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Rev. Brownback's Pious Ogallala Rhetoric

By Bob Hooper
Opinion | September 9, 2012

sam-brownback.jpgBOGUE, Kan. - For three plus decades I've been following the mining of the historically, sadly over-appropriated Ogallala. For 18 years I wasted time serving conscientiously on the Solomon Basin Advisory Committee, one of few such BAC's in western Kansas not dominated by irrigation interests. Our recommendations went exactly nowhere. I heard enough pious rhetoric even then. Governor Brownback is offering more now.

I clipped for my pious rhetoric file an Aug. 24 front page story by Hays Daily News' Mike Corn, "Gov. pleads to conserve Ogallala." Soooo sweet of him to plead.

Brownback drools right-wingy political ambition. He thinks he deserves to be President. His preachery concern about the Ogallala is a self-serving part of that. Sounds heavenly, but ain't worth a poop, practically speaking. The mining continues and will until somebody grows some 'nads. Don't count on Sam.

A big part of the problem is that Brownback sees water in our semi-arid region as a farm commodity above all else--ignoring KSA 82a-707b which ranks agriculture 3rd of 6 uses. Well, no surprise. Brownback grew up on a farm near Parker, Kansas, was president of the Kansas FFA, vice-president of the national organization, and at K-State a member of the agriculture-oriented fraternity Alpha Gamma Rho. He later served two separate terms as Kansas Secretary of Agriculture, 1986-1990 and 1991-1993.

It is worth noting that the legal water appropriation agency, the Division of Water Resources is a subdivision of the Dept. of Agriculture. Technically, the DWR is independent. You are free to believe that if you wish.

Now agriculture is a fine thing. Mining the Ogallala to grow water intensive, federally subsidized crops is not a fine thing. Few rational people dispute the logic of that.

But the pious rhetoric continues that dealing effectively with water mining is a personal "moral responsibility" and water users (aka irrigators) are to "voluntarily cut water use by 20 percent through a new program OK'd by the Kansas Legislature." In other words, ya' all be nice. Drown government in a bathtub.

Brownback says that's the way to do it. "I don't have a plan to take it from you," he says of excessive water appropriation rights, "because we don't have the money to buy it."
Brownback is perpetuating the US Constitutions 5th Amendment "takings" argument, which says "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." Oh, sweet Mama: the Constitution!

Okay, so does a permit to appropriate water equate to owning private property?

Nope. Brownback joins the agriculture industry, irrigator, and feedlot community in repeating a useful lie. And few things are more useful than a faithfully repeated lie. However, Kansas Statute 82a-707a says, "Such appropriation shall not constitute ownership of such water..." Nothing in an appropriation right certificate guarantees use of a specific quantity of water forever. Nothing.

So what's stood in the way of reducing appropriated water rights over time? Pretty simple: a lack of environmentally responsible guts. Water governance as it regards the Ogalalla has been given over to short-term agricultural make-a-buck rationalizing, half-a-century of procrastinating - and an encyclopedia of pious rhetoric.

The problem includes Brownback's old stomping ground at the Department of Agriculture and the pseudo-independent Division of Water Resources. In our area, it includes the Groundwater Mining (aka "Management") Districts whose voting members cheer Brownback's right wing "water is your property and we don't have the money to buy it" rhetoric.

Those GMD members speak of themselves equating to "local control" as though they were the only ones who count as locals. To become a voting member requires owning 40 acres or more outside a municipality or irrigating at least one-acre foot annually. (see K.S.A. 82a-1021e). Point: most local citizens in the area don't count in "local control."

In addition, irrigation lobby rhetoric classifies those with appropriation permits as "stakeholders," as if they were the only ones who have a stake in the long-term sustainability of a vital resource. We all do. With increasing odds for hotter seasons and extended drought, the problem can only become more critical.

The failure to act includes legislators from the area who are too cowardly to confront the issue (and who not incidentally are either themselves involved in irrigation-ag business (or get nice political contributions from same). Ultimately it includes average citizens who sit on their butts. Appropriation rights have to be reduced by the State - without payment for any claim of "taking."

