28 Jul 2008

Westlands Loves the People

I got an email from a PR firm* working for Westlands Water District:
Today, members of the Central Valley’s Congressional delegation received an expert analysis that for the first time projects the devastating impact that the latest round of water cutbacks is having on families, businesses and communities of the Central Valley. The findings present a graphic demonstration of the need to fix California’s broken water system.
I took a look at the press release [DOC] and accompanying economic report [PDF]. The report (by well-known water economists) uses a linear-programming model to project the impact of water disruptions on the local economy.

Although projected losses are actually quite small** (700 jobs and $175 million, claim the PR people), I was more interested in their distribution. The organization that commissioned the report is projected to suffer very small losses compared to Westlands. I attribute larger losses at Westlands to that district's larger size as well as its riskier water profile -- the land and water supply to Westlands is so marginal (e.g., no groundwater) that a disruption has devastating impacts.

Bottom Line: Any relief to Westlands should go to those who lose their jobs -- not the farmers who are trying to grow crops on horrible land. Westlands should never have come into existence; see prior posts. Now we see why.

* I had to ask who their client was. She replied:
I work for westlands water district. The san luis delta mendota water authority commissioned and paid for the report while westlands supplied data along with a couple of the other public agencies in the central valley.

Congressman Costa was in town today for a hearing and agreed that we could send his release with the economic study.

If this is not compelling the mayor of mendota provided very grave testimony today at the hearing that tells just how dire the situation truely is in the area. I encourage you to call him as well.
** California agriculture is a $32 billion industry that employs 308,000 people. (No, I do not use or cite "multiplier" statistics on "related" jobs or economic activity -- too much double-counting.) Note that agriculture is a tiny part of a $1.5 trillion state economy that employs 18 million people.


  1. One of the many ironies of Westlands is that it is far from "horrible land"; in fact, the Panoche loams are some of the deepest and most productive soils anywhere. After the farmers overdrafted the ground water and wrecked the aquifer, (yes, there's another good story) Bernie Sisk (Democrat congressman, Pater of Pork) set about getting more water.
    I don't know why you carry such a horn for this particular project, but little errors like that make it easy for people who disagree with you to dismiss or discredit all of your opinions. We need some creative thinking, even from people who have the temerity to disagree with me from time to time!

  2. Philip -- all I know is what I've seen and heard on Westlands. The main issue is salinity. The main cause is subsidized water. If Westlands was paying market prices for water and not having salinity issues. I'd back off. (BTW, I think IID is far worse than Westlands...)

    Although Westlands *may* have excellent soils in some places, it is not all wine and roses...

    And, hey, if you've got facts, I'm willing to change my opinions :)


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