20 May 2009

The Drought Water Bank Fails

Here's the story:
Moving water around California is never simple. And the troubles with the state's "water bank" show why.

Fish-related pumping restrictions in the Delta narrowed the window for moving water from north to south, limiting the amount some farmers could sell and scaring off potential buyers.

A collection of environmental groups sued the state for what they claim is a failure to properly assess the impacts of the water sale on everything from local aquifers to the habitat of the threatened giant garter snake. One provision of the bank would allow farmers to sell their river-water allocation but pump ground water for irrigation...

Many farmers were leery of entering into a complex water deal with the state, fearing they might be liable for unexpected environmental damages, become ineligible for federal subsidy programs or simply lose money if the sale fell through. The diesel engines some would have to use to pump water are considered air polluters, subject to a complicated permit process.

What's more, rice prices are at their highest levels in nearly 30 years...

The state water bank offered farmers $275 an acre-foot, a price meant to roughly compete with this year's rice returns. Teresa Geimer, who is coordinating the program for the Department of Water Resources, said it is likely to transfer about 82,000 acre-feet. The target was as high as 600,000.
Oh, and DWR also offered TOO LITTLE MONEY. So much for "prices will be established by the open market."

Bottom Line: The DWB failed. Blame DWR, but don't blame "markets." And, yes, I called it.


WaterSource/WaterBank said...

CA & NV already have a "water bank"...

The Water Bank can hold 28.5 million acre feet ... it is already built, bought and paid for by the American people ... Lake Mead !

And you are right, PRICE is CA's dilemma ...

CA wants 15 million acre feet in storage ready to be delivered... for free ?

The Bureau wants 2000 megawatts of renewable energy and 325,900,000,000 gallons of fresh water each year for storage ... for free?

The environmental community wants the Colorado River Delta restored and the Salton Sea freshened ... for free ?

NV wants its desert protected and shorter straws into Lake Mead ... for free ?

People in Hell want ice water ...probably for free !

WaterSource/WaterBank waterrdw@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

I don't know that DWR failed.

One, this is a crummy year for the drought water bank, because it has no assets. Ain't nobody selling water because it didn't rain enough, so the drought water bank has something like tens of thousands of acre-feet to sell when what is need is more than a million.

Two, the drought water bank is hamstrung part of the year because sellers can't be matched up with buyers, due to the Delta being a serious roadblock. Canal is the answer, and the failure to construct a canal is not DWR's.

David Zetland said...

@CF -- Strike one: DWR controlled price. Strike two: DWR didn't get the paper work done, so it was hard to sell. Strike three: the Delta is NOT the barrier, since deliveries are still being made (i.e., there's capacity) has surely failed (in the LT) to manage this "water resource."

WaterSource said...

Farming is a long term proposition. No farmer is going to make the expenditures necessary ( land preparation, machinery, and planting) without a long term assurance that the necessary water will be available. Acquiring water this year from a "water bank" without assurance next year is not going to be even remotely acceptable to the prudent farmer.

The legal accumulation of millions of acre feet in storage or a canal with an expected percent of supply forecast is worth gambling the farm. Rolling the dice each year to see if someone has supply to offer is not a game high stakes farming will risk.

The price of the water will be the same ... It has to be a reasonable known amount from year to year. Except for dry-land farming, you don't just hop on a tractor and pray for rain ...

WaterSource waterrdw@yahoo.com

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