In western water, what’s the right role for the feds?

After spending the day reading about the federal government’s, shall we say, persuasive role in assisting Imperial Valley farmers that it was in their best interests to figure out a way to share a bit of their water across San Gorgonio Pass with the city folk to their west, I this evening ran across this:

Reed Benson, a professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law in Albuquerque, said states need what he called a gorilla in the room, and federal money, to reach agreements.

“Federal money has been, and is today, important in addressing challenges with water resources where the deep pocket is needed,” Benson said. He cited the need for parties to cooperate and compromise on issues affecting water basins stretching across several states, questions about tribal water rights, and overarching concerns about water quality and quantity.

“Finally, climate change is going to make these issues all the more difficult and that much more challenging,” Benson said.

I’m not sure that’s quite the way the gorilla behaved in the Imperial Valley in the period from the 1980s to the early 2000s that led to the still unhappily lurching Quantification Settlement Agreement. At times it sounds a bit more like, “Nice valley ya got here, Imperial. Shame if something was to happen to it.” But the gorilla was relatively important.