The Freeman has published a piece in which I contrast the disorderly allocation of water with the orderly allocation of gasoline. A slice:
Now what about water in drought-stricken states? Water prices are set by “authorities” at arbitrary prices that don’t change to reflect water availability. The authorities allocate water to various uses.
But how can the Water Resources Control Board know which purposes are most important? And most important to whom? Are a few more strawberries more important than keeping the lawn and garden green? Doesn’t that depend on whether the strawberries are more important to those who eat them than the beauty of the lawn and garden are important to the homeowner? How can the water board make that judgment? And might a car buff not care so ardently about keeping his car spotless that using the water to wash his car is actually more important—to him—than either the strawberries or the freshness of the lawn and garden?
How can a government agency know the importance of all possible uses of water to all possible users?
So is there any way for society to make sure water does go to the uses its people consider most important?