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Economic Research Institute Study paper






Utah State University

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The typical freshman in my classes and probably most of the American public will agree with the assertions that drought and water scarcity are "bad" and conservation and efficient water use are in some sense "good " . This sentiment is reflected by a wide array of public water projects, research, and educational programs which have as their justification more "goods" and/or fewer "bads" . The severe droughts of the 1930s and 1970s in the U.S. provide examples of how complex waterbased systems, such as agricultural production, respond to stress. It has been suggested that these examples possibly provide some indication of improved means for accomplishing more efficient resource utilization under "normal " conditions and for reducing the social and economic disruption associated with equivalent scarcity-based stresses in the future. The abiding question seems to be wh ether or not selected adjustments to resource scarcity utilized under the expediency imposed by a drought might be utilized as normal operating procedure. The symmtric variant of this question is: Are there selected adjustments utilized under the expediency imposed by a drought which should not be utilized or continued as "normal" operating procedure outside the extreme situation. As in most complicated choices, the most difficult and potentially rewarding exploration is discovering and establishing the reliability of conditions which would cause a particular drought expedient to be a safe and reliable long-run resource management. Major sections which follow include: