers.

Of course all of this is overshadowed in some regions by the big elephant in the tent- the U.S. Dept. of Interior's Bureau of Reclamation, the controller of the big dams on the Colorado River. They have the southwest and Calif. by the lower extremities right now and have cut back their water release this year to the original 1927 agreed allotment. This has AZ, CA and NV fighting over any possible additional allocations. The NA tribes in AZ have also filed for a lot of water for their large reservation in northeast AZ.

None of the above has any direct bearing on the 10 FSP states, but is just an illustration of how complicated water issues are in the West.
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wolverine307

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Re:Western Water Rights
« Reply #7 on: July 29, 2003, 09:32:56 am »

What is the water issue for ID? Iknow that the majority of folks in ID live along the Snake River, but what downstream claims are there to limit IDs usage of the water?
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Kelton Baker

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Re:Western Water Rights
« Reply #8 on: July 29, 2003, 09:59:52 am »

What is the water issue for ID? Iknow that the majority of folks in ID live along the Snake River, but what downstream claims are there to limit IDs usage of the water?
That is a very complicated question, to answer it, download and read this 158- page report and you may find your answer: http://170.160.2.246/Environment/EW/EWP/DOCS/REPORTS/GENERAL/I21416-1.pdf

One thing for sure, Idaho naturally has a lot of water already.  The Treasure Valley is situated at the head of numerous smaller rivers that flow Northward.  There's the Owyhee, Boise, Snake, to name a few.  The only reason that Boise would not have enough water is because of water leasing arangements between all of the many dams and endangered species acts that try to protect salmon by maintaining minimum water flows. These are complicated, to say the least.  I do know that as far as the Snake River is concerned, as it comes out of Wyoming, The State of Wyoming only gets to keep about 5% of its flows (currently more than enough), the rest goes to Idaho, because of a use compact that Idaho and Wyoming agreed to.
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Mike Lorrey

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Re:Western Water Rights
« Reply #9 on: July 29, 2003, 03:56:34 pm »

Note that when the state is involved in water rights, especially where the state claims to own the water supply, as Wyoming does, owning land in such a state and trying to live on it makes water supply a form of tax. It's like taxing people for breathing.

While this isn't an issue in states like Alaska, Maine, NH, VT, and DE, where water supplies are plentiful, when you have situations of scarcity, rationing, and the state using eminent domain over this resource on which people lives depend, then there is a very serious problem with living in liberty.

Libertarian thought is based on principles of Natural Law, that individual man has rights based on what he needed to live freely in a state of nature, particularly with regards to the wilderness in which he evolved. Free access to water is therefore a natural right.

Given this, trying to found a libertarian society in a region where water access is restricted and rationed is a significant barrier, forcing every individual to become dependent upon the state for the water they need to live their lives. Furthermore, forcing the population to depend on a few early opportunists for such an important and scarce resource, even on an open market, is a prescription for feudalism.
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Hank

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Re:Western Water Rights
« Reply #10 on: July 30, 2003, 08:21:02 pm »

Mike Lorrey

You fail to understand that the water in the west is the COMMONS!
Do you understand that term?

The state has first dibs on all water to prevent a bunch of Nevada or California or Idaho rich power brokers from buying up the water and leaving the rest of us sucking dust.  Oh, you will say that the sellers voluntarily sold it?  Horse apples! Tell the guy that it is voluntary after his stock is poisoned, forests catch fire, and the bank forecloses.
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