To adapt from Kansan Mary Elizabeth Lease (1853-1933): Ogallala irrigators need to raise less corn, voters need to raise more hell, and Preacher Brownback and his flock need to come to Jesus.

Sorry if I've upset anybody, but pious rhetoric hasn't and won't cut it.


14 Comments

Bob--Thanks for writing this. Wichita citizens are already slated to pay higher water rates because of what's going on out west. Yes, we are stakeholders just as much as anyone whose property sits on the water. It's more of the "I've got mine; too bad for you," mentality that has come to define our politics nowadays.

Diane


Hello once again from Scott County, Bob and Diane. I used to be able to sign-in to KFP with facebook--something has changed--I used google--Bo Parkinson, western Kansas small farmer--irrigator, and city councilman for Scott City. In Scott City, residential customers are currently allowed to use an unlimited amount of water, the price of the first 40,000 per month is currently less than $2.00 per thousand gallons. Use more than 40,000 gallons and the price increases, but you can currently use and waste as much water as you can afford. My family and I own 3 quarter sections of irrigable land in Scott County, and I rent this land from myself and my family under a fairly common landlord/tenent sharecropping agreement. When we purchased this land in the early 90's, we also purchased the rights from the developer of the irrigation system, as well as the appropriation right to 640 acre feet of water per year. You both seem to believe that irrigation just happens if the farm operator is selfish and greedy enough to just turn on a tap and irrigate. Not the case. The man from whom we purchased the land and appropriation rights spent (at the time he developed the land for irrigation) what were then rediculously vast sums of money to test drill for water, locate usable amounts of water, machine level the land so irrigation was possible, drill the wells, install miles of underground pipe, purchase miles of above ground pipe, pay to have an energy source delivered to his wells, and then each year until he sold it to us, use his appropriation amount, paying whatever cost (to opperate the wells in order to use the appropriation) the energy provider determined was acceptable, whether economically sensible or not. Believe it or not, when he sold this land and this appropriation right to my family, he charged us significantly more than an equivalant number of non-developed, non-appropriation right land was costing at that time. In order to maintain that appropriation right from the early 90's until today, I too have been required to continue to pump my water right, no matter how much extra labor (all still flood irrigated--no center pivots) extra maintenance, extra energy costs, extra management was required in order to maintain my appropriation right, and I've had to meet all the requirements of KDHE, KDept. of Ag., KDiv of Water Resouces, and Western Kansas Grounwaater Management District #1 But the State of Kansas doesn't have any stake in whether I pump or not--only in how much I can pump if I choose (and can afford) to pump water. I've paid an gigantic price to own and maintain my appropriation rights. The last few years that investment is beginning to pay off with the price of crops we are currently experiencing. You are absolutely right that I own no water under my land until I pump it and use it in accordance with all regulations, but once I pump it, it's mine, and the right to pump it is of considerable value--value I've purchased with my dollars, my labor, my management, and my forsight. Sure, I would have been money ahead to have invested the same amount of money in Apple stock, but I didn't. And in order for this right to have any value, it must be used, no matter the cost of usage, and I must pay ALL that cost--none of my neighboring Kansans are now or ever have been willing to help me out with my pumping expense, nor any of my other expenses. The fact that I don't own any water until I pump it is a fact, and an interesting fact, but has absolutely nothing to do with this situation. A similar, but equally worthless fact is that 150 years from now western Kansas will support at least the same full time human population that it supported 150 years ago. Western Kansas doesn't support the same population today that it supported 20 years ago. Just like the fact that your water today costs more than your water 20 years ago, it will cost even more 20 years from now. It's a little more than "I've got mine; too bad for you," it's more like I paid dearly for mine, and now you think it's just fine to take it away from me without compensation so you can pay less for something you've never had, that you have purchased, taken for granted, abused, and wasted your entire life--from your city, without a thought. Two gallons a day--two measly gallons a day will sustain human life. I live alone. Through the winter I waste an average of 28 gallons a day on cooking, cleaning, (myself, my home, my dishes, and my clothing) and sanitation (sewer). Through the summer I wast an average of 898 gallons a day on all the above, plus my yard. The fossil water in the Ogalalla aquifer will someday be depleted--no matter what anyone does or says--any usage over 2 gallons per person a day will eventually deplete the aquifer. Cut your usage to two gallons a day, and I will too--for free.


