As contentious as it is, water for the environment is just as important as water for California homes, farmers and businesses, writes Jeffrey Mount, fellow at the PPIC Water Policy Center. Because the decline in the Golden State’s freshwater ecosystems, and the native species that rely on them, more water must be allocated to these ecosystems.
But how can the conflict between urban, agricultural and environmental uses be resolved?
Mount and his colleagues at PPIC recommend the creation of ecosystem water budgets that would specify water allocation amounts to meet many ecosystem functions that keep native species alive. The volume of water available would vary depending on the whether the year was dry, average or wet, but each amount would be set for a number of years.
Flexibility would be included in these budgets even with a fixed term, which would make it easier for urban and agricultural managers to know and plan based on how much water the environment will receive.
For this water budget system to work, great improvements in water accounting and ecosystem planning are required on a watershed level. Of course, this means that local stakeholders must be involved and weigh in based on the hydrological conditions faced that year. Families, farmers and fish each deserve water, so it’s necessary to determine the best way to deliver enough water so that all sectors involved thrive.