27 May 2010

Free Water!

JS and RM both sent me this article, about Modesto Irrigation District's decision to give its irrigators free water. Their intention is that the farmers will over-irrigate and thus recharge the local aquifer.

Given MID's water rights and the desire to store water for later, this makes sense.

But MID is worried that "parched" farmers -- and people who still think there's a drought -- will not be happy with this news.

Mike Wade (California Farm Water Coalition) "said water shortages in other areas should be fixed by increased storage and delta improvements, not by tapping the MID supply."

Wade is wrong.

Shortages result when demand exceeds supply. It would be cheaper to reduce demand (raise prices!) or allow trading of water. MID could make money, and farmers elsewhere could get more water, without having to wait for (expensive, OPM) dams or hope that a judge will allow them to take more water from the Delta.


  1. I wish MID would sell the additional water to farms who need it with the caveat that half the water would be allowed to recharge the purchasers' local groundwater. That way, we help to mitigate the statewide drought, MID makes more money than it would, and the groundwater gets some recharge.

    Also, you should have juxtaposed this article with one on the governor refusing to declare an end to the drought.

  2. @Josh I did. Check the link to "and people who still think there's a drought"...

  3. Trying to discern the proper action to resolve a water supply problem requires you to understand the perspective and motives of the individuals involved. Most farmers have faced water shortages sometime in the past. They understand that shortages mean a reduced ability to produce the crops that they sell for money to support their families and business ventures. No one knows what next year’s water supply is going to be so having a little extra in the aquifer is insurance against a reduced surface allocation. They’re saving for a (not) rainy day.

    Why did my Mom save small amounts of leftover vegetables from dinner? Because she lived through the Depression and understood what it meant to be frugal. Save a little here and a little there and pretty soon you have enough for an extra meal. That’s the same reason farmers who have the ability to put water away for tomorrow do so. Could they have sold the extra water to a water-short region? Sure. But they’re in the business of farming and most of the people I know would rather have the water to irrigate crops instead of a few dollars in their pockets and uncertainty over what next year’s water supply will be.

    Mike Wade, California Farm Water Coalition

  4. David... woops (which is why I'll never get published).


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