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Earth The Almighty Buck United States Politics

How 'Virtual Water' Can Help Ease California's Drought 417

HughPickens.com writes Bill Davidow And Michael S. Malone write in the WSJ that recent rains have barely made a dent in California's enduring drought, now in its fourth year. Thus, it's time to solve the state's water problem with radical solutions, and they can begin with "virtual water." This concept describes water that is used to produce food or other commodities, such as cotton. According to Davidow and Malone, when those commodities are shipped out of state, virtual water is exported. Today California exports about six trillion gallons of virtual water, or about 500 gallons per resident a day. How can this happen amid drought? The problem is mispricing. If water were priced properly, it is a safe bet that farmers would waste far less of it, and the effects of California's drought—its worst in recorded history—would not be so severe. "A free market would raise the price of water, reflecting its scarcity, and lead to a reduction in the export of virtual water," say Davidow and Malone. "A long history of local politics, complicated regulation and seemingly arbitrary controls on distribution have led to gross inefficiency."

For example, producing almonds is highly profitable when water is cheap but almond trees are thirsty, and almond production uses about 10% of California's total water supply. The thing is, nuts use a whole lot of water: it takes about a gallon of water to grow one almond, and nearly five gallons to produce a walnut. "Suppose an almond farmer could sell real water to any buyer, regardless of county boundaries, at market prices—many hundreds of dollars per acre-foot—if he agreed to cut his usage in half, say, by drawing only two acre-feet, instead of four, from his wells," say the authors. "He might have to curtail all or part of his almond orchard and grow more water-efficient crops. But he also might make enough money selling his water to make that decision worthwhile." Using a similar strategy across its agricultural industry, California might be able to reverse the economic logic that has driven farmers to plant more water-intensive crops. "This would take creative thinking, something California is known for, and trust in the power of free markets," conclude the authors adding that "almost anything would be better, and fairer, than the current contradictory and self-defeating regulations."
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How 'Virtual Water' Can Help Ease California's Drought

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  • Shit! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    See, I'm a gluten-free vegan and the alomonds and almond milk were one of the few things I could eat and drink.

    I think I'm gonna have my genes spliced with a plant, turn green and eat by laying on the beach. And as people walk by, they'll inquire, "Who is that little green man?"

    • "See, I'm a gluten-free vegan and the alomonds and almond milk were one of the few things I could eat and drink."

      Spoken like a true gluten-free vegan, they always tell us that fact with the 5th word they utter.

  • by Harlequin80 ( 1671040 ) on Sunday March 22, 2015 @08:39AM (#49312643)

    This plan seems to forget that it takes time to grow these crops. It takes 3 years for your first crop of almonds and 8 before the tree is delivering anything like commercial quantities. These trees have decades of work invested in them and the posts suggestion of ripping out the crop is stupid.

    There are lots and lots of ways to lower the water usage of both the general population and water intensive applications such as farming. Are all the irrigation channels covered? That makes a huge difference. Installing dual flush toilets, recommending low flow shower heads. South East Queensland went through an 8 year drought and people were encouraged to bring their water usage down to 200l per person per day. That may still seem a lot but it is significantly lower than the normal usage.

    From there you also have to look at recycled water. What happens to the waste water once it has been treated? Using RO membrane treatment plants the water is purer then what falls from the sky, so pipe that back into your reservoirs instead of dumping it in the river / ocean.

    • by itzly ( 3699663 ) on Sunday March 22, 2015 @09:07AM (#49312747)

      If water was properly priced, it would just be an additional variable in the profit calculation. It doesn't mean you'd have to rip out the crop. If you can still make it profitable, despite higher water prices, it makes sense to continue to grow it.

      • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

        profitability depends on market prices and california isn't the only place growing them.

        now, if the farmers could instead of the almonds sell the water...? if it's state water services provided water and it's cheap enough to grow nuts, I don't really see there being a drought in the first place.

      • by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Sunday March 22, 2015 @09:16AM (#49312783) Homepage Journal

        British Columbia recently instituted a tax on water drawn from wells. It's 'insignificant' for individual, but if you simply started charging for drawing industrial amounts of water from wells, as you increase the tax you'd quickly see conservation. More water efficient crops, more efficient watering methods, etc...

