Water Pricing in California

When the price of water rises, ag users feel the most pain.

That seems to be what is happening in northern San Diego County, where rising prices of water delivered by the Metropolitan Water District to the Valley Center Municipal Water District is apparently making a big dent in the avocado business, reports Pat Maio:

The district has found itself in the eye of a supply-and-demand hurricane. Water rates have soared 50 percent or more to agricultural customers in the last few years as the chief supplier, the Metropolitan Water Authority, has moved to end a subsidy program for farmers and jack up wholesale rates as supplies have become scarce.

Growers, meanwhile, complain that they can’t keep pace with the higher bills, so some are turning off meters as they abandon fields, either temporarily or permanently.

In the last month or so, meters have been turned off on hundreds of acres of avocado groves in the Hidden Meadows area north of Escondido and along Cole Grade Road in Valley Center, according to farm and water officials.

Other groves are being taken out of production as well. Overall, more than 5,000 acres have been taken out of production in the last year, according to Eric Larson, executive director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau.

(h/t Groksurf)


  1. Sounds like these farmers need water MARKETS (connected with other farmers). IID can’t use its water for flood irrigating switchgrass (surplus flows to MWDSC), yet high value avos get cut off.

    Can I get any clearer?

  2. 1. Competition from Mexican avocados may be a more important reason for the end of avocado ranching in northern San Diego county than a change in water price.

    2. MWD had surplus water for San Diego County Water Authority (in part because the south county users have done such a poor job of building storage), so it was virtually giving away the water to the north County farmers. When the drought hit, the giveaway ended. While I hate seeing ag. trees cut down, a little perspective is in order — what happened was a big giveaway came to an end when circumstances changed.

    3. Sure, David, a farmer-to-farmer water market might work. The preconditions include: (a) the dissolution of IID [which holds the water rights], b) an expansion of the QSA [which you claim to hate], c) the willingness of MWD to lease capacity on a multi-year basis in the Colorado River Aqueduct [which it has flatly refused to do] {multi-year leases are needed because avocados grow on trees — avocado farmers need multi-year reliability}, OR d) the construction of a new multi-million dollar pipeline from Imperial County to San Diego County, and e) some basic financial modeling to show that the numbers work [which I doubt].

    Yes, it is possible that California’s water laws are so antiquated that the best course of action is to rip up the system and start afresh. But I doubt that you’re going to persuade anyone to take on that monumental task based on the plight of a small number of farmers who saw their subsidy come to an end.

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