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Community management of water resources

David Zetland, postdoctoral fellow, resource economics | August 23, 2010

In Michigan, the legislature has adopted a law that makes all of the users of water in a catchment responsible for not having an impact on the resource. All property owners have a right to reasonable use of the water under their property. Riparians have a right to reasonably use the water in streams that abut their property.

If any new use has the potential to cause a problem to the critters in the stream, all users have to modify their uses. The hope is that this happens voluntarily and through private deals. It will, however, end up in court at some point and we’ll see what happens then.

This is all enabled by a web-based tool that anyone can use to estimate what would happen if, for example, a new well is placed in the watershed. Ecological impacts are estimated and displayed. If no impact is predicted, the system approves a permit and the well is registered with the state.

As of early this summer, some 170 new withdrawls have been reviewed, and only 25% of those now go to an agency staffer to review. Of all requests, less than 1% have been declined.

Check it out!

Cross-posted from Aguanomics, a water economics blog.