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Surveying Legal Solutions And Strategies For Innovative Agricultural Water Conservation

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Ramsey Kropf (Aspen, USA), Ramsey Kropf
Patrick|Miller|Kropf|Noto PC1

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 15: Water law,
AbstractIntroduction. In the arid Western regions of the United States, climate change is impacting water supplies right now with significant drought and flooding events. Extreme weather patterns will disrupt economies and ecosystems. Water policy makers are creating water plans to ensure greater water supply resiliency, and the largest target falls on the back of agriculture. Throughout the Western US, agricultural irrigation still uses approximately 80% of available water supply; in the US generally, agricultural irrigation consumes 81% of available water supply. Innovative agricultural water use reductions will be required in this landscape, and it is likely to take policy and legal steps to ensure such conservation occurs. In the 2014 National Climate Assessment, the one key message is that both short-term and long-term droughts will intensify. This same report predicts that "Increasing resilience and enhancing adaptive capacity provide opportunities to strengthen water resources management and plan for climate change impacts. Many institutional, scientific, economic, and political barriers present challenges to implementing adaptive strategies." http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/highlights/report-findings/water-supply. In California's 2014 summer, a 50% decrease in annual precipitation is threatening economic stability for the agriculture industry. While different states are working on water planning and proposing conservation in multiple ways, a compendium of creative legal and institutional strategies for states and the private water user sectors to reference would be a welcome legal resource.

Methods/Materials. This abstract proposes to survey innovative and creative legal and policy incentives across various Western states that may lead to greater conservation in agricultural irrigation, without reducing economic viability in agricultural communities. The paper will be written from a legal practitioner's perspective, with a goal to create a resource that is useful for the Western US, but also translates to other economies facing similar challenges.  

Results and Discussion. This paper will undertake survey of legal efforts, from both a statutory and rule making perspective, to outline existing and planned mitigation and adaptation strategies for agricultural irrigation. The paper will look to water planning efforts, agricultural innovations in various arid states, statutes and rulemaking that have a tendency to force technological change, and successes in adaptive agricultural that is responsive to both increased drought and increased regulation. It will also review unsuccessful efforts to decrease agricultural water consumption but support agricultural economies. Once the survey is completed, the paper will identify common threads that occur in different states. This summary will reflect successful efforts, and identify political and cultural barriers to implementing innovative water conservation measures. Another goal will be to identify and promote legal efforts that provide the greatest percentage rate in reducing agricultural water consumption. If a 10% conservation rate can be achieved for 80% of all water use, that is a more productive outcome than a 50% conservation rate for municipal use, which makes up 10% or less of the total water use.

Conclusion. Without significant mitigation and adaptation strategies, including legal incentives, to conserve agricultural water and maintain agricultural economic viability, there will be signification economic disruptions in the arid Western United States. More knowledge of workable examples of solutions across the region will be helpful for multiple communities. http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/highlights/report-findings/water-supply Walsh, J., D. Wuebbles, K. Hayhoe, J. Kossin, K. Kunkel, G. Stephens, P. Thorne, R. Vose, M. Wehner, J. Willis, D. Anderson, V. Kharin, T. Knutson, F. Landerer, T. Lenton, J. Kennedy, and R. Somerville, 2014: Appendix 4: Frequently Asked Questions. Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment, J. M. Melillo, Terese (T.C.) Richmond, and G. W. Yohe, Eds., U.S. Global Change Research Program, 790-820. doi:10.7930/J0G15XS3.

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