Technical Report No. 165
REPPUN V. BOARD OF WATER SUPPLY: PROPERTY RIGHTS, ECONOMIC EFFICIENCY AND ENSURING MINIMUM STREAMFLOW STANDARDS
Williamson B.C. Chang and James E.T. Moncur
Two recent decisions of the Hawaii Supreme Court have substantially modified the ground rules governing water rights in the state. The principal economic result of these decisions is the limitations they impose, if they survive appeals, on rights of individual water users to exchange water rights. This report inquires into the values the Court appears to have had in mind in imposing such restrictions. From a legal standpoint, the paper argues that the Court’s decision in Reppun v. Board of Water Supply sought not so much to protect the taro farmers from loss of water as to protect in-stream water uses such as fishing and aesthetics. A brief summary of the economics of growing taro in Waihe’e Valley suggests that the water in question has much higher-valued uses than traditional taro cultivation, and notes a broad framework of principles that would allow efficient allocation of water between users, uses and places of use, covering traditional as well as in-stream uses.