22 Jun 2009

Bootlegger Irrigation

Fleck asks if we should agree with those who claim that their outdoor irrigation is okay because it "recharges" local groundwater.

Besides the obvious engineering problem (pump up, irrigate, percolate SOME back is a net user of energy AND water), there's the more interesting (to me) claim that "my green lawn" is for the public good.

That rhetoric has been coming up a lot in my conversations with reporters in the past week. Bruce Yandle called it "baptists and bootleggers" (i.e., Baptists want to ban Sunday alcohol sales in stores "in the name of God." Bootleggers agree -- because they prefer less competition.)

In the water business, these images come up all the time
  • The Nature Conservancy and Central Valley farmers both backing the Peripheral Canal. What if the PC only delivered water but didn't "fix" Delta ecology? (Oh, and what if TNC didn't get any restoration contracts?)
  • Homeowners who claim they need cheap water for landscaping irrigation to "save the community" from wildfires -- when it really saves their lifestyle.
  • Activists claiming that water flows will maintain jobs -- when the flows will obviously benefit land owners by far more.
  • Your example?
Bottom Line: Always pay attention to who is claiming what benefit -- and who is benefiting while remaining quiet. In other words, follow the money!