Woops, somehow I got signed out without finishing or proofreading, please excuse my spelling(typing). In my previous post. Bo Parkinson again. Continue your wasteful ways, and you can purchase my land with its appropriation rights, or my appropriation rights alone, as soon as we agree on a price.


You have some very good points, Bo. You don't own the water but you do own the right to use that water in accordance to your water right. THAT IS A PROPERTY RIGHT WITH VALUE, whether Mr. Hooper thinks so or not. Irrigation farmers are well aware of depletion problems and very mindful of wasting costly water resources. I don't know any irrigators who water the meadow so they can mow it a couple times a week and haul the clippings to the landfill.

If the city folks enjoy the plentiful, cheap, tasty, foods available in the grocery stores, they best be aware of where it comes from and what it costs someone to produce it. Raw product producers get less than 15% of your food expenditures. Even with grain prices where they are today, we are not at parity with the rest of the economy. With the severe drought we are in, if grain prices weren't where they are you would see a massive exodus of farm producers heading into the already overcrowded cities. Maybe not quite as dramatic as the depression years of the 1930s. There just aren't many of us left, but there could be fewer and as that happens the power of the producers will get much stronger and the wholesale prices of commodities will rise accordingly.

Diane, I lived in Wichita during the '50s. One major source of your water is the Equus Beds. They were very concerned about water availability in the dry years of '55 & '56. Irrigation was nearly non existent then. Your water is not dependent upon the Ogallala aquifer. Western KS irrigation has very little or no direct connection to Wichita water supplies. Drought and conservation tillage has severely limited run off from natural rainfall, thus affecting river flow as much or more than deep well irrigation. That fact may be restricting lake volumes in central and eastern KS. The equus beds and lakes fill quite quickly in above average precipitation years.



Bo, I do understand your anguish, you have a vested interest and are predictably defensive. I get that.

Central point. The Ogallala has been sadly over-appropriated. That was known early on. Even Sam Brownback knows that, but his pious rhetoric won't cut it--and he surely knows that, too.

While you may well have "paid dearly" you have also profited handsomely.

Groundwater Mining Districts are not broadly representational but agriculture biased. ALL Kansans are stakeholders in the issue, and all citizens within a GMD area should qualify as a voting part of "local control."

You never "own" the water whether or not you pump it. You own a permit to use a given amount--an amount not guaranteed in perpetuity and regulatable by the State of Kansas in the public interest.

If the Ogallala is not foolishly depleted, the aquifer has the potential to support sustainably a much greater population than the current number with other than agriculture priorities. Access to good water is a growing concern globally, and we are wasting too much on fat cattle and feed grains in semi-arid western Kansas. Here, our cropping system should be environmentally sound. Mining the Ogallala is short term madness.

You have used the term "fossil water," but in fact the Ogallala has in many areas been hydrologically interactive with springs and seeps. The mining of the Ogallala has eliminated or reduced many of those, including what were once perennial streams--now "intermittent." (An irrigator once asked me, "Well, what the hell good does that water do just running down the crick/" I replied, "Maybe we should ask those who live downstream." He didn't have a response. Do you?

There are two basic and realistic options. To declare intensive groundwater control areas and reduce water appropriation rights. Or impose a severance tax on water use. The only issue is the "takings" issue--and that has never been examined by Kansas courts.

As to "Christian" Poland's "concern" about the food supply. The production of feed grains to create fat cattle (where most of the water goes) is an inefficient use of energy and water--especially in this semi-arid region. And the over-eating of those fat cattle not so good for our health.

