Monday, June 20, 2022

Rhetorical Tricks: Water Edition

 Sometimes, I read something that makes me so mad, I dash off a quick email to a friend who gets it. This time, I sent it off to the entire LWVC googlegroup and got some 'attagirl' affirmations back. So, let's share this take down. 

First, read These five people could make or break the Colorado River. Do you see what is wrong with this quote by one of the five people, Imperial Irrigation District (IID) commissioner J. B. Hamby? 

Hamby also pointed to the huge amounts of water that are still wasted, in his view, in cities such as Los Angeles. "It’s very easy to point at the alfalfa field, but what about drying out the lawns and useless grass?"

 The Colorado River (CR) is subject to all sorts of unrealistic math, well-documented elsewhere. We have these benchmark Colorado River allocations based upon 16.5 Million Acre Feet (MAC). Mexico gets 1.5 MAF, and the Upper and Lower Basin states get 7.5 MAF each. 

California gets the lion's share. In the benchmark scenario, farmers, mostly the IID, get 3.85 MAF out of California's 4.4 MAF. The remaining 0.55 MAF goes to the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), who sells it wholesale to 19 Million urban users based on a system of rights allocated decades ago.  It's roughly a 70/30 split between farmers and urban users before water rights transfers. (Cities buy about 0.5 MAF of CR water allocations from farmers.)

In practice, the CR does not have that much water and IID gets around 2.5-2.6 MAF and the cities get about half that, and then purchase more from farmers. 

IID commissioner Hamby pointed to LA lawns in a rhetorical trick called misdirection. It's often employed by magicians so you don't look at what they are really doing. 

Let's do the math! 

If we take him literally, let's run the numbers for the City of Los Angeles' Department of Water and Power, LA DWP. 

IID receives 2.5-2.6 MAF from the CO River. LADWP uses 0.5 MAF/year from all sources and serves 4 M people. An acre-foot serves 8 Angelenos for an entire year. (An acre foot serves 20 apartment dwellers in new, efficient homes!) 

About half is imported river water purchased from Metropolitan. 0.25 MAF The exact mix of SWP and COR water each year varies based on availability, but figure half on avg. 0.125 MAF 

City of LA residents are pretty water thrifty. About 1/3 might be outdoor use (perhaps 1/4). Not all of the outdoor irrigation in LA is lawns. Trees and shrubs are necessary to improve urban livability. 

Even if it were all lawns, we're down to (at maximum) 0.125 MAF/3 or 0.04 MAF compared to 2.5-2.6 MAF for the farmers of the IID. 

Anyway, finger pointing is a standard rhetorical trick to hijack the discussion. As always, verify. Does not pass the sniff test. 

Hamby said some other whoppers, which I won't go into here until I finish some other work with real deadlines. 

1 comment:

  1. I annoyed a friend of mine when she was patting herself on her back about how much she was helping the drought by fixing all the leaks in her house, and I forget what else. I said if you are concerned about your personal water bill or the water deliveries to your neighbors, then, yeah, your behavior might make a difference. For the drought, however, if your entire city (San Francisco) stopped using all water, it wouldn't make a difference in the drought. It's a drop compared to what agriculture uses.

    Then she went on about buying local produce bought at the farmers' market, and I just about lost it because there is no freaking way that all the produce she is eating was grown in San Francisco. Maybe it's from the SJ valley, but grown in California includes a Imperial Valley, and it's not like it's labeled that exactly.



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