Robert Glennon on Water Scarcity
We take it for granted that water comes out when we turn on our faucets and garden hoses – even in the drought-stricken west. Yet the way some doomsayers talk about the issue, it seems like one day we might wake up to a dry spigot. Such an outcome is unlikely, however, because of the nature of scarcity: when something becomes more precious, people find ways to conserve it. Prices rise to incentivize less use, and greater production.
Robert Glennon is one of the nation's preeminent experts on water policy and law, and the author of Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What To Do About It. He points to a fatal flaw in the allocation of water, particularly in the western states where resources are more limited: when the majority of water rights were assigned, several decades ago, they were based on incorrect assumptions about the supply. Today, there are more rights to water than there is water.
Glennon believes that the fix is multifaceted, and includes a mix of political and market solutions. He joined me to discuss how property rights can be clarified, and new markets created to allow for more efficient distribution of one of our most precious resources: freshwater.