On the use of the word “decoupling”

I’ve been using the word “decoupling” to describe what is happening in the relationship between water use and population/economic growth. The phenomenon is common, and I blog about it a lot – water use going down even as population and agricultural productivity go up. Now comes Robert Stavins, a prominent environmental economist, to argue that …

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Is the Colorado River community nearing a water-saving deal?

A flurry of public discussion over the last week about a possible water conservation deal on the Lower Colorado River illustrates the central dilemma in the river basin’s water use problems. tl;dr This is a very important agreement. Modeling suggests that, if implemented, it could slow the steep decline in Lake Mead. The water conservation …

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Delta smelt, culture wars icon

Fiorina told delegates at the state Republican Party convention here that protections for the threatened Delta smelt were a product of the “tyranny of the left, the tyranny of environmentalists.” I fear discussions of the Delta smelt and environmental costs and benefits of moving California’s water from north to south have passed the point of …

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A new favorite in the “cracked mud journalism” genre

As a connoisseur of cracked mud and journalism of the drought apocalypse, I tip my hat to the folks at Sports Illustrated for this: “The Pacifics want to do their part to call attention to California’s drought conditions and so we won’t wash our uniforms for games after we draw 500 fans,” vice president of …

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San Diego’s great water use decoupling

The San Diego County Water Authority’s use peaked in 2002 at 732k acre feet. Last year it was down to 522kaf, a 29 percent drop even as population has risen by 12 percent. This is one of many examples of “decoupling” between growth and water use. As we adapt to conditions of increasing water scarcity …

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Despite drought, farmers on central New Mexico’s Rio Grande looking at a full water supply this year

Some remarkable news today out of the regular meeting of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District board: despite the nth* year of drought, the district’s farmers are likely to get a full irrigation season again this year, according to a report this afternoon from district hydrologist David Gensler. The forecast is for 60 percent runoff …

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More cuts, sooner, under Lower Colorado deal taking shape

Looks like significant progress toward an Arizona-California deal to slow Lake Mead’s decline, according to a story from the Arizona Daily Star’s Tony Davis: Arizona, California and Nevada negotiators are moving toward a major agreement triggering cuts in Colorado River water deliveries to Southern and Central Arizona to avert much more severe cuts in the …

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Is Flint a reverse “environmental Kuznets curve”?

One of the most important findings of environmental economics in recent decades is what is called the “environmental Kuznets curve”, a finding that as a community’s affluence rises, environmental “bads” – think air and water pollution, for example – decline. Could what has happened in Flint, Michigan, be evidence that this phenomenon is bi-directional – …

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the water conservation ratchet

While there is much water policy Sturm und Drang in California over the extent to which water conservation mandates should or should not be extended now that weather has provide some drought relief, the reality is that the rules may not matter: The state of California ordered San Juan to reduce water usage by 33% …

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“drought is not synonymous with shortage”

Drought is not synonymous with shortage. Drought occurs when there is a deficit in precipitation, streamflow, soil moisture or all of the above. Shortage occurs when we lack the policies, incentives and technologies to balance supply and demand in a variable and changing climate. That’s water wonk Dustin Garrick in a new piece urging a rethinking …

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