H2Ownership

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Growing up in Utah, the second driest state in the nation, means I am well aware of the old adage, "whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over." I have read accounts of pioneers fighting with the local tribes over water and in one case two pioneer families ended a squabble over water by throwing vegetables at each other!

So I was happy to see my PERC enviropreneur colleague, Jamie Workman, in the pages of the Salt Lake Tribune exploring a new solution to water woes—H2Ownership.

How does H2Ownership work?

To ensure shrinking supply can absorb rising demand we need to unlock our resilient Western spirit of innovation, stewardship and individual responsibility. And all that boils down to a concept that I call H2Ownership, a new approach to the timeless practice of dominion, using our existing tools to help redefine our relationship with our water.... Today, all of Utah’s farms, families and firms essentially rent shared water from a single natural monopoly — we have no incentive to invest our own time or resources in this classic tragedy of the commons.

Under H2Ownership, the physics of water delivery don’t change, but now the Internet allows all metered families and firms the opportunity to be allocated equal shares of water. You still pay the utility for as much as you need; but if you find ways to stay below an equitable threshold you can now earn, own, save, sell or donate your shares to others. Finally, water has cash value to you, and a reason to invest in conservation.

Imagine an e-Bay for saved water. Or sky miles you earn by avoiding air travel. Now our innate self-interest works 24/7 to restore rivers and aquifers rather than drain them. Water finally reveals its scarcity value to each of us, and sparks a widespread egalitarian race to conserve.

Huggins is a research fellow and director of outreach with PERC as well as a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Her association with PERC goes back several years, and she officially joined the staff in Bozeman in 2005.Huggins coauthored with Terry Anderson Property Rights: A Practical Guide to Freedom and Prosperity...
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