There are many efforts to restore streams to enhance the ability of salmon and other fish to spawn, as well as providing the quality stream enjoyment experience so wonderful a part of being close to streams.
One strategy focuses on using markets to restore streams and this report from the Property Environment Research Center, summarized here, outlines the strategy.
An excerpt from the summary.
“Western water law is a bit peculiar. It provides limited usage rights to parties who have legal claims on water. Most of the rules date to the settlement of the western United States in the nineteenth century. The traditional rules, which were codified by state legislatures, worked well in an agricultural economy. But, as changes in values evolved, some limits inherent in the prior appropriation doctrine have become apparent. It was, and still can be, difficult to change the use of water from its historic designation to one with greater value. Such is the case for restoring instream flows through water markets.
“Societies with strong property rights allow parties to protect their property, develop it, trade it, or give it away. They enjoy greater prosperity and freedom than societies that impose many restrictions on property or suffer from a lack of clarity in rules. As Brandon Scarborough explains in this Policy Series, restrictions in water rights and uncertainty about how particular water trades can be affected limited the ability of parties to voluntarily use water for environmental benefits.
“As often happens when the rules are unclear, people make do and struggle to create new arrangements that allow resources to move to higher-valued uses. Water rights have evolved in recent years as parties express desires to sell, lease, or give water for environmental or recreational purposes. Legal entrepreneurs plowed new ground. Some states have assisted in the move to expanded water rights, others have been less supportive. This Policy Series provides guidance for improving the legal environment for parties who wish to engage in the beneficial exchange of water rights.”