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The Accumulating Interest in Water Banks: Assessing Their Role in Mitigating Water Insecurities
Journal of the American Water Resources Association  (IF3.202),  Pub Date : 2021-08-02, DOI: 10.1111/1752-1688.12940
Clint P. Carney, Joanna Endter-Wada, Lisa W. Welsh

Reallocation is often promoted as a response to water security dilemmas in the western United States. Water banking is a form of reallocation utilized in several states to facilitate temporary water rights transfers. This article frames and examines water banking’s potential influences on water security from a hydro-social perspective through a case analysis of water banking policy in Utah. It analyzes the challenges of integrating the market-based economic incentives of water banks with the legal precedents of the prior appropriation doctrine to reallocate water in overappropriated basins with hydrologically interdependent uses. Key-informant interviews and focus groups were used to examine water security’s meaning to stakeholders and analyze how water banking could affect the water security of disparate users and uses at multiple scales. Stakeholders predominately saw water security as assurance in water quantity, but water security was further equated by participants with the legal protections afforded by water rights. Multiple complexities in water bank implementation are to be expected when multiscalar contexts are considered, including societal and hydrologic tradeoffs in settings with diverse and interconnected interests. Our research shows that examining the potential ramifications of water banking policy through stakeholder perspectives can reveal nuanced insights on individual and collective water security issues not only within Utah but other arid regions in general.