Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Give us more water ... or the aquifer gets it!

This is just priceless.

A farmer from the Central Valley of California makes the argument, in an opinion piece for the Modesto Bee, that if only the Delta restrictions could be dropped, allowing more surface water to be delivered to farms, they could stop overpumping the aquifers - resulting in subsidence, diminished water quality, and wholesale dewatering of their insurance supply.

Come on guys. Are we really supposed to be sympathetic to your plight? OK, you're behaving rationally under the circumstances because the State of California has chosen (start at p. 8) not to govern in the case of groundwater use, but you could still choose to manage the resource more wisely by setting up local governance that actually collects some data on groundwater use, sets some pumping limits, and tries to avoid some of the external costs of over-pumping. But no, this is just another lame opportunity to whine about the Delta smelt and how the little fish is harming farmers.

Time to move on.

Once again, thanks to Aquafornia for bringing this to my attention.

4 comments:

holterbarbour said...

Hey Chris,

I claim little expertise in anything, least of all water management. But I'm curious what kinds of efficient usage ordinances (if any) are in place for agricultural operations. Drip irrigation? Time of day restrictions? That sort of thing.

Michael Roman said...

Since irrigation water use is such a large issue regarding the amount of water we use for irrigation why not start there in designing and using a better product? http://www.IrrigationThatMakesSense.org is a non profit group trying to battle our national water issues by providing funding and installation of green irrigation products. They have a irrigation product that conserves up to 80% of water use after two years. Their product is installed sub-surface therefore you never see it watering. It makes the plants stronger, uses less fertilizer along with water and no over spray onto sidewalks and roads. The cost to install their underground irrigation product is comparable to overhead sprinklers but this is the green irrigation choice.

Chris Brooks said...

@ ahb - Farmers are pretty good at preventing legislative meddling in the operation of their farms. Where efficiency mandates exist, they are usually the result of some local governance structure - i.e. irrigation district. And these usually take the form of prohibitions on excess tailwater (the stuff that runs off from the low end of the field due to over-application of water) and water delivery scheduling. I'm not too well versed in the nuts and bolts of this - but I can confidently say that state and federal regulators have very little say in how irrigation water is managed, except when they pony up with $$ to pay for improvements with strings attached. Because water rights are property rights there are always major takings arguments made against any form of top-down mandate.

Chris Brooks said...

@ MR - irrigation efficiency is a fine thing ... as long as it doesn't result in significant increases in consumptive use. That can be hard to do because water rights are typically based on diversion amount, not consumed amount. So often when farmers improve their efficiencies they take that saved water and use it to increase yields (they gotta pay for the improved irrigation system) leading to more water consumed = none saved or even worse.