Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Water curtailment can be a winning issue for Democrats

I was disappointed about the article I referred to in an earlier post because it seemed like such a missed opportunity. Water is a crucial issue, and Dems ought to lead on it. A one-time recharge of the aquifer, at taxpayer expense, is short sighted. It’s one-time and won’t fix the problem long-term. Idaho cannot do anything about supply - it can't make rain - but it can do something about demand.

In addition to the means I suggested to reduce demand, there are lots of others that would better use the appropriated money. One might be to buy farmland that is currently irrigated turn it into a park or wildlife preserve. Another could be to subsidize conservation measures; e.g., give a tax credit for installing low flow or dual flush toilets, or one to car washes that recycle water, in certain counties. Or perhaps fund an ad campaign asking people not to waste water by letting it run while brushing teeth, and similar painless measures.

Some measures don’t require state funding. Pass a law that when washing a car by hand, the hose must have a self-shut off so that it just doesn't run while it's not used. Pass a law that reduces county funding if the county doesn’t have water conservation measures in place, such as requiring every-other day lawn sprinkling.

This could be a real opportunity for Dems to catch the attention of south Idaho farmers. They’re mad at the administration and ready to look at alternatives. Work in a serious manner to address the water curtailment problem. Help farmers now, and help Idaho in the future avoid problems like Georgia is having with its drought.

Update: I was thinking about the wildlife preserve idea I suggested, and it occurred to me that it in particular really holds an opportunity to erode the Republican base in Idaho. First, land and water conservation will appeal to the greenies and environmentalists that already tend to vote Dem, and could energize them. More importantly, conserving water and helping farmers could attract rural voters who currently vote pretty Red. Also, wildlife preserves that are open to hunting and fishing will appeal to that crowd, another typically Red group.


faustus37 said...

Or southern Nevada, where the water level at Lake Mead has dropped by 75 _feet_ over the past 15 years or so. There are quite a large number of water conservation incentives in the Las Vegas area.

Intelligent growth is the single most important issue in Idaho IMHO, but water is a very close second. They're both very much related as well. One should encourage economic diversification, but not at the expense of the existing agricultural sector. I really don't see anyone talking about that.

Alan said...

Water and growth are so closely related as to almost be the same issue. We're running out of water because of growth.

I also agree about keeping a vital and robust ag economy in Idaho. It's important for Idaho, and it could be a good issue for Idaho Democrats.