12 Dec 2007

Water exports: Bottle the Delta

Up in way, dark Northern California, they are debating whether to allow a water bottling plant to tap the local aquifer. This one, proposed by Nestle Waters North America, will "create" hundreds jobs and $23 million of additional revenue. Putting aside these useless projections (jobs move, $ revenue is gross, not net...), the most interesting characteristic is $26.40/acre foot of water that Nestle would pay for water.

That's less than one penny per hundred gallons. Can you guess why these companies love the bottled water business? Let's also note that Nestle's "mining" of the aquifer is unlikely to benefit local water users.

Meanwhile, this story reports that state water contractors commissioned a "secret" cost estimate to build the Peripheral Canal. (A good idea, as I argue here.) The sad part is that they need to study a major public works project ("giant straw to steal NorCal's water") in secret when everyone agrees -- given the choice to export water -- that a canal is better for the Delta. I hope the debate gets more mature than this!

Bottom Line: Water exports can be good for locals sellers and distant buyers, but they need to share the gains from trade fairly evenly. Nestle is ripping the locals off. The peripheral canal will help the locals by making the Delta more stable.

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