Who’s behind big, bad Delta island water grab?

Newspapers and television talking heads have been castigating the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) and three Kern County agricultural water agencies for a “water grab” of Northern California Delta islands.

Why are these bad actors trying to buy the five islands totaling 20,000 acres to store roughly 250,000 acre feet of water? To serve their constituents! What other reason is there?

California politicians for decades have ignored the needs of those same constituents, and local water purveyors have no choice but to find water where they can.

MWD is a regional wholesaler that delivers water to 26 agencies which in turn provide water to more than 19 million people in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Ventura counties. That is roughly half California’s population.

Semitropic Water Storage District is one of eight water storage districts in California and is the largest in Kern County. The district delivers water to nearly 300 customers to irrigate approximately 140,000 acres for agricultural uses. Semitropic also provides groundwater banking and storage.

Rosedale is a groundwater recharge project. It encompasses 44,000 acres. A little over half of that is irrigated and 7,500 acres are developed in residential, commercial, and industrial.

Wheeler Ridge-Maricopa Water Storage District’s jurisdiction covers about 147,000 acres in Kern County. The district provides water to about 90,000 acres of farmland.

These agencies deliver for use by people and to produce food.

It doesn’t sound like these entities are as avaricious as the news media portrays them. These are government agencies governed by directors charged with providing reliable water to their customers.

To them the idea of telling their customers, “Sorry no water today for showering, washing dishes, or irrigating your crops” is not acceptable.

These four are ready to pay as much as $240 million for the four islands.

Of course the media is clamoring to expose this “water grab” and gives opposition ready ink and air time to levy criticism.

One question no one asks is: Why haven’t those who vow to protect the Delta try buying the islands themselves? Apparently the Swiss company that owns the land has had them on the market for a few years.

It’s doubtful these four water purveyors want to spend $240 million for a water source hundreds of miles from where the water is needed that will take a busload of lawyers to get delivered. They would gladly spend $240 million for water delivered by the state to their doorsteps.

250,000 acre feet spread over 20 million people and about 250,000 acres of farmland is really a drop in the bucket, but that water bucket is getting lower quickly.

Water agencies must search for water wherever they can get it, regardless of the quantity. Residences, businesses and agriculture cannot wait for the tooth fairy-state government to keep enough water in the pail.

For the latest on western agriculture, please check out Western Farm Press Daily and receive the latest news right to your inbox.

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