Links and reactions.

An article in the SacBee, about large inland water districts complaining that they must cut water back 35%.

At the San Juan Water District, another agency facing a 35 percent cut, General Manager Shauna Lorance said the board should take population density and lot size into account when setting targets. “We have a very low water use per acre,” she said. San Juan’s territory includes portions of Granite Bay, Roseville, Orangevale and Folsom.

It is true that they have larger landscapes in a hotter climate, but the point that General Manager Lorance may be missing is that no one else feels sympathetic if rich people can’t landscape their entire estates.

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This presentation on agricultural water use is wonderful; we are indebted to Chris Austin for transcribing and posting it. The first presentation in particular describes agricultural water use the same way I would. (The speaker is more of an authority than I am.) I also liked this powerpoint presentation quite a bit.

I am dismayed at the reports that ag water management plans are still so crappy. Irrigation districts have been fighting those since the 1992 Central Valley Project Improvement Act, and 22 years later, it doesn’t appear that they are actually using the plans to do their planning.

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In the AgAlert, Farm Bureau President Paul Wenger is dismayed by climate change.

Wenger called for better water supply management and infrastructure improvements to avoid future drought disasters.

“My family has been farming the same ground for 105 years and we’ve never seen a situation like this,” he said. “The real question is: Can we adapt to drought? This situation is real and it’s not just about cutting back on watering lawns for a while.”

Wenger said farmers around the state are idling farmland and that he is also reducing production.

“We’re taking out 10 percent of our orchards this year so we can have water to put on the rest of the orchards,” he said. “Never would I have thought the day would come when we would have to do that.”

In addition, Wenger said that, like other farmers forced to fallow ground and rip out orchards and vineyards, he will continue to pay property taxes on his nonproducing land and cover any fees associated with ownership, as well as pay fees for water not delivered while being unable to use the ground because of lack of water.

Your family’s 105 years of farming experience do not reflect the current climate. You are reacting to climate change, not adapting ahead of time. I have been trying to tell you how to adapt for years. Own a farm very close to a river coming out of the Sierras or sell while there are still suckers. Since you are the president of the Farm Bureau, you might think a little bigger and try to negotiate a deal for other farmers to get out cleanly. You have a better hope of that then you do of building new dams to catch the precip that our state will no longer be getting.

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In an NPR story on redistributing water rights:

Vegetable grower Tom Teixeira, for example, has already laid out a huge amount of money to ensure a reliable supply of water. “We’ve sought out and acquired land that had good water rights,” he says. “We paid substantially more for that ground than we would have paid for ground that had lesser water rights.”

Taking that water and dividing it up some other way, he says, would be like taking everyone’s paycheck, putting it into a pool, and saying: “We’re going to divide that up evenly. Even though you went to school as a doctor for eight or 10 years, and you’re making a lot more money than the guy who’s driving a school bus, let’s take all the money and divide it up evenly.”

Mr. Teixeira is demonstrating why analogies are the very devil. There is always a flaw and it is always in the arguer’s favor (else, why use the analogy?). Mr. Teixeira’s analogy makes it seem as if our water rights system rewards a living person’s foresight and effort. That the person who put in eight or 10 years of labor to develop their skills is the rightful user of water. But that isn’t the case. As the NPR story itself demonstrates, the key to having good water rights is to have a better great-great-great-grandfather. This is a royalty theory of property ownership, not a labor or merit-based theory of property ownership. Mr. Cannon is a very good farmer and has done me personal favors. But he inherited his water rights; he didn’t earn them. If there was any earning involved, it was by someone six generations ago.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Links and reactions.

  1. The PPT you liked quite a bit has this:
    (1) “Agriculture cannot compete economically with the urban/industrial sector for water.
    (2) Regardless of the economics, if we want food we will have to pay the price in terms of water and land for producing the agricultural products used to produce our food. There is no other choice if we want food!”

    … which is rubbish.

    (1) is true for the first 10-20% of developed water, but not 100%. There would still be ag at market prices.
    (2) misses TRADE, which is how many people get their food. Nothing says California has to feed itself, let alone the world!

  2. onthepublicrecord

    I personally would like California to always have the capacity to feed itself. I don’t want to rely on trade for something so essential. I am less interested in California feeding the world.