International Approaches to Policy and Decision-making
Edited by Jayne M. Godfrey and Keryn Chalmers
Chapter 14: Water Accounting Issues in California
Jay R. Lund If you can not measure it, you can not improve it. Lord Kelvin INTRODUCTION At a general level, accounting provides a formal technical means of implementing a robust framework for managing a scarce resource. More particularly in relation to water and in the presence of water scarcity, it is likely that an absence of an effective system of water accounting to underpin water management will lead to disruptive and chaotic conflicts nationally, or even internationally. Successful water accounting does not eliminate conflict, but it confines water conflicts within a legal and technical framework where they can be more efficiently addressed, with a minimum of chaos. In successful water systems, most water users (households and farms) see only the price of water use and any rules restricting use, and are not actively engaged in water accounting. Water districts, utilities and state regulators do the accounting. The accounting provides retail and wholesale water providers with greater legal and operational certainty on supply availability and costs, as a basis for setting retail prices and allocation policies. Water accounting, the quantification of flow volumes for financial and water management purposes, dates from at least as far as Roman times (Frontinus AD 97). It is an example of using a rigorous and robust recording and reporting technique to assist in transparent management of a scarce resource. Interestingly, Frontinus also wrote a treatise on land surveying, the accounting of land ownership. The further development of accounting for water descends from the French engineering...
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