More from in Brian Devine’s excellent series on the tradeoffs, some quite hidden, in the agricultural-to-urban water transfers that seem the inevitable path forward in the western United States:
To many rural communities, water is more than just money. Irrigation is the lifeblood of rural communities’ economies, to be sure, but it is also a key strand in the fabric of community identities and the self-determination of rural places.
And this (“AMI” is “agricultural to municipal-industrial”):
Third parties – the employees and neighbors of those who choose to sell water, and who receive no cut of the sale price – therefore bear most of the economic burdens of AMI transfers. Removing the primary economic driver from these communities has little to no effect on productivity from a state or national accounting standpoint, but it can have a cascading effect on local capacity. Unsurprisingly, the effects are smaller when the receiving area and the origin are in the same economic region. This case is not uncommon as suburbs expand into and even “leapfrog” over agricultural operations. But the opposite case, where water is transferred many miles away along a stream, or even through a tunnel into entirely different watersheds, represents a significant fission of costs and benefits.
I tend to be optimistic about the role of ag-urban transfers, but these third-party effects can’t be easily waved away.