9 Mar 2009

Water Chats -- Another Farmer at Imperial

Between my chat with Joe Tagg and the IID staffers, I talked to another farmer in Imperial Valley who wished to remain anonymous...

Here are a few things that he wanted you to know:
  • Imperial valley farmers love farming and want to continue.

  • The Imperial Irrigation District (IID) elects directors on a one-man, one-vote system. This is because IID sells both water and power, and the law requires that power providers have such a popular vote mechanism. That means that farmers (who use 97% of IID's water) do not control how IID manages, prices, allocates water.

  • The resulting water policies are not popular with farmers, but changing the governance model [I discuss how it is "broken" here.] is unlikely because it would require that those who control power now give up some of their power.

  • Imperial farmers are not happy about the deals to sell water to Metropolitan (MWDSC) or the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA). They are especially concerned that the revenue from these sales is going to IID, which has only distributed about 25 percent of the money (now well over $80 million) to farmers. (Farmers are paid $85/AF for water that IID sells for over $250/AF. They are allowed to participate in fallowing programs if their land is selected by lottery.)

  • IID's annual reports give no information on how that money is being spent. (IID's 2007 annual report came out in October 2008.) The farmers are still waiting to get money for water conservation systems.

  • After five years, IID has conserved a total of one-thousand acre-feet of water (IID consumes 3 million-acre feet/year!)

  • IID gets most of its revenue from energy, but spends most of its time on water issues. IID would work better if water and power were split apart. Farmers would control the water (as is the norm in water districts elsewhere), and citizens would control the energy. The current structure is not working very well now, and it's unlikely to work better in the future.

  • Imperial farmers love their lives -- cheap land and good water. They are in far better shape than Westlands farmers. The "crying shame" is that Imperial farmers, given the opportunity, might be interested in a one year transfer -- via fallowing and payments for the water similar to the current program -- but with all the money going to the farmer. Even temporary transfers like this in a time of extreme drought are not on the table, so Westlands farmers cannot keep their almond trees alive. But IID directors don't want farmers to get money from selling their water -- the farmers' water.)

  • Imperial farmers would be better served if they had PVID's governance structure [see above!].
[DZ's] Bottom Line: IID needs to be split in two if it is going to properly manage either water or power.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent accounting of the situation down in the Imperial Valley. Too bad there does not seem to be the political will to bust IID into separate water and power entities, because that would solve problems all the way around.


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