Thursday, December 10, 2009

Water Generalizations are Just Wrong

The latest CAST paper is out - called "Water, People, and the Future: Water Availabilty for Agriculture in the United States".   To begin with, this paper only covers water issues in Califormia, Arizona, Florida and the Ogallala (High Plains) Aquifer, yet sports a much broader title.   I would not have titled this paper so.  It seems fairly well researched along the lines of the very limited set water activities it chose to include.  It missed so much more that should have been at least mentioned.  And finally, the overarching conclusions it makes are likely true in some places, but not all - too generalized for my taste.  This just isn't right.

For example, one statement in the Abstract is that "...increasing industrial and residential use will continue to limit the water available to irrigation."  Heck, this then has to be true - even in GMD 4 - for CAST says it's so.  I ask how can this be?  Our population is declining and our non-ag economy is shrinking.  If it weren't for our GMD regulations prohibiting new irrigation development, we'd have MORE water for ag.  Besides, in Kansas all ag water use (all non-domestic use, actually) have very controlled water rights.  If ag chose not to sell, lease or give these rights away, they would never be limited - regardless of what industry and residential use might do.  I guess the report is saying that it WILL happen because ag will always sell the water when the price gets high enough.  Who knows.

As if this were not enough, in the High Plains Aquifer part of the report, one header is:  "Hesitation to Adopt Water Use Regulations".  This section goes on to conclude that when water management discussions in the High Plains turn to the future, it is simply agreed that "something" needs to be done. (period)  I resent the implication that little if anything has been regulated in our portion of the Ogallala.  GMD 4 has shut off all new development in 6 designated areas, and since 1986 has made it practically impossible to get a new water right.  Every non-domestic well in the GMD has been ordered to be metered by the DWR with GMD 4 assistance.  The district successfully pressed for a forfeited water right on the first case of a meter being tampered with.  Our irrigation tailwater control regulation requires by order an immediate and permanent fix on all uncontrolled water, or we visit the local judge.  We remediated (by regulation) over 2,500 abandoned wells in just under 4 years.  And the rest of what they don't know about our operation just makes me want to scratch my head.

Finally, the paper calls for sustainable water management.  I can't argue too much about this.  But I often wonder about the possibility of the state (or even federal government) deciding to move our water elsewhere if we were to manage it sustainably.  Kansas does have a water transfer act that allows the movement of water that is excess to a local area, to another area.  That'd be a kick in the head after making all the sacrifices to get to sustainability. 

Bottom line, I guess the report makes a lot of good points, but it's not "spot on" everywhere and it shouldn't be written as if it were - at least not in my opinion.

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