Dr. Lund objects to complaints like mine about exporting water in the form of almonds. He says ‘no no, we also import a lot of water in other forms.’ I have two responses to this. First: I don’t give a shit about other places. If they want to wreck their natural resources to sell feed to animals in California, I can’t bring myself to care.
Second, I don’t agree with the underlying assumptions about virtual water and markets. I do not believe that we are working with fungible materials.
When water leaves Shasta Dam, it is public resource that can do things like be a sparkly river and host leaping fish. I am a public in California, and I have one-thirty-nine millionth of an interest in that. When that water gets pulled away to water almonds in Chico, it is converted from a substance that could be a river to dollars for an almond grower. Applying that water to almonds stripped away my interest in the resource; I cannot claim any of that money. My 1/39M of an interest has been changed to something I have no claim on when it is almond dollars.
BUT! say the market folks. You have a different money because of the awesomeness of California agriculture. Because of the awesomeness of California agriculture, instead of paying 15-20% of your income on food, you only pay 5-10% of your income on food. WONDERFUL! I exclaim. I would like to turn that difference, which is now cash in my hand, into a river for fish. I cannot. That money is not the same as water in the river and cannot be converted back. A good thing for me (cheaper food) is not a replacement for what I lost (a tiny piece of a right to a river environment).
These waters are not fungible. Water in the Sacramento River is not fungible with water from wherever else the footprint applies. Those waters have different properties. All of the water in the Oglalla cannot provide a river for me between Shasta and Sacramento. So I do resent that luxury crops export millions of acre-feet of Californian water away. The dollars they bring back do not do what the water would have done. I have experienced a loss that is not comforted by indirect monies to me.