What started out as a blockbuster post has wilted in the past week or so. But here goes - you can categorize this in the 'food for thought' category.
Had an interesting chat (as always) with Todd Jarvis a few days ago. We were talking about water planning and particularly, my recent visit to Oklahoma, where I waxed enthusiastically about the way that state was developing its water plan.
I compared Oklahoma's effort with that here in Oregon, where the Oregon Water Resources Commission (OWRC) and Water Resources Department (OWRD) are in the process of developing an Integrated Water Resources Strategy (IWRS). In comparison, Oregon's process is more top-down than Oklahoma's, and it lacks an honest broker. Oregon also lacks money, which helps with process.
Todd then posited that it seemed that in the West, 'red' [i.e., those that are more politically conservative and vote Republican] states are better at water management than 'blue' [those that are more liberal and tend to vote Democratic] states. He cited Wyoming and Utah, two states with which he's had a lot of experience.
Utah has a stronger exempt-well policy than any other Western state and it is experimenting with groundwater basin self-governance in the Escalante Valley.
I cited Oklahoma, because planning is an element of good management. I also think of Kansas as doing a good job managing water. [Wayne?] Texas is experimenting with groundwater management and has revised the way it manages surface water over the past 15 years or so.
Some clarification is in order. By 'managing' I mean such functions as: planning, developing, assessing, allocating, measuring, adjudicating, protecting, regulating, and conserving. Not all management entities perfom all these functions. Water quality would be included as well as water quantity, but I realize that is a stretch.
After thinking about this 'red vs. blue' hypothesis I realized that in the West there are really only three blue states - the COWs - California, Oregon, and Washington (I have conveniently excluded Hawai'i). The accompanying 2008 electoral map notwithstanding, Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico are not really blue states like the aforementioned. New Mexico is more purple than anything else. So maybe we need a 'purple' category.
But statements such as the title of this post are simplistic. Some states have multiple personalities. Oregon and Washington are blue in the west, red in the east. They are blue overall because the western portion of each state has more people. It's interesting to note that the most aggressive drive for water self-governance in Oregon comes from the red part of the state, the Umatilla Basin near Pendleton. That drive could arise from the attribute that 'red staters' are portrayed as distrusting central governments and have a greater desire to do things themselves.
Another complication is that within a state, a number of entities perform a number of the management functions listed above: Federal agencies; conservation, water, and irrigation districts; and municipalities all come to mind. The state itself might not be managing that much of the water within its borders.
Perhaps this hypothesis might be better tested in the Eastern USA.
I suspect there are some theses and dissertations embedded in all this.
Your comments are appreciated.
"The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley." -- Robert Burns, To A Mouse (1785) [Translation: The best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew."]