25 January 2011

Craig Wilson is wrong about ag water use

Wilson is the water master for the Delta. He's a lawyer, and he's brought the propaganda that farmers can be regulated into efficiency (see this and this, via RM).

Yes, of course, it's true that you can tell farmers to use less water, but the Soviets proved how inefficient and unjust such command and control regulations are.

The Pacific Institute's flawed reports (and Peter Gleick) are cited as sources for these ideas, so let me remind everyone that:
  1. Farmers with water rights will use less when it's profitable.
  2. Most conservation measures (drip irrigation, for example) do NOT reduce waste if the water would have gone back into the ground or irrigation canal anyway.*
  3. Subsidizing farmers to install efficiency gear (as PI advocates) merely penalizes taxpayers.
  4. The best way to may conservation profitable is by allowing farmers to sell (consumptive) water that they do not use to other farmers, environmentalists and urban water managers.
Bottom Line: Wilson's water efficiency idea is about as smart as cutting off your leg to lose weight.
* (via MM) The Supreme Court is examining prior appropriation in Montana vs. Wyoming and finding that the combination of first in time, first in right with quantified diversions (not consumption) is resulting in shortages for junior water users. In this case, Montana is getting less water as Wyoming farmers use "high efficiency" irrigation that reduces return flows. Time to quantify rights in terms of consumption.


  1. I keep trying to come back and see what/how you've developed, and I see that you are exactly where you were two years ago. That's frightening, especially because your position flirts with a paradox.

    How do you allocate water to noneconomic entities (i.e., nature)? How do you reconcile your attack on Mr. Wilson here with your own motto, "some for free, pay for more"? This motto requires regulated command-and-control over water quantity.
    You just hide behind "some" and "more", instead of talking about the numbers. When you, yourself (and I'm sure you have one) pick a number, you become that apparatchik you harangue.

    And if prices ever become implemented, who will set them? Because, outside of nature, only one entity has real control over Qw.

  2. I don’t purport to be an expert, but I thought that the Supreme Court uses equitable apportionment when ruling on interstate water disputes. Although the Court will consider State’s prior appropriation systems, these systems are not binding on the Court.

  3. Do a search on Water Rights at Thomas.gov for the last few Congresses and you will see how many water rights are being taken with various measures, Bills and Resolutions, and in multiple Committees. Watch their wording! They have the right, they say, to hold back water sufficient to maintain a Wilderness. They do not specify what that amount is, they just say "Trust Me". With our Watershed? NO! Utahns, wake up! Stop Matheson's Wilderness and Watershed Act Now. Do not let them rename your streams or rivers as Wild, either. Adequate research will show you the greater plan, once you put the puzzle pieces together. Protect local control at 100% of our water. (This includes building a nuclear plant downstream with a mandate to allow them sufficient water to stop a meltdown.) Water is Life.

  4. @Josh -- "some for free" is a rate design for urban water pricing and allocation. It has nothing to do with "bulk" water policies or allocation.

    I've written about my "soln" to the Delta negotiation here: http://www.kysq.org/pubs/JCWRE144.4.pdf

    What I said about Wilson stands: he is proposing a regulatory seizure based on a useless concept of "efficiency." I'd prefer that some agency set the minimum enviro flow (e.g., as proposed by Fish and Game, I think, at 75% of normal flows) and then let humans negotiate (auction!) over remaining water.

    I cannot specify a Q, when it should ultimately be an outcome of a market negotiation (same way I cannot name the number of burgers McDs will sell today).

    @Anonymous -- interesting point on legislation. That's how "reallocations" sometimes happen. On the current case, I think that SCOTUS is taking an existing allocation agreement into consideration...

  5. And your unwillingness or inability to truly understand definitions of "conservation" and "efficiency", your enthusiasm for taking pot-shots at those who propose applying such concepts in the real world, such as our Institute studies (which are peer-reviewed, vetted, and nuanced), and your fall-back on narrow and ideological assumptions about prices and markets are not only unhelpful but unrealistic.

    Craig Wilson raises legal and definitional points about "reasonable and beneficial use" which are based in the California constitution, extensive legal precedent, and the real world. His argument have great merit, and while there is massive entrenched opposition to them from those who do not WANT to see their water use revealed or evaluated because the benefit from lack of monitoring, lack of rights enforcement, lack of groundwater law, they are more realistic than your persistent arguments that all we have to do is price, price, price (and market). That's not working too well in the real world either.

    Peter Gleick


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