        I mean, I'd imagine that putting greenhouses up over all the trees would be hugely expensive, but that would allow you to recycle the water at close to 100%efficiency.

      • by minstrelmike ( 1602771 ) on Sunday March 22, 2015 @01:03PM (#49313785)

        If water was properly priced, it would just be an additional variable in the profit calculation. It doesn't mean you'd have to rip out the crop. If you can still make it profitable, despite higher water prices, it makes sense to continue to grow it.

        The "real" agricultural problem is that trees aren't like regular crops. You only have to water alfalfa and corn after they've been planted and while they are growing. You don't have to water empty (fallow) fields. You do have to water trees year-round. The economics of almonds only makes sense when you have a steady water price you can count on for decades. Expect the tree growers to scream. And they will scream at politicians and the government, blaming them for the increased price instead of accepting that free market forces work on _everything_ regardless of whether you wish them to or not.

        Economics is the study of how we calculate scarce resources. Now that water has become scarce, economics arises.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          You only have to water alfalfa

          Alfalfa is real water guzzler in California. Alfalfa, hay and pasturage account for about half of all Californian water consumption. The real water savings are to be found in reducing consumer demand for animal products - nothing else will impact this water efficiency bottleneck.

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Sunday March 22, 2015 @09:10AM (#49312755) Homepage

      Actually that is the answer. Farmers should not be allowed to use clean water for their crops. Force them to use grey water or wastewater treated water only.

          Agri is 60% of all water used in california, if you simply make it illegal for them to use freshwater but MUST use greywater and wastewater effluent then you solve the problem.

      toilets and showers are less than 0.5% of the use, so low flow heads will do nothing.

      • by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Sunday March 22, 2015 @09:18AM (#49312789) Homepage Journal

        toilets and showers are less than 0.5% of the use, so low flow heads will do nothing.

        yeah, low flow toilets and showers are, in most situations, more of a 'feel good' measure than a realistic one because farming and industry use even more water, proportionally, than they do electricity.

        In electrical terms it's a bit like mandating LED lighting in refrigerators.

      • by gatkinso ( 15975 )

        Your idea happens inadvertently fairly often... at which point half the lettuce in the US is thrown out because of possible e-coli contamination.

        • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Sunday March 22, 2015 @10:15AM (#49313065) Homepage Journal

          The source of the E. coli is more likely to be migrant farm workers who are not allowed bathroom breaks during harvest. State regs since the 90s require bathroom facilities, but they're often dirty, far away, and using them is frowned on by foremen on a tight schedule.

          • by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Sunday March 22, 2015 @10:34AM (#49313135)

            Ummm, no. Although this happens, an increasing amount of silage and dark waters have contaminated many crops, and not just in CA. Were we to actually PROCESS the silage in a way that stanches e.coli, salmonella, protozoa, and other contaminants ranging from aspergillus to non-fungals and unknowns, a vast amount of efficiencies increase.

            The best idea, IMHO, is to deploy widely sustainable practices that involve the highly fluctuating variables of rain, market fluctuations, and yields. Too much of this revolves around dice-rolling techniques, and "I'm gonna be rich if I plant a few orchards" mentality. No one likes the edicts of public policy, but simple planning goes a long way towards sustainability.

            Our current opaque public policy mechanisms prohibit this.

      • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Sunday March 22, 2015 @12:39PM (#49313661)

        Farmers should not be allowed to use clean water for their crops. Force them to use grey water or wastewater treated water only.

        You don't have to force anyone to do anything. Just end the subsidies. It makes no sense to have a second stupid coercive government policy to counteract the first stupid coercive government policy. This knee-jerk reaction that "we need another law" just results in layer upon layer of stupidity, and makes real reform harder.

        As a Californian, I am actually hoping for more drought, so that our current idiotic water system finally comes crashing down, and can be replaced with something sensible.

    • by BlackPignouf ( 1017012 ) on Sunday March 22, 2015 @09:12AM (#49312765)

      Or you know, people could accept reality and the fact that it might not be a good idea to have very thirsty trees at all in California.
      What's your next argument? "We invested a lot in this golf course and giant pools in Las Vegas, so let's forget we're in the friggin desert".

      Also, you have to make significant efforts to lower your water usage to 200l per person per day? Gee, I wonder why you got an 8 year drought.

      • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Sunday March 22, 2015 @09:27AM (#49312831)

        Or you know, people could accept reality and the fact that it might not be a good idea to have very thirsty trees at all in California. What's your next argument?

        Or people could accept reality and accept the fact that California simply isn't capable of sustaining all of the people that are crammed into it, the water intensive crops they try to grow there, along with the nice green golf courses.

        It's been pretty impressive what we've managed so far, but I can see the day when California declares war on Michigan because they won't build a aqueduct to bring great lakes water to California.

    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Sunday March 22, 2015 @09:13AM (#49312775) Homepage

      This plan seems to forget that it takes time to grow these crops. It takes 3 years for your first crop of almonds and 8 before the tree is delivering anything like commercial quantities.

      You think California's water crises are just going to disappear in a decade? This is a long-term problem. The long timeframes on crop switchovers for certain types of crops is just more reason one needs to take immediate action.

      There are lots and lots of ways to lower the water usage of both the general population and water intensive applications such as farming.

      And all of them will be properly handled if there's a fair market pricing for water.

      Using RO membrane treatment plants the water is purer then what falls from the sky

      Are you talking RO of salty or fresh water? Even RO of freshwater can be pretty expensive; RO of saltwater is in most places cost prohibitive (not to mention a massive energy consumer). Though there are some interesting alternative technologies [economist.com] which may provide for affordable desalination in the future.

    • by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Sunday March 22, 2015 @11:40AM (#49313371)

      No, installing dual flush toilets won't help, it'll barely tickle the problem.

      Around 80% of all water in california is used for farming. Of the 20% that goes to residences, only about 20% of that is used for flushing toilets. A dual flush toilet saves 50% of the water 50% of the time, so that's 0.0025% of the problem you could solve with dual flush toilets.

      In the mean time, our farmers make huge profit off growing ridiculous crops like rice (yes really, they grow rice, a crop that requires flooding the field, in California), and almonds. By stopping subsidising crops that are just insane to grow in an arid area, California could solve it's "drout" issue overnight. We literally could halve the state's water usage utterly trivially.

  • Or maybe... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Sunday March 22, 2015 @08:41AM (#49312651)

    ... don't plant water-intensive crops in a drought zone? Naaa, that would require actual understanding of the situation. As it is, the only thing that will help is all those water-wasters going bankrupt. Reality is merciless.

    • by gatkinso ( 15975 )

      You think that just possibly those farms are there for a reason other than farmers being stubborn?

    • Re:Or maybe... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by wiredlogic ( 135348 ) on Sunday March 22, 2015 @10:04AM (#49313021)

      the only thing that will help is all those water-wasters going bankrupt

      More like getting massive federal subsidies to make up for their losses from growing crops in a desert.

  • by mark_reh ( 2015546 ) on Sunday March 22, 2015 @08:41AM (#49312653) Journal

    electric power pricing that California came up with in 2000/01?

    Yeah, the free-market always finds a way...

  • by fche ( 36607 ) on Sunday March 22, 2015 @08:43AM (#49312667)

    The "virtual water" concept is unnecessary just to improve on real-water scarcity. Just price real-water properly.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Firethorn ( 177587 )

      I agree, it seems to be a 'liberal' thing - carbon credits, rather than a 'simple' carbon tax. Pollution trading, etc... Let's create MORE complex systems that don't really solve anything.

      • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Sunday March 22, 2015 @10:58AM (#49313223)

        I agree, it seems to be a 'liberal' thing - carbon credits, rather than a 'simple' carbon tax. Pollution trading, etc... Let's create MORE complex systems that don't really solve anything.

        What are you, an idiot? The only reason 'liberals' talk about carbon credits instead of a 'simple' carbon tax is in an attempt to compromise with conservatives!

        Then, conservative assholes turn around and blame them for it -- just like what happened with Romneycare.

        Liberal: "Let's solve the problem by taxing carbon!"
        Conservative: "NO! TAXES ARE EVIL!!!! We need a Free Market solution!"
        Liberal: "Fine. We'll assign a value to carbon, and let it be traded on the Free Market."
        Conservative: "NO! That's too complicated!"
        Liberal: "..."

        Apparently, what needs to happen is for liberals to stop attempting to compromise, and just tell the conservatives to go fuck themselves instead.

