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Managing the Columbia River: Instream Flows, Water Withdrawals, and Salmon Survival
the prospect of decreasing conflicts over limited water supplies. Water management entities across the Columbia River basin should cooperate on exploring the utility of these measures that can help support the regional economy, but without additional withdrawals of Columbia River water, as the well-being of salmon habitat and salmon is also an integral part of the regional economy. Water conservation measures and means for reallocating water, such as water banks and water markets, should be promoted in a quest to increase “water productivity” and to contribute to a healthy regional economy and Columbia River ecosystem.
As discussed in this chapter, water markets and water banks present their own unique set of implementation and operational challenges. Such programs often require the creation of significant administrative structures, leadership skills, and wisdom in order to ensure that potential buyers and sellers have good information and are aware of each other’s demands, and that there are adequate, effective databases that reflect ongoing transactions and that help ensure fair execution of lease and option arrangements. They also require adequate storage and conveyance facilities to store and reallocate water; capital investments in such facilities may also be required. The human resources requirements to ensure the transparency and credibility of such programs may be considerable. Moreover, the wide range of business, economics, and administrative skills necessary for such programs is often not widely available in most natural resources agencies. Successful creation of water markets and water banks thus often holds great potential to identify “new” sources of water and may therefore increase beneficial uses and reduce tensions; but human resources investments to ensure that adequate organizational, environmental, and social frameworks are essential and may be substantial. The State of Washington and other Columbia River basin entities should continue to explore prospects for water transfers and other market-based programs as alternatives to additional withdrawals.