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Know the West

Water is for fighting


The article on the Westlands Water District is on the whole a good review of the problems arising from conflicting demands on a limited resource (HCN, 1/18/10). However, the balance between viewpoints is skewed in favor of agricultural interests by omitting the role of the Bureau of Reclamation, which encouraged agribusiness by failing to enforce the law with regard to federally subsidized water.

The demand for water within the Westlands area could be significantly reduced if the Bureau would enforce the restrictions set by Congress for federal water projects and the Central Valley Project, as follows:

  1. Subsidized water should be provided only to farms of 960 acres or less. More than 90 percent of the water supplied to Westlands may go to farms that exceed this limit.
  2. The cost charged to users of subsidized water should by law be significantly higher than the amounts currently collected by the bureau. Removal of this illegal subsidy would reduce the demand for water.

Most of the landowners currently complaining about water shortages in Westlands are illegally receiving water, and are also receiving annual illegal subsidies of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars per farm. Their side of the argument is thus much weaker than it appears in Matt Jenkins' presentation.

Robert Tighe
Tucson, Arizona