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It's Time to Cut Water Subsidies to Agriculture

July 18, 1991

The Times is to be commended on its comprehensive feature: "How Cities Are Saving Water" (Times, July 7). One is prompted to speculate on the real reason behind the water hysteria. Is it a bureaucratic plan to divert public attention from years of mismanagement and inadequate planning? Or is it just another scheme to increase rates?

California is a huge state, and even in the worst of years a lot of water is produced. Urbanites use about 10% of the state's water, agriculture 85%.

Homeowners pay top dollar for the water they use. The city of Covina charges its customers $585 per acre foot. Further, it is considering a plan that would impose penalties of up to 300% on those customers that use more than the approved amount.

By contrast, some rice growers pay as little as $10 an acre foot for water that costs the taxpayer $90 to produce.

The absurdity of the whole system is underlined by the fact that recent statistics show the federal government spent an additional $124 million to buy up the surplus rice produced by California farmers, as there is no domestic market for the product they grow. The federal government, namely the taxpayers, spent another $148 million to purchase water-subsidized cotton.

And in the name of conservation, the water bureaucrats have the nerve to tell taxpaying urbanites how to brush their teeth and restrict the use of their toilets.

By reducing the water subsidies now awarded to agriculture, and without any increase in price, it should be possible to use market pricing to channel adequate water supplies to urban homeowners and industry and at the same time cut the cost of the federal government. No longer would it be necessary to waste tax dollars on welfare schemes that pay corporate farmers to produce products that the people do not need or want.



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