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The Policies Driving Water Scarcity in the West

  • Katherine Wright
  • Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, Nevada

    PERC Research Fellow Katherine Wright joins the Nevada Policy Research Institute’s Free to Offend podcast to discuss the West’s ongoing drought.

    Katherine offers an optimistic take on the current drought and outlines a helpful way to think about water scarcity. She explains that there are three broad categories of water scarcity: climate-induced scarcity, population-induced scarcity, and policy-induced scarcity, with the latter referring to the rules, institutions, and policies in place that incentivize individuals to use more water than they actually need. It is in this type of scarcity that we can find water savings without having to limit development or displace agriculture.

    By rethinking how we allocate water and what is legally considered a beneficial use of one’s water rights, we can create the conditions for water markets to flourish and help direct the scarce resource to its highest valued use.

    Written By
    • Katherine Wright
      • Senior Researcher

      Katherine Wright is a PERC senior researcher. She earned a Ph.D. in sustainability from Arizona State University, with a particular focus on western water scarcity.

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