The Fresno Bee tells us:
In a sign of this dry time, Sacramento Valley rice growers offered to fallow some of their fields and sell a more valuable harvest: Feather River water.
Farmers in our parched western San Joaquin Valley bid for the water as they fight to keep almond and pistachio trees alive.
They lost to a consortium led by Metropolitan Water District of Southern California that included the Kern County Water Agency, Kings County, and water districts on the Central Coast and in the Santa Clara and Napa valleys.
Sacramento River Valley rice grower Bryce Lundberg, an executive of Lundberg Family Farms, sits on the Western Canal Water District Board. which is among the nine agencies that intend to sell water to the consortium.
This was his assessment: “When a group representing 18 million people come to call, it is important to listen to them. Being able to spread (water) to the most critical needs is good policy. A very targeted or directed use doesn’t make as much sense.”
I recently saw myself described as “a wonderful blogger who has just a few blind spots about political constraints.” (I was tremendously flattered.) It is true. I am not concerned about political constraints, for the same reason Mr. Lundberg knows that the rice growers must sell to L.A.. I do not believe any political constraints can stand up to the self-interest of the urban water users in California. A tipping point will come and when it does, 38 million of the 39 million people who live here will realize that words on paper are the only thing standing between them and the water they want. They have the power to re-write those words, by initiative or through the legislature.
It could be an initiative for an overhaul of the water rights system. The legislature could revise Article 10 of the California Constitution, or point to another body to propose the revision (as they did with the Delta Stewardship Commission for the co-equal goals and the California Water Commission to define the public benefit parts of water storage that should be paid for by all of us). But if you ask me which I believe in more: that urban users will adopt inconvenient behaviors to conserve water or that urban users will vote to revise water rights in their favor, I would bet on the latter without hesitation. It is just a matter of time.
Charlie Mathews, one Northern California rice farmer who was interviewed, is planning to grow on his land although his district has forged a deal to sell some of its water to the Los Angeles area. “If we don’t find a way for people in the south to get water when they desperately need it, we’re afraid they’ll change our water rights,” Matthews said. “So if we don’t sell it to them, they’ll find a way to take it.”
P.S. This has implications as well. If revision of water rights by initiative is inevitable, the people who will lose by this should be thinking about their buyout conditions. What kind of money would they want to make less of a political fuss? People who want this should be thinking of splitting the opposition by guaranteeing some farming regions good rights.
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