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.

6 comments:

  1. Excellent review of the situation in that water-rich district.

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  2. Any idea how PVID & MWD calculate the exact amount of water that MWD receives every year per acre that is fallowed?
    Also, is PVID selling its excess water that it would have had anyway? If you look at

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  3. Here are the details of the MWD deal: http://pvid.org/PVIDMWDProgram/tabid/58/Default.aspx

    PVID is selling water that it WOULD HAVE consumed -- about 5AF/ac...

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  4. So is the 5AF per acre an average on all the crops fallowed throughout the district so that an individual farmer could fallow a crop that uses less than the 5AF per acre average and make more money per AF? Or am I missing the point because they are paid per acre fallowed and they don't think about $/AF?

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  5. They are paid per acre fallowed, and MET gets the water that "would have" been used...

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  6. A little bit more goes into the calculation. There is the ET rate and a certain amount fixed in to compensate for water that is absorbed into the water table since PVID system consists mainly of dirt canals. True PVID is selling extra water if there is such a thing. However, counties to the south such as Imperial are in an agreement with MWD too. Mexico will suffer the most. An acre foot is how much water it would take to cover an acre 1 foot deep with water.

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