24 February 2009

Yes, Regulate Groundwater in California

The battle is getting started:
The California Legislative Analyst's Office recommends that the Legislature turn groundwater over to the state, which would remove local control

[snip]

[farmers] say they fear that the state would require water meters, find out how much water everyone's using and charge for it.

Valente, vineyard and orchard manager for John Kautz Farms, says farmers assume that if you own a piece of property and you have water underneath it, you're allowed to use that water.

While the Legislative Analyst's proposal would increase state administrative costs to establish new programs, there would be long-term savings to public and private entities across the state
As I have told numerous audiences, California and Texas agree on two things: No to gay marriage and No to statewide control and monitoring of groundwater.

Although I am not going to talk about gay marriage (except to say, yes please), I am going to repeat my complaint that unregulated and unknown groundwater withdrawals of groundwater are California's BIGGEST water policy problem. Why? Because we cannot even price or market water if we do not know actual supply or demand.

Will the farmers' worst fear ("we may have to pay for water") come true? Probably not for the farmers who DO control ALL the rights to the aquifer they use. Farmers who share their aquifer with others MAY have to pay a price -- if that's the only way to slow down the currently unsustainable overdrafting (mining) of water supplies.

Someone told me that there is 13MAF of pumping capacity installed in California's Central Valley. Given that this FAR exceeds the sustainable yield of aquifers (2-3 MAF?) and that surface water deliveries are going to be tiny, the likelihood of overdrafting, collapsing aquifers and other bad outcomes is extreme. Farmers will be destroying their future as they race to outpump each other today...

Bottom Line: The only way to sustainably manage a resource is to know how much of it you have and control access to it. Without these simple guarantees of property rights, a tragedy of the commons will result.

1 comment:

Ray Walker said...

Potentially charging for groundwater withdrawal isn't the only dilemma ... Almost all groundwater is eventually proven to be TRIBUTARY and hydraulically connnected to the nearest stream/river. Once this determination is legally made, wells are found to be diverting out-of-priority in the prior appropriation systems of the southwest.

State Engineers like to ignore this dilemma as long as possible in hopes it will just go away before they retire. Thousands of well owners eventually find themselves "sucking hot air" when they finally get curtailed to meet legitimate "calls" by senior appropriators. Collectively all non-exempt wells in drainage basins like the South Platte, Arkansas and Rio Grande Rivers are someday awakened to regid cease and desist orders accompanied by economic disaster.

Free lunches are seldom free for long ...

This is just one of the reasons why there is no interest in validation/investigation of a new non-tributary fresh water Source that can be developed to yield a million acre feet each year for CA without damage to the environment or the water rights of anyone, anywhere.

WaterSource waterrdw@yahoo.com