Good article--but let's not make the rate levels so progressive that to
keep your lawn lush, you'll spend $500 a month, like in California. (Also in California, they raised rates when water was scarce--and when people
then cut back (so they received less water sales revenue), they raised rates
again to cover their expenses. No matter what, they had this fun cycle where
they had to raise rates every year.) I don't want to hear
about conservation until farmers are responsible and careful too; it's
almost a one-way deal today. And what if we stopped making meat so cheap?
Imposing market discipline will fix most of our water problems, but we
can't do it unless we have transparency on who owns the water and what they
are doing with it. It seems sensible that the state should own all the water
except for Colorado River water that Utah is obligated to deliver to downstream
states. I'm sensitive to the fact that currently different entities own
water rights and would be financially ruined without them, so why not empower
the state to buy their water rights at a market price, then sell them back water
at a market rate that could vary from year to year depending on supply?This might force some farming operations to close because without subsidized
water rights they don't have a viable business model. That's a good
thing, as the water would find its best use through the wisdom of free market
allocation. We need to set aside enough water for healthy lakes and streams,
then sell the rest to the highest bidder and we will see what the market
determines is the best use of it.
@tron527,Agricultural users cannot cut their water use by 10%
without suffering significant financial losses. There are complex hydrological
and economic reasons why that are explained in the water economics literature
(papers by Whittlesy & Huffaker and Ward & Pelado-Vasquez, are a good
place to start).So, the only way farmers will cut water consumption
is if they're compensated for it. But Utah water law complicates the
possibility of selling water for some years and not others. So you would have to
convince farmers to move to consume less water (which doesn't immediately
follow increased irrigation efficiency, but can, if diversions are appropriately
curtailed) in exchange for payment for a permanent transfer of their water
rights. That's a difficult proposition that hasn't happened much in
Utah yet, because the need isn't there. Once municipal demand reaches that
threshold, though, those transfers will occur.
For some reason in our state we have decided that we don't want water to be
allocated using market price as a signal, as we do with all other commodities.
As long as the price of water does not equal its marginal cost, there will be a
misallocation of resources. The Central Utah Water Conservancy District goes
through ruth in taxation now and then to increase its property tax rate to the
statutory maximum of .0004. Because it's a relatively low tax rate and a
small dollar amount, no one pays much attention -- the public hearing on the
rate increase is sparsely attended with a few speaking in opposition. The rate
increase is routinely approved. Maybe the Governor should appoint members to
this board who will stop this practice. Other water districts with revenue bond
debt have covenants that require them to keep their property tax rates at the
statutory maximum so that revenue from water sales is not a risk as a source of
payment for the bond. Prohibiting this practice would at least partially reduce
the property tax subsidy. Then water districts would need voter approval for
General Obligation bonds. Voters could decide how to pay for water.
This article heavily implies that the cold and wet 1982 weather was normal, and
that we have diverged from that wet normal due to climate change. 1982 was not at all normal. In fact, the 1981-1982 water year was the wettest
in recorded history. Ever. Picking that year for comparison is a
poor way to start a problem-solving discussion about water.
@Tron527;"Dry states should probably not be livestock states for
example."We also shouldn't be growing hay and alfalfa to
ship to China. Some of the most water intensive crops out there. Utah
politicians hate welfare for kids and adults, but they sure don't mind
corporate welfare for farmers and ranchers.
No, I didn't get enough to drink because 80% of our drinking water went to
people attempting to grow lush plants in the middle of the desert. That may have
been ok in pioneer days because there were only about 50 people who needed
drinking water, but times have changed. Move your farms to the
midwest where it rains more and there's a giant aquifer.
A few thoughts:1-Agri users own water rights dating back well over
100 years. If urban users want that water, they need to pay fair market value
for it. Ironically, urban demand is driving that price up. Cities should have
been buying water, and supporting additional water projects before things got
critical.2-The article's historic vinnetes provide strong
evidence that the West has always cycled between wet and dry cycles. It did so
long before the industrial revolution. Todays drought is nothing new. Man's
ability to permanently live here has always relied on water storage. As
population grows, we must increase storage to capture water in wet years for use
during dry periods.3-The true cost of water starts at the first
gallon and does not get more expensive in higher volumes. Consumer cost for
water may be be lower than market costs. But the tiered water rates used by most
cities now is fundamentally at odds with market principles. If we are to drop
socialized water, then drop all socialization of water. Charge full market
rates on the 1st gallon every month.Don't attack socialized
water rates and then demand I subsidize water for lower income residents.
The vast majority of water usage in Utah is for agricultural purposes Obviously urban folks can cut back on landscaping but will farmers and
ranchers ever pay the actual cost of water... the answer is no
Great article. This speaks to the need for people to live smaller, more
manageable lives within their resources.
Just over 80% of total water use for our state is Agriculture. I am not saying
that residents and municipalities shouldn't conserve, we all need to do
better, but the biggest water savings need to come from food growers. Dry
states should probably not be livestock states for example. It takes about 10
times the amount of water to produce a serving of beef as it does to produce
vegetables and grains and about 6 times that waters to produce a similar serving
of chicken or pork. Farms can use drip irrigation and change the way they till
to cut water use significantly. If Agriculture were able to cut water use by
10% it would do more than if residents cut water usage by 50%.