The water model in the western United States has generally involved Party A getting a bunch of water via a dam, canal, pipe, etc., while Party B (usually some broad group of taxpayers, either state or federal) pays for it. Economists will tell you that this tends to lead for building more giant concrete thingies than would otherwise be found to be economically optimal. But whatever, I like living here.
The current discussions over California’s Bay Delta Conservation Plan have a new sort of earnestness of late, as a realization among water users sinks in – OMG, we’re going to have to pay for our water ourselves? Wyatt Buchanan did a great job with this theme yesterday in the San Francisco Chronicle:
[W]hile urban users may be able to afford the yet to be determined price increases, agricultural water users may not. The price of water could more than double for farmers, though it is too soon to know how high the increase would go, said Tom Birmingham, general manager of the Westlands Water District, which covers 600,000 acres serving about 600 farms.
“There is a breaking point at which the project is no longer feasible,” Birmingham said. “It’s a significant concern,” though he said officials can’t evaluate the cost effectiveness until the outstanding questions are resolved.