    • Thanks for quoting TFS, right out of the second link. What would slashdot be without your insightful commentary?
  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Sunday March 22, 2015 @08:45AM (#49312677)

    ...instead of enabling or encouraging farmers to become water speculators?

    If the inputs are priced more accurately than the outputs should reflect these costs. If almonds take a lot of water to grow, then almonds should be more expensive to reflect the higher water prices.

    Allowing farmers to sell unused water seems like an invitation for speculators to buy farms not for the purpose of farming but to just speculate in water, or worse, figure ways to manipulate both commodity markets and water supplies.

    A better solution might be encouraging water CREATION through incentives for water recycling or desalination through renewable energy.

    • Allowing farmers to sell unused water seems like an invitation for speculators to buy farms not for the purpose of farming but to just speculate in water, or worse, figure ways to manipulate both commodity markets and water supplies.

      They do it already on small scales. Farmers are pumping their allotments into trucks and shipping it into the hills around the emerald triangle. If you don't use it then they'll decrease your allotment.

    • That requires change, our politicians seem to hate that. Almonds produced in CA would be expensive and not able to compete in the global market. So pretty much they would go under, now now we can not have rational change.

      • That requires change, our politicians seem to hate that.

        And by that, you mean "big agribusiness" seems to hate that, because it restricts their ability to profit from socializing externalized costs. (i.e. dumping the problem onto society at large).

    • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Sunday March 22, 2015 @09:46AM (#49312911)

      ...instead of enabling or encouraging farmers to become water speculators?

      If the inputs are priced more accurately than the outputs should reflect these costs. If almonds take a lot of water to grow, then almonds should be more expensive to reflect the higher water prices.

      It's an offshoot of the climate not beineg suited for mass production of almonds. I don't know if they grow there naturally, but if one non-essential crop takes 10 percent of an entire stated water supply just to irrigate, that's telling us maybe we shouldn't be growing it at all.

      The problem of course, is that if farmers actually have to pay a fair privce for that water, almond producers would probably go out of business pretty quickly. And those producers probably fill the baksheesh accounts of their representatives in guvmint.

      Allowing farmers to sell unused water seems like an invitation for speculators to buy farms not for the purpose of farming but to just speculate in water, or worse, figure ways to manipulate both commodity markets and water supplies.

      Which in my cynical heart of hearts, is exactly what the plan is.

      We have in the comments already, people blaming everything but Enron for the California Energy crisis of 2000-2001. Why? Because they were the ones who drove the bus in that crisis, but that doesn't fit with the pretend free marketers underlying principles - which are better framed as lack of principles. Those people probably think buying farms and working the market to make that money out of thin air is a fine thing.

      A better solution might be encouraging water CREATION through incentives for water recycling or desalination through renewable energy.

      That sounds awfully liberal if you ask me........ ;^\

  • From the Economist link:

    State officials have cut off supplies to water districts; their federal counterparts will soon follow suit. Some farmers who made the risky decision in past years to plant lucrative pistachio and almond trees, which require year-round watering, have had to bulldoze them. Others are fallowing farmland, or digging deeper to tap brackish groundwater, further depleting aquifers.

    It sound like farmers are already being forced out of growing crops in a desert that require a lot of water.

  • Companies in other states that buy CA produced crops should have to send the watere equivalent back to CA.

    • by DRJlaw ( 946416 )

      Companies in other states that buy CA produced crops should have to send the watere equivalent back to CA.

      Yes, because California imports nothing from other states, and there's no logical way that other states could 'charge' for rest-of-US produced products, CA is sure to come out a winner.

      Hint: CA had better become even more vegan, since it's only 4th in beef, and pretty much in the bottom tier of poultry and pork.

    • Companies in other states that buy CA produced crops should have to send the watere equivalent back to CA.

      The irony of your statement is that much of California's water comes from other states. So I suspect they might object to your idea.

  • by Zeio ( 325157 ) on Sunday March 22, 2015 @08:46AM (#49312685)

    When Hadera desalination plant was brought online water concerns were vastly alleviated.

    CA has a water infrastructure built for less than 20 million people and 40+ million now live here. CA just passed a 8 billion water bond but there is no new water in that bill, just a lot of fraud and waste but no new water.

