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« The "Lake" in Darfur: Euphoria and Myopia "Rain" | Main | Forensic Hydrology »

Monday, 23 July 2007

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Michael

Hi, John.
Thanks for the comment. I think ag transfers will occur for sure - ag uses something like 80% of Western water. I remember listening to Marc Reisner say almost 15 years ago that if all the California ag water went to urban areas, California could support 70M people! The state is halfway there.

Several observations:
1) Some of the ag water, if retired, will have to go to maintain environmental flows.
2) Some ag water is ground water, and some of that should be permanently retired and not transferred to cities.
3) We still need some ag in the West. Example: San Joaquin Valley is one of the richest ag areas in the world. Do we want it wall-to-wall subdivisions? Is that the best use of the land? Same is true (to a lesser extent) of my area, the Willamette Valley. How about High Plains aquifer area? There are also national security ("food security") issues at play, too.
4) Quality of life issues come into play. As one irrigator in the Middle Rio Grande valley once told me, "Would you rather see my alfalfa fields or another 10,000-home subdivision?"
5) Ag transfers may give us a false sense of security, and fuel future growth that will prove to be unsustainable.
6) Energy issues factor in as well.

Nothing is easy. That's why Western water is a growth industry!

Michael

John Fleck

Fascinating story, Mike. The conventional wisdom is that the exodus will at least be delayed a while by the inexorable shift of water from ag to urban use. What's your take on that argument?

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