I’ve recently become intrigued by the ongoing debate of water in the world of wine. I was first introduced to the concept of “wineries without water” through a bottle of Cameron – a founding member of the deep roots coalition. In short, the question is to irrigate or not to irrigate? Like everything else in the world, I look at this concept from the perspective of the water market:
1. What I think: New World Wine is irrigated because this water has historically been cheap and a common practice across the West.
Why: The existing infrastructure was in place and water was easily (cheaply) delivered to vineyards.
2. What I think: Markets allocate resources to their highest valued use and thus far vineyards have experienced limited pressure for reallocation.
Why: In comparison to low-valued cash crops (alfalfa), wine is a high-valued use of water.
3.What I think: Because vineyard irrigation appears to be an option, higher-valued uses may increase the motivation to sell existing irrigation water rights to other uses.
Why: Why not.
4. What I think: If non-irrigated wine is truly a better product, or significantly increases the winery’s bottom line, many wineries will head this direction regardless of demand for their irrigation water rights.
Why: Because that is how markets work, and more importantly, why markets work.