    Instead of police-state water rationing and other idiotic measures which require people to drastically change how they live and have people reporting on each other, make more water. Time to desalinate.

    http://www.water-technology.net/projects/hadera-desalination/ [water-technology.net]

    Its amazing in the atomic-jet-space-age with internet 40 million people in the 5-6th largest economy in the world (CA alone) sit around like morons and pray for rain and "get worried" when there are solutions on the table now.

    • Doesn't even need to be desalination. Recycle the water from the treatment plants back into your reservoirs. Water is treated as a one way system, it comes in the top, gets treated, gets made dirty, gets treated, gets dumped. It makes no sense. Just change the Gets Dumps to gets put back in the top.

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      Hey, if you like consuming massive amounts of energy to produce water that costs about $0.50/m, that's your call. But water that expensive won't support water-intensive agriculture anyway, so....

    • It costs about $2,000 per acre foot for desalinated water, while some farmers in the Imperial valley are paying $20 per acre foot for water.

      • by Dereck1701 ( 1922824 ) on Sunday March 22, 2015 @11:11AM (#49313263)

        Where are you getting $2,000 per AF from? From what I can find when properly done desalination with current technology costs about $800 per acre foot. And while California farmers used to get some pretty low rates $20 is far from normal any more, some farmers in Fresno have had to pay $1,100 per AF and north of Sacramento they've been paying around $500. A third of the farmland in some water districts is being left fallow (unplanted). This being Californian things can be extra insane, there are some cases of farmers being charged MORE money now using little or no water then when they were using massive amounts of it before the drought, called a "standby charge", if their use falls below a minimum threshold.

    • Changing California water law to end the water priority for farmers would be a powerful motivator to desalinate water for agriculture. City people are probably going to reject "frankenwater" anyway, this being California, but the flat-earth lobby wouldn't be able to stop huge desal plants being built in the San Joaquin. Agricultural usage would more easily lend itself to experimentation with new technologies that will offer lower costs over RO.

  • Something like 60% of the US's commercial honeybee hives end up going to pollinate the California almond crop.

    Maybe they honeybees will do better if they're not made to take that trip, one less commute, maybe fewer colony collapses.

    Too bad about California's produce. Food's going to get more expensive, especially almonds.

    --PM

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      While this may cause short-term fluctuations, the long-term picture will be fine. A higher price on almonds will make other global regions start growing them more. The price will come back down in 5 years or so. And that's if the water issue caused an abrupt change, more realistic is a gradual shift.

      Growing water-intensive crops in the desert is a stupid, stupid thing that people have been doing way too much because there was little cost associated with depleting aquifers. Payback time for that short-term t

  • Build giant domes over the plants. Then we can recapture the water and use it over and over.

  • by TheRealHocusLocus ( 2319802 ) on Sunday March 22, 2015 @09:28AM (#49312835)

    Fee Fie Foe Fum... I Smell ENRON!

    ENRON. The latest wonder-tool of the late 90s, a bold new approach to the distribution and settlement policies of grid energy [or water!] suppliers. You have all been losing money trying to buy and sell your product among yourselves. Now it is time to buy and sell your product through US. We'll take a percent and you will have MORE.

    ENRON. Let us make everything into a stock market, a futures market. Let us negotiate on your behalf (said to both halves at once). Let us woo you with impressive corporate speak and wooly acronyms to describe what is essentially a transparent middleman-insertion tactic.

    ENRON. Tired of trying to sell your customer base on some desired tactic by disclosing said tactic to the PSC and the public? Tired of those public hearings? Let ENRON come to the rescue. Tell us what you need to happen and we'll see that back-room conspiratorial tactics can ease your pain, by making all other options seem more expensive.

    ENRON. Ask us how triggered brownouts [or droughts!] and planned resource shortages can improve your bottom line [and ours]!

    ENRON. Because if energy [or water!] were priced properly, it is a safe bet that people would waste far less of it. [economist.com] We can help.

    ENRON. Because no one needs to innovate or improve infrastructure. We just need to make life suck a little more, cost more, and people will demand less. More complicated is BETTER.

    This message brought to you by The Smartest Guys In The Room [vimeo.com].

    • I was going to make a similar post...

      It's my understanding that the current almond tree bubble is driven by (wall street?) investors who noticed the price mismatch in water and are using it to make a quick buck, the rest of the state me damned. Of course, these funds have deep pockets and probably can lobby effectively to keep prices where they are until they cash out.

