Editor's note: David Zetland, a water economist at the University of California, Berkeley offers an insider's perspective into water politics and economics. We will be cross-posting occasional posts and content from his blog, Aguanomics, here on the Range.
I've been participating in an email discussion about Westland's plan
to sell 50-100,000 acre feet of water to Metropolitan Water District (Spreck
broke the news; this
article gives more background).
This ag-to-urban, central-to-southern California sale upsets enviros. Why?
- Westlands Water District has been making A HUGE FUSS about how it needs MORE water. How is it possible now that they can be selling water? (Short answer is that WWD has to sell it, to avoid losing it from storage; the long answer is that WWD will eventually sell ALL of its water to SoCal urban buyers. No, it's NOT about the workers, food or community. It's about MONEY.)
- MWD's water has driven SoCal sprawl, and more water means more lawns at MWD and more sprawl into new housing developments.
- Some enviros just dislike WWD (and other irrigators using imported surface water); they want it shut down and its water left in the environment/Delta.
I am not upset about these "business facts" (or even anti-ag emotions), especially when water is going from willing sellers to willing buyers, for beneficial use.
OTOH, I am not happy about this (prospective) sale:
- WWD water is subsidized.That means that price may be too low and profits come out of our pockets.
- A backroom sale does not allow others to bid. That's not good from a social perspective.
- Feinstein and other politicians are writing special rules, changing the definition of water rights to make them worth more cash -- and more water -- when we have already overallocated our water supplies. These special interest giveaways merely rob The Public a second time.
My suggestion? WWD auction its "surplus" water to the highest bidder and use the revenue to repay the money it spent to acquire it.* The remaining money should stay at WWD, as a reward for its special relationship with DiFi and others. (I don't like those special interest/lobbying rents, but I don't think they should be taken away. We need politicians who are brave enough to change the policies that produce these rents. Anyone?)Bottom Line: Water trading is good, as long as the good for sale is clearly owned and the price reflects its real cost.
* It's interesting that they are talking about a water swap -- 3 af today for 2 af in the future -- instead of a cash sale. The swap makes sense for three reasons: (1) They do not want to haggle over price (except that "net af" of water), (2) they do not want the public to know how valuable the water is if it WAS priced, and (3) they do not want to worry about cash flows. OTOH, the swap creates a long term relationship (good!), but also creates uncertainty. Will MWD be able to return the water in the future? What if it's dry for 5 years and MWD needs the water for toilets, showers and lawns?
Tom Birmingham wrote me an email on this post, and I am waiting for him to let me post it as a comment. Until then, the gist of his comment is that this is a swap, not a sale, and that MWD has the storage space to let it happen. I replied that this swap seems a poor substitute for a market (in which WWD and MWD would be able to buy and sell when and if they wanted), but a necessary substitute given the current distribution of water rights -- a distribution that favors WWD and MWD over other water users.Originally posted at Aguanomics.
The Bulgarian-born artist Christo specializes in gigantic installations -- like wrapping the Reichstag in Berlin, or arranging hundreds of fabric gates in New York City's Central Park.
For the past decade or so, he's had plans to return to Colorado with "Over the River." (His first Colorado project, an immense curtain in Rifle Gap, was about 40 years ago.) He proposes to suspend translucent panels over the Arkansas River between Salida and Canon City for a two-week period, perhaps in August of 2013. You can read more from Christo here .
It’s been a bad press week for dams. Last Saturday the Lake Delhi dam gave way, and the previous Tuesday the Tempe Town Lake dam literally exploded. The former disaster involved heavy rains swamping a 1920s-era dam on the Maquoketa River, while the latter resulted from a giant rubber bladder popping on the Salt River. In Iowa, upstream residents mourned the loss of a bucolic landscape as downstream residents mucked out mud. In Arizona, officials vowed to refill a recreational reservoir even as they combed downstream banks for flood victims--likely transients who often camp in the normally dry river bed.
These incidents remind us of several salient facts about dams, people, and nature. First, and especially in the American West, we fixate on a few large dams, yet most of us are more intimately entwined with the sort of structures that failed last week. These small dams are ubiquitous and unconscious backdrops of daily life. We rarely notice the irrigation gates along the roads of the San Joaquin, Snake, Uncompagre, and Yakima Valleys. Nor do we often consider those dikes in central California or the lower Colorado River, or the storage lakes that some Westerners use for play and that many more rely on for domestic usage. Until, of course, they fail, as has happened repeatedly since long before the St. Francis Dam gave way in 1928.
Editor's note: This link roundup comes from David Zetland, a water economist at the University of California, Berkeley. We will be cross-posting occasional posts and content from his blog, Aguanomics, here on the Range.
David Zetland Speed Blogging for Tuesday, July 27, 2010
- Food and Water Watch has a
guide to understanding your utility's water quality report. It may
be useful, but you will have to wade through their human rights and
- Many English speakers cannot
understand the passive tense. That may explain why academics and
bureaucrats like to use it (to sound smart), but it also explains why
people have a hard time understanding them. That's a problem if citizens
cannot understand laws or their rights.
interesting thoughts on subsidies vs user pays.
- Pro-citizen groups have put together a tool to help people understand
how to draw their own borders for congressional districts. This is a
great way of seeing how far politically-biased boundaries drift from
boundaries that are objective or that serve OTHER partisan interests.
extra stuff in beer that they (Bud, Miller) don't tell you about.
- Details on why clean coal isn't.
Hattips to RT and JWT
Originally posted at Aguanomics.
If I had to pick my favorite rodent, the choice would be easy: the marmot. Or more precisely, the yellow-bellied marmot of the American West, scientifically known as the Marmota flaviventris.
