I am sure he’s a lovely person.

CORRECTION, March 4th.  Dude.  I’ve made a fairly substantial mistake.  The statements I attributed to Mr. Levine were made by “David Festa of Mill Valley, senior vice president at Environmental Defense Fund”.  Frankly, that makes the quote more egregious.  A senior professional enviro should have a better understanding of water markets.  We know more about them than we did when Tom Graff was promoting them.

I pretty much have to leave the original; I can’t see how to correct it and still have it make sense.  But I owe an apology to Mr. Levine, and want to redirect the gentle ribbing to Mr. Festa.  That’s how I should have written it in the first place.  MY BAD.  Sorry, Assemblymember Levine.


Friends, what I am about to write is both speculation and loshon hora; I should not.  But the conclusion is inescapable.  I strongly suspect that Marin Assemblyman Levine is out in public, talking about water markets without having read Dr. Haddad’s River of Gold.  I KNOW, RIGHT?!!  In public!  And if he hasn’t read Rivers of Gold, his new water market bill isn’t likely to create well-designed markets to achieve explicit social goals.

I am actually not too fussed about his bill.  From the description in the article (heaven forfend I should go read the actual bill), it looks to be a bulletin board to connect buyers and sellers.  I would enjoy following such a board; that information should be public.  But it doesn’t solve the problems of market thickness, transporting water, nor planning lead time.  I don’t think it would go anywhere.  So that’s harmless.

What isn’t harmless is this misunderstanding of Levine’sFesta’s, which reading page 34 of Rivers of Gold would have corrected.

Festa said greater trading would foster more trading between farmers as well as freeing up more water for the environment and urban dwellers.

“When you have more water moving around,” Festa said, “you don’t have to draw on ground pumping or taking more water out of rivers so right there you create an automatic benefit for the environment.”

No no no no no.  A market may be the cheapest way to reallocate a fixed amount of water to the uses that make the most money.  But if the amount of water isn’t fixed, a water market is an inexorable engine for drawing ever more water out of the source, whether that’s a farming community or the environment.  It requires very careful design of the market structure to prevent that.  I wish people with the power to promote water markets would talk about the specifics of that design.  Actually, I wish they showed signs of understanding that careful design is necessary.



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3 responses to “I am sure he’s a lovely person.

  1. caroleekrieger

    Dear On the public record,

    Your work is terrifically important and insightful. I wanted to share with you an op-ed about the operation of the SWP that you might find interesting.


    Carolee Kreiger

    ED, C-WIN

    805 969-0824


    • onthepublicrecord

      Hello Ms. Kreiger,

      Please send me a link to the op-ed or link it here. I’ll read it for sure.

  2. Es

    Thank you for the common sense. It is scary to see so many powerful players trying us to ignore how imperfect the water market is, how limited the supply and how asymmetrical the demand.