27 Sep 2008

Silly Legislation

Two California congressmen are trying to pass a federal law (the misnamed "California Drought Alleviation Act", or CDAA) that will allow the Dept of Interior (the oil guys!) to ignore the Endangered Species Act and turn on pumps that will divert water to agriculture in California.

Despite their "save urban households" rhetoric, the gents hoist their own petards when they note that 83 percent of the pumped water will go to agriculture. I left this comment:
I like food, but I am not persuaded that we should turn on the pumps to pump more water to ag or build more dams. Ag WILL have to reduce water demand BECAUSE of growing demand from enviro and urban uses.

Recognize this and then get to work letting farmers, enviros and cities reconcile their demand through markets -- not dams and lawsuits.

BTW -- CA law allows for seizure of water for human health, etc. The CDAA is NOT about cities -- it's about farmers. Admit it.
Speaking of dumb laws, the State Assembly has passed AB2275, a law that requires that bottled water companies report how much water they are withdrawing. AB2275 is a waste of time and sop to the anti-bottled water zealots. I'd wager that total bottled water withdrawals are less than 0.2% of total water diversions in the state (ag/urban/industrial). Let's pay attention to bigger issues, e.g., adjudicating groundwater, facilitating water markets, building a peripheral canal, etc.

Bottom Line: I hope that these guys get some campaign contributions from constituents, since these laws do nothing for the people of California.


  1. I don't get it.

    I can't comment on AB 2775, but to say the ESA relief bill does "nothing for the people of California" is absurd. It does nothing for the fish at issue in the Delta pumps meltdown, perhaps, but it would allow resumption of pumping operations to supply ag, and yes urban, uses south of the Delta. How is that not so?

    I do agree that the CDAA is sponsored by ag interests, including the authoring Congressmen.

    You commitment to "markets" does not go far enough here. The "market" you seek - free trade of water among competing interests - cannot function properly with the ESA straitjacket currently yoking the Delta pumps. And I point out that that ESA straitjacket is not backed by any money. It would be one thing if the ESA was competing in the marketplace for control of those pumps, but it is most clearly not...

    The problem with the "enviro" competition you talk about forcing ag to "reduce" its "demand" is that it operates on a different playing field. It can impose itself on the system without any market horsepower - i.e., money. All it has is political horsepower. Aren't you against that as a matter of free markets? If I go into Circuit City without money but run my lip enough, do I deserve a TV?

    You shouldn't be threatened by the CDAA, from the economic perspective. All it is is a political action (law) that takes away a piece of a former political action (bigger law). So what gives, from the market perspective?

  2. Captain -- Good point, but the ESA applies to an area that is NOT subject to market forces, i.e., the environment. I am NOT saying "protect the environment at all costs" but we cannot ask fish what they are willing to pay :)

    As far as I am concerned, maintaining minimal flows (shutting down pumps) is fair game as long as we all agree that the environment is a public good.

    Farmers, et al. will just have to cope -- unless they can show the political strength to overturn ESA.


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