Mountain marmots are furry, about two feet long, and weigh around 10 pounds. They're closely related to other large ground squirrels, like groundhogs, gophers and woodchucks.
If you've ever hiked in high, rocky terrain, you've probably seen and heard marmots -- they chirp and whistle to warn their fellows of your approach.
By Bill Schneider, NewWest.net guest blogger, 7-15-10
Back in February somebody leaked seven pages of a “vision document” conceived within the Department of the Interior and created quite a political uproar. OMG! Top brass in the Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service (all Interior Department agencies) and a few green groups were actually discussing the idea of creating 14 new national monuments using the same end-run strategy employed by President Bill Clinton when--only three days before turning over the keys to the White House to George W. Bush--he used the Antiquities Act of 1906 to designate the 377,000-acre Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument in north central Montana and 12 more monuments in other states.
Now, it appears as if President Obama might do the same thing, even though Interior Secretary Ken Salazar claims it’s all “false rumors.” But in an excellent analysis (click here), Great Falls Tribune capital bureau reporter John S. Adams verifies that Interior Department higher-ups have indeed been seriously chatting up the monument idea. Salazar should have been proud to admit it.
Now, all those people who didn’t vote for President Obama, particularly western republican politicos, have their shorts jerked up tight over the idea. They consider it an abuse of presidential power and insist that any monument designation must first have a local consensus and then be passed by Congress.
First off, let’s be honest about motivations. Republicans want this congressional process because they know it won’t happen, and since the Obama administration proposed it, they have to be against it. Democrats will maintain a neutral stance, publicly, but in the end, they’ll let it happen because it’s coming from their President. Conservationists and scientists in agencies support using the Antiquities Act because they know it’s the only way it can happen.Read More ...
“Rants from the Hill” are Michael Branch’s monthly reflections on life in the high country of Nevada’s western Great Basin desert.
I live with my wife and two young daughters in the high desert of the western Great Basin, at 6,000 feet on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, on a desiccated hilltop so mercilessly exposed to wind, snow, and fire that our house appears to lean away from the trouble, like a tree canted by the blast of the Washoe Zephyr that sweeps these hills every afternoon. It is a stark and extreme landscape, utterly empty of any concern for our flourishing, or even survival. It is also, to us, the most remarkable home imaginable. I look forward to telling you more about this place and its human and nonhuman inhabitants in the monthly essays that will follow.
But first, in this essay of greeting, I offer a few reflections on how we human neighbors greet each other out here in the rural high desert. The fact that we are so few and far between in this big country profoundly conditions our modes of communication, increasing our dependence upon each other even as it intensifies the isolation we have chosen in coming here to dwell. Our challenge is to affirm the bonds of mutual aid so as to have them ready in times of blizzard, fire, and accident, while simultaneously protecting each other’s elaborate fantasies of independence. This is more difficult than it might sound, and it accounts for the ubiquity of discussions of the weather, without which my neighbors and I—there are eight of us strung along this nearly impassable, three-mile dirt road snaking through the sage and juniper hills—would have a rough time getting along. We’re all isolatoes here, distinguishable on any given day by our varying degrees of orneriness—by where we might each be placed on a narrow spectrum ranging from Tolerably Genial at the Mailboxes on up to Sociopathically Misanthropic. Despite our curmudgeonliness, we also know how to help each other when the need arises, which it does out here.Read More ...
Chris Clarke could see the entire northern part of the Mojave National Preserve from the summit of Kessler Peak. Light from that magical hour around sunset highlighted distant mountains and ridgelines. The view was spectacular. But as the sun dipped below the horizon he realized the path he’d taken to climb to the top was too steep to descend. Suddenly, he heard the melodic song of a canyon wren and saw a safe path open before him. “It was one of those moments when everything came together,” says Clarke. “The Mojave National Preserve took care of me.” Clarke has returned the favor. He’s a board member of The Mojave National Preserve Conservancy, a relatively new nonprofit friends group that seeks to protect the 1.6 million acre Mojave National Preserve. The conservancy works to protect the preserve by supporting educational programs, restoration projects, and capital improvements at the park.
Chris Clarke could see the entire northern part of the Mojave National Preserve from the summit of Kessler Peak. Light from that magical hour around sunset highlighted distant mountains and ridgelines. The view was spectacular. But as the sun dipped below the horizon he realized the path he’d taken to climb to the top was too steep to descend. Suddenly, he heard the melodic song of a canyon wren and saw a safe path open before him. “It was one of those moments when everything came together,” says Clarke. “The Mojave National Preserve took care of me.”
Clarke has returned the favor. He’s a board member of The Mojave National Preserve Conservancy, a relatively new nonprofit friends group that seeks to protect the 1.6 million acre Mojave National Preserve. The conservancy works to protect the preserve by supporting educational programs, restoration projects, and capital improvements at the park.Read More ...
I had read about "push polls," but until last week, I had never been exposed to one.
A "push poll" may sound like a real poll at first, but as the questions proceed, it's obvious that the pollster is trying to influence your thinking, rather than find out what you're thinking, which is what legitimate polls do.
My push-poll moment came after I returned from some errands and checked the answering machine, just in case an editor had called with the offer of some lucrative work.
No such luck. Instead, a robust voice started asking questions. Obviously this was a robo-call, since a human would have either hung up or left a message after getting the answering machine. I'm all for free speech, and I know the U.S. Supreme Court has decided corporations come under the First Amendment, but isn't there something we can do to make sure that robots don't have free-speech rights that annoy us?Read More ...