IID Director Hamby’s recently reported concern about converting farm ground to solar is both appreciated and essential to preserving farm ground and saving long-term farm jobs.
Let us compare Imperial Irrigation District’s estimated income from ag water and “solar conservation water”:
1. Delivering ag water for $21 per acre-foot to about 450,000 acres of farm ground yields about $52 million income for the IID, minus major expenses for employees, equipment and structures.
2. Currently, about 13,000 acres of farm ground converted to solar yields about $49 million income for IID at $679 per acre-foot from the QSA with little expense. Protecting and preserving farm ground from solar development would result in potential lost revenue for the IID. After becoming addicted, withdrawing from such easy money would be difficult for the IID.
It is understandable why Director Hanks attempted to redirect Director Hamby’s assessment concerning farm ground to solar by stating that converting farm ground to solar is a county issue.
Director Hamby, please address a few questions concerning the IID and “solar conservation water.”
Why is the IID the only solar property owner to receive compensation for “solar conservation water”?
Historically, the major beneficial use of Colorado River water has been directly associated to water’s use on land by landowners. Why is the IID allowed to use other people’s land to obtain credit for “conserved” water and generate millions of dollars of income without compensation to landowners?
It is my understanding that “solar conservation water” can be used for water transfer or used for environmental issues. In order to sustain farming in the Imperial Irrigation District, about one-third of the water used for farming is utilized to carry dissolved salt in the form of farm wastewater to the Salton Sea. Because farm ground converted to solar reduces farm wastewater to the Salton Sea, is it possible that 33 percent of the funds generated from “solar conservation water” could be dedicated for environmental issues related to the Salton Sea on a yearly basis?
Protecting and preserving farm ground and long-term farm jobs requires retaining water for local use and should be a high priority for both the directors of IID and the supervisors of Imperial County.
—John Dantice, El Centro