CSU, Chico News

Panel to Discuss Water Transfers in California

Date: 10-31-2012

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs
Eric Houk
College of Agriculture

The story of water across America is the theme of this year’s community Book in Common (BIC), “Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What to Do About It.” As part of the BIC calendar of events, there will be a panel discussion about Water Transfers in California on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 4-5 p.m. in Colusa Hall 100B.

The panel will include experts from the state Department of Water Resources (DWR), Butte County Department of Water and Resource Conservation, and the Western Canal Water District, and agricultural economist Eric Houk, a professor in the California State University, Chico College of Agriculture. They will discuss why water transfers occur in California, the potential benefits of water transfers and what is done to prevent these transfers from having unreasonable impacts on third parties and the environment.

Houk, who is coordinating the panel, is an expert in the area of agricultural and resource economics. His research focuses upon issues relating to efficient water resource allocation. Some of his past research projects have examined the economic effects of water transfers from agriculture for endangered species preservation and the impact of water conservation efforts on residential water demand.

Houk offers the following quotes from “Unquenchable” to connect the issues of water transfers to America’s water crisis:

“Market-based transfers can take many forms, from sales to leases, from forbearance agreements to dry-year options, and from land fallowing to conservation measures that save water. Each offers the prospect of a win-win result.” (p. 307)

“I envision a regulated market with state responsibility to protect third parties from potential harm caused by water transfers and to ensure that transfers do not harm the environment.” (p. 310)

“The environmental community should embrace water transfers as a critical element in a comprehensive strategy for protecting the environment.” (p. 313)

Jerry Johns, former deputy director and chief of the Water Transfers Office, California DWR, will discuss some of the details regarding California water transfers, the California Water Code rules that must be followed and the role of DWR in overseeing these transfers. Vickie Newlin, assistant director, Butte County Department of Water and Resource Conservation, will discuss the county’s Groundwater Conservation Ordinance (Chapter 33) and how it affects the substitution of groundwater for transferred surface water. Ted Trimble (general manager, Western Canal Water District) will discuss how water transfers are implemented at the local irrigation district level and how growers can successfully utilize this water management tool.

For more information, please contact Houk at 530-898-4146 or ehouk@csuchico.edu. For more information on other BIC events, go to www.csuchico.edu/bic.