California Water Issues: A Simple Solution

\"\"If California does not provide an adequate water supply at reasonable cost to its agricultural industry, competition from globalization will soon turn the state into a third world country.

Additionally, most of the people working to find a solution to California water problems seem to have a hard time understanding the economic impact that the lack of water at reasonable prices has on the California economy and how this directly affects working families and the state’s tax base.

When agricultural land is abandoned or fruit trees and grape vines are taken out because of the lack of water, the assessed value of the property goes down. This results in decreased revenues for local services, thereby resulting in the loss of jobs for working families. Additionally, there is a measurable decrease in the income from production which reduces income taxes by billions of dollars to state and federal governments.

We must change the direction in which we have been going and make an investment to come up with new, innovative ways to support the agricultural endeavors that we’ve already developed to help move our economy forward.

The “first need” to alleviate the shortage of water supply to our growing population is to build reservoir systems that store more rainwater in the winter rainy season to be used for frost protection during the winter months and for irrigation during the dry summers. The sale of water would more than repay the cost of development of these reservoirs. The savings realized from building fish friendly reservoirs that replenish themselves with each winter’s rains AT NO COST should be evident to the Governor and the legislature. These reservoirs need to be built high in the mountains so there is gravity flow, thus cutting down on the cost of operation.

Back in the early 1960’s, I invested in a reliable water supply by building five reservoirs to solve our frost and irrigation problems for a 175-acre vineyard, and over the years, the savings (vs. buying the water) have computed to more than $1.5 million dollars.

Last winter, farmers along the Russian River were harangued by all applicable state agencies for pumping water for frost protection. If reservoirs (which refill with water every winter) were encouraged, instead of being hampered by the permitting process, the building of these reservoirs would alleviate much of the water shortage farmers experienced in 2009.

The Upcoming Bond Issue

In November of this year, California voters will be asked to vote on yet another water bond referendum. The $11.1 billion bill is comprehensive, and some say it is way too broad and full of pork projects. There are billions being thrown at the various components of the bill that not long ago only required millions. For example, there is $1.25 billion dollars allocated for water recycling and conservation. I believe if you ask the cities and the county water districts, the general population was able to conserve water during last year’s drought by approximately 15 percent. Conservation measures were so successful that most agencies are complaining about the loss of revenue and the need to raise water rates to cover those losses. These conservation measures were implemented the old fashioned way–with newspaper articles and direct mail pieces sent by the local agencies. None of this required billions of dollars. Where is the logic here?

We recognize that the legislature has been struggling for three decades with an attempt to come up with a solution to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta problem as well as replacement of infrastructure, etc. But I am of the opinion that the legislature and the Governor have thrown too much at the voting public by tying conservation, recycling, groundwater protection, drought relief, watershed protection, etc., etc. into one referendum.

There could not be a worse time for the State of California to go to the people to ask for passage of another water bond measure, especially one that doesn’t allocate predominate funds for the “first need,” which is water storage throughout California. A better way to move water storage to the forefront would be to create joint powers agreements between the federal, state, county and city governments to sell bonds to fund the needed projects.

The return on investment, when taking into account the sale of water, plus the increase in tax revenue from the agricultural products sold, would be in the billions of dollars.


2 responses to “California Water Issues: A Simple Solution”

  1. Great post on the water issue.

  2. Warren Fwy Avatar
    Warren Fwy


    When water moves from agriculture to an activity with higher economic value (say biotechnology or computer chip manufacturing), the economony of the state increases — we don’t turn into a third world county.

    That’s not to say that locally grown agricultural crops shouldn’t be grown — they have an important role in our health and economy.

    But to suggest that the agricultural industry has to be subsidized (“adequate water supply at reasonable cost”) lest we become a third world county is utter nonsense.

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