      Seems very much like a variation on ENRON but with water instead of gas.

  • Uhm, wow... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Ken Hansen ( 3612047 )

    The thing is, nuts use a whole lot of water: it takes about a gallon of water to grow one almond, and nearly five gallons to produce a walnut.

    There's only one problem with this theory - we'll call it the 'Five Gallon Walnut' problem - if it takes 5 gallons to grow a (single) walnut, then why don't walnuts weigh about as much as a five gallon bucket of water? The reason they don't is because while a walnut USES 5 gallons of water, it doesn't RETAIN those 5 gallons, whe vast majority of this so-called 'vir

  • The USA should already have started a massive water engineering project on the scale of the interstate highway system. We need to be able to reclaim much more water for regions that get too much in quick bursts and move it around the country as need arises. Clean drinking water is already starting to become one of our top concerns, and it's only going to get worse. We should be planning for it now and investing in our future, but no one is even talking about it.
  • One would think that solar powered desalination would be an obvious choice. The fact that this is not being exploited means I am missing something obvious - probably cost.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Sunday March 22, 2015 @09:51AM (#49312955)

    Golf courses.

    Of course, we can't do that. Can't take execs their toys away. And where would they congregate in a relaxed atmosphere to devise more ways to stay ahead of the competition, i.e. the plebes?

    Can't have that. And since their greens turn into browns already with less water being available, it's about damn time those useless proles learn that thirst can be a gift, dammit!

  • Creating incentives to reduce waste is (obviously) a good idea, but in what sense is this 'virtual' water? I suspect that they're trying to obfuscate by not saying pricing.

  • The idea of virtual water is superfluous and somewhat silly. There's a real water shortage, so there has to be prioritization. Market pricing of water makes sense as part of the solution. But first you have to answer the question of who owns it in the first place. Maybe the State owns all the water rights and creates the market? Water law in the west is a mess.

  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Sunday March 22, 2015 @11:00AM (#49313231)

    If water were priced properly, it is a safe bet that farmers would waste far less of it

    So by adding a "tax" on things or legislation that penalized farmers who are apparently mispricing due to not calculating the water they are "wasting", said bureaucrats will ensure a) that no food is produced in California and b) the cost of living increases as fuel costs are paid to have all food imported from out of state. Well done sirs, well done.

    I'm willing to bet that the genius who came up with farmers "wasting" water has never been to a farm let alone worked one.

    • Re:Bureaucrats (Score:5, Insightful)

      by itzly ( 3699663 ) on Sunday March 22, 2015 @01:07PM (#49313799)

      said bureaucrats will ensure a) that no food is produced in California and b) the cost of living increases as fuel costs are paid to have all food imported from out of state. Well done sirs, well done.

      If the bureaucrats won't do it, aquifer depletion will.

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )

      So by adding a "tax" on things or legislation that penalized farmers who are apparently mispricing due to not calculating the water they are "wasting",

      Using fees to compensate for the tragedy of the commons is an evil tax?

      That is one of the times where the government *should* step in. You are directly and provably harming your neighbor by exhausting the natural resource. The cost of pumping the water out of the ground should match the cost of replacing it. In wet areas, that's $0. In CA, that's the cost of a desalinization plant pumping clean water up to the watershed.

      I'm willing to bet that the genius who came up with farmers "wasting" water has never been to a farm let alone worked one.

      Nope, I'm betting that many have worked them. They've seen the large irrigation ri

  • by Troed ( 102527 ) on Sunday March 22, 2015 @11:54AM (#49313437) Homepage Journal

    This is nowhere near the worst drought in California's recorded history.

    Through studies of tree rings, sediment and other natural evidence, researchers have documented multiple droughts in California that lasted 10 or 20 years in a row during the past 1,000 years -- compared to the mere three-year duration of the current dry spell. The two most severe megadroughts make the Dust Bowl of the 1930s look tame: a 240-year-long drought that started in 850 and, 50 years after the conclusion of that one, another that stretched at least 180 years.

    Unless, of course, those proxies are unreliable.

    http://www.mercurynews.com/sci... [mercurynews.com]

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Sunday March 22, 2015 @05:08PM (#49315155) Journal

    Farmers have strong lobbying power in California. It's one of the reasons why they get water subsidies to grow water-intensive crops.

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