9 Mar 2009

Water Chats -- Smith of PVID

After I spoke with the folks at IID, I went over to the Palo Verde Irrigation District to talk to Ed Smith, their general manager. (I say "December" 12, but we talked on February 12, 2009.)

During our 38 minute conversation [13MB MP3], we discussed a few things:
  • PVID's Priority 1 water rights (on California's 4.4MAF of Colorado River water), which means PVID farmers can use as much water as they want to irrigate 104,000 acres.
  • PVID puts 9 feet of water on its land, but "only" 5AF are consumed. The rest flows back into the Colorado River. (IID's runoff goes into the Salton Sea.)
  • Farmers pay about $60/acre for as much water as they want.
  • PVID has an important, successful and popular fallowing program, i.e., PVID has fallowed 25 percent of its land so that it can sell its water to Metropolitan (MWDSC) at $620/fallowed acre (roughly $124/AF). (Met paid $3,170/acre to get farmers to sign the fallowing agreement.) More on that program here.
  • The fallowing program has not had detrimental impacts on labor, etc. ("third party impacts") -- mostly because many laborers moved to the construction jobs [now gone] in the city.
  • PVID is like IID in all ways (Colorado River diverter contracting with the Bureau of Reclamation, etc.) except three:
    1. PVID's operations are not dominated by a power division
    2. Fallowing payments go to PVID farmers.
    3. PVID's Board of Directors is popular with PVID's farmers. Votes at PVID are based on land value, not popular vote.
  • Note that Met wants to buy more water (@$275/AF, says Hasencamp), but that price is too low for PVID. Stay tuned....
Listen on to hear why PVID is "in the cat bird's seat" in the current water "shortage."

Bottom Line: PVID provides a good example of how agriculture can maximize the value of its water while simultaneously staying in business.