There is some kind of insanity in Sacramento these days. The budget is missing $14.5 billion dollars from being balanced. And that doesn’t even include cutbacks in state support for fire fighters, police, teachers and students. A horrendous fire season will start soon, gang wars in Los Angeles seem out of control, California teachers are leaving the state at an alarming rate to find better paying jobs. Only 2/3rds of the students in the Los Angeles school system graduated this year and California is on course to rival Mississippi for under funded education.Although I agree that agricultural water is very cheap, my solution is the integration of agricultural and urban water demands into a single market. I also don't agree that the peripheral canal is a waste of money. According to the experts, it is a necessary means of managing water circulation under the triple-threat of global warming (rising sea level), earthquakes, and ecological collapse.
In the face of this looming disaster, the legislature and the governor want to spend billions of dollars we don’t have to build dams, reservoirs and a truly bad idea, the Delta canal. All of this to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, e.g., California’s “water problem”. In fact, the Department of Water Resources is spending $2 million just to get a few people to think about the “problem”.
Here are the facts: California agriculture uses 80% of all the water in California and they waste 60% of that water by irrigating water thirsty crops in basically a desert. What do we get for our huge investment of water in California agriculture? The answer is very, very little. California has a $1.5 trillion economy and agriculture contributes a miniscule 2% to that total. So 80% of our water is invested in producing 2% of the states economy. Does that sound like a good deal to you? It sure doesn’t to me.
Why does agriculture waste water so egregiously? The answer is because water for agriculture is so CHEAP! Farmers pay as little at $2 an acre foot (AF is about 326,000 gallons and a common water metric). Households in California pay $1,000, or more, for exactly the same water. How did this dreadful situation come about? The answer is very simple. The California legislature doesn’t have enough political courage to re-price water. If water were sensibly priced, farmers would switch to higher value crops that require less water, and install drip irrigation to deliver that water with minimum waste.
The entire solution to California’s water problem is just that simple, direct and fast. It would save billions of dollars that would not be spent on unneeded dams and canals, the value of California agriculture would increase significantly, and California’s citizens would not have to take showers with friends. That sounds like a win-win deal to me.
Write, email, call your representative in Sacramento and tell them to get busy and re-price our water, and solve the water problem right now.
6 Aug 2008
TP3: Make Farmers Pay
The third episode of the Teal Pumpernel's opinions:
Labels: guest post