Monthly Archives: December 2016


I am consumed by the news about Trump and the election, which doesn’t leave me much spare capacity for thinking about water.  I am heartsick about this reversal.  I had genuinely thought I was seeing new forms of power (social media connectedness between clear thinkers and Science) come to the fore.  I thought the old form of power (rich men buying access to political power) was on the wane.  This may yet be true, but seeing the changeover pushed back several years has made me deeply sad.

Nevertheless, I have had a few spare thoughts and my poor blog is hungry.

Thought 1:  Pretty wet start to the winter, which is nice.  I had thought Drought Year 6 would be the year we got serious.  But with the balance of power changed over, I’m just as happy for a wet year, a year when the water world goes about its business as usual, forgetting droughts ever happen.

Thought 2: I have no interest in the particular person in charge of Interior and Reclamation.  I’m assuming all candidates will suck equally and see no need to try to forecast.

Thought 3:  I am not sure that water policy will be the dominant force on CA agriculture this year.  Immigration and labor could be big.  But I’m looking hard at trade.  Trump seems to be going out of his way to offend China and India, who are large markets for tree nuts.  If Trump provokes a trade war, or a real war, with China, I’m thinking that this post of mine will seem prescient.  Almond orchards are all the same asset; holdings in tree nuts are not a diversified portfolio.  If there’s an overseas market bust, there will be an unbelievable surplus of harvested almonds, with more new orchards coming into bearing years.  Although the instream flow proposals are being touted as a terrible pressure on northern San Joaquin Valley economies, after a China/India trade bust, it may be that land prices collapse and easiest ways to get flows back in the river are to simply buy up abandoned almond orchards.

UPDATE 12/21:  Trade war with China.

UPDATE 6/22/18: Trade war with India; almonds.


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Strange that Mr. Amaral leaves “water contracts in perpetuity” out of his description of the settlement.

Westlands Water District’s Johnny Amaral writes a response to Mark Arax in the Fresno Bee:

The article also criticizes an agreement between Westlands and the Obama administration. That agreement resolves a decades-long problem involving drainage facilities for the Central Valley Project, relieves taxpayers of billions of dollars of liability and requires Westlands to take over the responsibility to manage drainage in the future. Neither side got everything they wanted, but the process of negotiation worked.

At a time when many Americans are tired of the governments’ inability to work together to solve problems, this settlement ought to be treated as a model for how to get things done.
I should certainly hope not!  I don’t like the terms of exchange, but those aside, this settlement is a terrible model for others.  It has no terms for determining whether Westlands keeps its side of the bargain.  It doesn’t establish a program for monitoring whether Westlands has fulfilled its duty to treat drainage, or set standards for treatment (salt concentrations, ppm) that Westlands must meet, nor set any remedy for what happens if Westlands doesn’t meet a standard.  If Westlands doesn’t treat its drainage water adequately, what happens?  Westlands gets no water the following year?  Westlands pays a fine?  The entire contract is nullified?
This settlement has no way to determine whether Westlands performs its side of the bargain, but of a certainty, Westlands will insist that the federal government performs its side.  Bad bargain aside, this is a terrible model for acting in the public interest.



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