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Know the West

A shortage of leadership, not water


Jonathan Parkinson does not understand water management or economics (HCN, 4/13/09). It is more cost-effective to efficiently use the available resource than to develop more expensive new supplies. Urban water use is double what is necessary to maintain our lifestyle. Why? Wasteful practices and inefficient fixtures.

Agricultural use is double what is needed to provide food to California and the U.S. Why? Inexpensive water is used for irrigated pasture and marketing agreements. (Up to 25 percent of all food grown in California is thrown away because of surface blemishes, inadequate size, and oversupply.) Government subsidies result in huge water use for crops like rice, cotton and sugar that are available at lower cost on the world market.

Couple the waste of water noted above with the dumping of enormous quantities of high-quality wastewater into the ocean and it is very clear that California has no shortage of water. What we have is a lack of political leadership to manage groundwater use, fix our 19th century water rights and price water appropriately.

Larry Farwell
Santa Barbara, California