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Our Opinion: Do it … there

July 22, 2001

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has proposed a deal in which it would pay farmers in the Palo Verde Irrigation District to fallow farmland as a way to transfer 25,000 to 111,000 acre-feet of water per year.

In any given year, according to the proposal, the PVID would have 7 to 25 percent of its normally irrigated land fallowed. This is not the first time MWD has implemented such a setup in the Palo Verde Valley.

MWD and PVID can strike any kind of arrangement they wish, as long as it does not affect the Imperial Irrigation District. We have said time and time again we are against paying farmers to fallow their farmland. Period. Yes, we understand some fallowing is done every year as part of the natural process of farming, but that does not add up to permanent fallowing or being paid for not farming.

We also understand that water is in short supply, particularly as California has to shrink its water use to 4.4 million acre-feet per year as part of the California Colorado River Use Plan. IID has had an active role in the plan to reduce the state's water use. However, we will continue to speak out against any plan that would call for fallowing for profit, and this Palo Verde Valley idea might be one more way for some of our farmers to say how hunky-dory fallowing could be for us, too.


The potential negative impact to the local farmland and to the economy would be extensive. When you take land out of production and pay farmers to do so, individual farmers likely see some cash benefit, but there are many ancillary businesses that depend on farming that would be shattered. A lot of people, farm employees and beyond, would find themselves out of work. The trickle-down effect of fallowing would be felt throughout the Valley. It has been felt in the Palo Verde Valley and will be again if this deal goes through.

We think that as much now as when we exposed the secret Imperial Valley fallowing plan between the Bass brothers and San Diego County Water Authority officials a few years ago.

It's fine if farmers in other irrigation districts choose to accept MWD's proposal. Farmers are suffering from bad markets and are looking for ways to stay afloat in difficult times. However, to start to brown farmland for profit will never be the answer here. Too many people here know the ramifications of that. There must be other solutions to the water needs, both in rural areas and larger metropolitan areas.

There are IID directors who have come out in strong voice against fallowing. We urge the board to continue that stand.

Pressure is there and will continue to be there. We don't think the board will relent. We know we won't.

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