[4:57] What's going on in the United States with water rights? - In the United States, water is regulated differently in the east and west.
East: Riparian water rights - if you own the land adjacent to the water, you own that water.
West: Prior appropriation - for use of rivers and stream waters, whoever uses a particular source first acquires a right to continue to use that water.
Water rights help make it clear for agriculture producers that it is something that they own. It is their property.
[10:32] Challenges states with prior appropriation are facing:
Use it or lose it - your appropriation of water is based off historical use. Consequently, if you use less water, you get less in future years.
You abandon it if you don't use the water to which you are entitled.
[13:05] Endangered Species Act -The delta smelt, an endangered species, inhabit a major water source for California agriculture. While farmers have a right to their water, this right is limited because that water is now protected by the ESA.
ESA trumps all other competing uses of water resources, including water law.
[15:45] Groundwater - Not administered by prior appropriation or riparian rights. It's a separate body of state laws.
For example, in Texas there are meters to measure how much groundwater is removed.
[16:47] Where are water rights working? - If you're in the water surplus states on the Colorado River Basin (Utah, Colorado and Wyoming) it is easier to make your water system work but if you are at the far side (Arizona, New Mexico, California and Nevada) you have more serious water problems.
[19:17] Infrastructure - Important for storing water so the release can be timed to benefit the environment or for agriculture.
If we had the infrastructure to match the technologies we use in agriculture, we'd be in a better place right now.
[22:19] Thinking in the long-term - our droughts getting worse and our rains are getting worse.
Texas - Faced both historic flooding and historic drought in recent years.
Need to be prepared for everything when it comes to infrastructure.
Supporting agriculture at a time of diminishing water - make sure people can still eat.
[24:10] What are the answers? - To have long-term sustainable use of water that recognizes the demands of the environment and the demands of agriculture, we need to get everyone together and talk in a serious way.
[24:46] Does the water system work? - The issue is supply of water and the the law is secondary.
[30:06] Next episode we plan to continue this conversation about water rights - will touch on "buy and dry" and ag to urban.