I just read “Farmers Water Deals Stirs Debate” in the New York Times and couldn’t resist sharing my two scents. Maybe it was the use of the word “debate” that got me excited?
As a quick disclaimer, I’ve worked on water rights projects in 18 states and California is not one of them. If there is a critical detail to California that I’m missing, please don’t hesitate to let me know at email@example.com.
Here we go….
1. Lets put this deal into perspective. Based on volumes (AC-FT) we are referring to roughly 2,000 irrigated acres (assuming a conservative 1 ac-ft per acre). According to the USDA, King County has 421,571 irrigated acres. The “water deal” equates to less than 0.4% of all the irrigated acres in King County. So, please don’t make it sound we won’t have any food left to eat if this deal goes through. We’ll have plenty.
2. “What am I going to tell folks when farmers sell their water and put farm workers out of a job and they make millions at the publics’ expense?” Well, Juan I would tell them something like this: Folks, we just sold water associated with a small portion of the Dudley Ridge Water District for a 1,070% return on investment or $10.7 million profit. Since this water accounts for less than 10% of the irrigated acres in this District, we will be reinvesting these proceeds into the district. This money will not only help with the current water risk and uncertainty in delivery, but also decrease the tax burden of the district – not to mention, reduce public expenses on the property. Finally, the beauty of this deal is we are only selling the water. Thus, we can still pursue less water intensive management practices on the land historically irrigated with this water. Thank you for your time. Juan in 2012!
3. Simple economics. For the record, I’m not an economist, but I have plenty of friends who are, so I’m sure they’ll check me on this one. As the article reads, this water deal is drying approximately 2,000 acres of agricultural land. Irrigation that the article describes as follows: “without a consistent supply of water, farmers face economic chaos, if not ruin.” If completed, the water will be used to service a proposed development of 23,000 homes. Without crunching the numbers, I’m pretty sure this project will create a net gain in California jobs and wealth.