On Bard and the language of water “markets” and “incentives”

The Pacific Institute and others have published a useful new study on “Incentive-based Instruments for Freshwater Management” which raises some interesting issues about the language we use to describe water policy instruments. Deep in Abrahm Lustgarten’s excellent new piece about water markets in the West is this description of the arrangement by which the Metropolitan …

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The decline in California’s cotton acreage

In his keynote at last week’s Law of the Colorado River conference in Las Vegas, Metropolitan Water District General Manager Jeff Kightlinger pointed out something that’s not gotten a lot of attention in discussions of California’s drought – the extraordinary decline in that state’s acreage of cotton. Cotton’s gotten a bad rap in irrigation circles, because …

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Pushback on the export of Palo Verde alfalfa

In freshman college physics, a common conceit to simplify the study of velocity and momentum is the air table (think air hockey), which allows you to reduce the friction on a moving object to negligible levels. “Imagine,” the professor explains, “a frictionless plane.” And then sketches out on the chalkboard the equations for velocity and …

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The struggle with municipal water rates in response to conservation

The downside to the remarkable water conservation I’ve been writing about (see yesterday’s Albuquerque numbers, for example) is revenue. Water utilities sell water. If people use less water, water utilities make less money. One option is to shift to more fixed-costs pricing, charging a flat rate for service, but then you lose the behavioral incentive …

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El Niño and global food stress

Note to self: remember that El Niño isn’t just about enjoying a growing southwestern U.S. snowpack and pondering its implications on our 2016 water supply. Across the horn of Africa (and many places around the world) people go hungry as a result. From SciDev.Net, a portal for global development issues: The consequences of a lack of …

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Equity versus efficiency

John Whitehead: Economists are often bad at considering the distributional impacts of policies: To the point that we often ignore issues of equity in favor of the more objective measure of efficiency.  If two policies were to result in the same net benefits to society, but different distribution of those benefits within society, the efficiency-oriented …

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Note to self: invest my next $31.8 million in Palo Verde real estate

All the cool kids seem to be buying up real estate in the Palo Verde Irrigation District. First it was the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which has upped its stake in the Colorado River farming valley to 22,000 acres. Now comes news that Almarai, a dairy company, bought 1,790 acres to grow food …

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New Mexico’s population history, now with added sheeply goodness

In response to my cattle v. people post earlier today, Tom Swetnam asked if I had data for sheep:   @jfleck I have been looking for a graph like that! Do you have sheep numbers? Multiple times cows in early decades, I think. — Tom Swetnam (@Tom_Swetnam) January 10, 2016 USDA’s data only go back …

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New Mexico population (cattle v. people) through history

Lauren Villagran’s story in this morning’s Albuquerque Journal about the impact of the Boxing Day blizzard on New Mexico dairies is a reminder of the single most important trend in New Mexico agriculture in the last few decades – the remarkable growth of the state’s dairy industry. Some numbers on that below, but it reminded me …

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