The Shared Scarcity Agenda of Predatory Investors and Extreme Environmentalists

In a long-planned rally at the California State Capitol last month, San Joaquin Valley farmers protested new laws that impose taxes on their irrigation wells. In Madera County, where most of these farmers came from, the new tax is as high as $246 per acre of farmland. If you’re trying to irrigate a few sections of land to grow almonds, that tax adds up fast.

It would be bad enough for these farmers merely to restrict their access to groundwater, particularly since new laws are also restricting their access to river water. But the timing of this tax couldn’t be worse. The cost for diesel fuel has doubled, fertilizer cost has tripled, and shipping bottlenecks prevented farmers from selling their produce to export markets, flooding the domestic market and driving the price down.

Less revenue. Higher costs. And now a per acre tax on wells. Speaking at the farmer protest, state Sen. Melissa Hurtado exposed the hidden agenda behind the ill-timed regulatory war on farmers. “Financial speculators are buying farmland for the water rights,” she said, “and then they turn around and sell your water right back to you.”

Hurtado is right. The immutable algebra of this predatory financial strategy goes like this: As regulatory oppression drives farmers out of business, investors move in and buy their land. Meanwhile, these investors support environmentalist restrictions on river withdrawals for irrigation and oppose water supply infrastructure projects (using environmentalist justifications), in order to […] Read More

Solving Water Scarcity in California

AUDIO: A discussion about water scarcity in California, what policy solutions could create water abundance, and the forces for and against achieving that goal. Edward Ring with Darcy Villere on The We Grow California podcast.

Edward Ring

Edward Ring is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. He is also a senior fellow with the Center for American Greatness, and a regular contributor to the California Globe. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Forbes, and other media outlets.

California’s Water Mismanagement

As Californians cope with another blistering summer during what is their third consecutive year of drought, the state legislature has still done nothing of substance to upgrade California’s water supply infrastructure. From the Klamath Basin on the Oregon border to the Imperial Valley on the Mexican border, farmers can’t irrigate their crops, and in every major city, residents are having their access to water rationed.

Not only is California’s state legislature and various state and federal agencies failing to invest in new water infrastructure, but they are actively undermining attempts to deliver more water to the state’s residents. In May, the California Coastal Commission denied a permit to Poseidon Water to build a desalination plant that would have produced 60,000 acre feet of water per year.

If desalination is the irredeemable problem child of water infrastructure according to environmentalists, surface reservoirs are its evil cousin. Hence the proposed Sites Reservoir, which would provide another 1.5 million acre feet of badly needed storage capacity, still faces what may be insurmountable odds: the requirement to allocate half of its yield to ecosystems means the remaining water the Sites Project Authority will be permitted to sell to cites and farmers may not be sufficient to qualify the project for construction loan guarantees.

The environmentalist assault on California’s water enabled civilization, unchallenged by the state legislature, is full spectrum. On the Klamath River, with an urgency that is entirely missing with respect to constructing the Sites Reservoir, or any other reservoirs, plans to remove […] Read More

Solving California’s Urban Water Scarcity

A study by the Public Policy Institute of California in 2019 found that per capita urban water use in the state has dropped consistently over the years, from 231 gallons per day in 1990 to 180 gallons per day in 2010, then dropping to 146 gallons per day during the drought in 2015. This clearly bodes well for addressing the next drought, which could be on the way, but doesn’t address the challenges posed by suburban households with yards, which tend to use far more water than average.

In 2014, as Californians coped with the last severe drought, the Pacific Institute compiled data from the water districts serving urban consumers across the state in order to report per capita water use by region. The findings indicated that suburban households in the drier parts of the state were consuming water a per capita rate nearly three times the average; well over an acre foot per year per household.

Confronting this challenge addresses one of the key arguments of the anti-suburb movement: If every one of California’s 13 million households consumed an acre foot of water per year, residential water consumption in the state would be 13 million acre feet per year instead of the current 5 million acre feet per year.

There are many answers to this challenge, but exploring these answers, and the attendant policy solutions, should not merely rest on draconian restrictions on water use combined with a war on new suburban development. The other […] Read More

The Scarcity Profiteers Are Coming For Your Water

Have you experienced water faucets that spray tiny jets of water onto your hands? You know, those eight tiny jets of water, each about 1.0 millimeter in diameter, that are emitted with so much pressure that the paltry quantity of water bounces off your skin before you can get it wet enough to apply soap, and makes rinsing the soap off nearly impossible? You can find these water faucets in airports and other public places, where they constitute a minor annoyance. But wait. Thanks to California’s state legislature, they’re on their way into your home.

You’ll just love your personal space filled up with these expensive gadgets. For example, these faucets will probably require voice-activation, turn off after ten seconds, and send a report to your utility in order to help you manage your usage patterns. Smart faucets. Smart washers. Smart dish washers. Smart shower heads and smart toilets – all coming your way, thanks to the California State Legislature and their partners, the scarcity profiteers of Silicon Valley.

You’ll love how all these water-sipping, next-generation durable goods can go “down,” get hacked, don’t work very well, and require annual warranty payments. You’ll also love purchasing bargain basement annual software upgrades, but only affordable, barely, if you join their green team club for life special VIP program. You’ll love how the control panel on your washer will look like the bridge of a starship, and can only be operated after you’ve mastered the virtual version of a two-inch thick instruction […] Read More