BO, PLEASE PROVIDE A CREDIBLE SOURCE FOR YOUR CLAIM THAT USAGE OF OVER 2 GAL/DAY/PERSON WOULD EVENTUALLY DEPLETE
THE AQUIFER.


As a "city folk," I know how important water is to the agriculture industy in Western Kansas. I also know how important water is for those of us in the towns and cities. Wichita has been paying for an aquifer recharge project to assure our water supply will last. Consequently, our water rates have risen consistently over the last few years. We are able to conserve water because our household comprises two adults who can cut back on water use. We have no teenagers wanting to take thirty minute showers, or little kids who want to play in the sprinkler during the hot weather. Also, my husband has landscaped our yard to allow for minimum water use. I know people who still have children living at home have a harder time conserving water than we do.

What I see going on here is an "us vs. them" attitude building. We in the towns and cities do need farmers and ranchers to provide food for us. That food requires water. I don't know about feed lots, except when I see them spread out across the land when I drive through western Kansas, I wonder how that can be a good thing for our meat supply. But as everyone who knows me knows, I haven't becomea vegetarian and it's unlikely I ever will. I like meat.

We need a plan for sustainability. I don't trust Sam Brownback to put that plan in place. He tends to ignore experts, as well as those who have had the necessary experience working in the field (pardon the pun). It will take a concerted effort on a variety of fronts in order to make sure we have water available for everybody's needs. Included in this consideration is climate change, the years of drought we've had, and everything else that impacts our lives regarding water.

In the meantime, thanks for the education.


Can 'Christian' Poland respond to 'school teacher' Hooper? Let's cut out the 'jr hi level' verbal wrestling for authoritative position.

It is very easy for someone behind a desk to analyse agriculture from their vantage point. I happen to have been in the agriculture industry for some 60 years and know what it takes to make agricultural economics work. No! I don't have all the answers, anymore than I have a quick easy way to solve the over appropriation of water from the Ogallala aquifer. Yes, it is over appropriated. But, should the present generation of irrigators pay the entire price of correcting that situation? Has all of Kansas benefited from the contribution the irrigation industry has produced for the entire state's economy?

If you think academics and city folks have all the answers you might should reconsider your expertise. All your harping about the vested interest we irrigators have is absolutely right. We do have a vested interest. We have the water rights and we have the investments. We are concerned about protecting our investments and source of a living income. Oh! yes, there are some extremely wealthy farmers, but, there are far more of us who are in the middle to lower income levels. There are also a few extremely wealthy folks in the academic field, but, there are far more of you who are in the middle to lower economic and income levels. It doesn't behoove me to cut the rug out from under the educator's world anymore than it does for someone to cut the rug out from under the irrigators.

What some of you folks who are not directly involved in agricultural production should be concerned about is your vested interest in community economics and your food supplies. Don't be led to believe that diversified and widely distributed production units are not in your best interest. The demise of small manufacturing and business enterprises has not been a positive thing for society. Neither has the demise of the true family size farm been a positive thing for society.

There are better ways to eliminate or at least slow down the growth of huge irrigation operations. The taking of water rights will destroy the small farmers before it eliminates the mega size operators. And, yes Mr. Hooper, taking water rights without compensaton will destroy many operators. It is even worse than terminating your teaching contract. You only lose your immediate source of income. Most teachers have little capital invested in the physical properties of the education system. Your investment is essentially in the cost of your education. That education goes with you, even if you don't find another teaching position. The farmer has the cost of his education (experience) as well as the cost of tools, equipment, and real estate. The farmer's education will always have benefit, but unless he can find additional real estate to spread his equipment over (irrigation is much more equipment intensive) he has just lost it.

Diane, I agree with you about Gov. Brownback. He will cut the rug out from under whoever, if he thinks it will solidify his political clout with the conservative right. He has done a pretty good job of restricting funding for academics and students. He is in the process of cutting the rug out from under the poorest and neediest in terms of health care and other basic necessities. I won't trust him to look out for Mr. Hooper's or my interest concerning water appropriation and usage.

I much prefer that we irrigators, local business people, and citizen groups (like Mr. Hooper's) would get serious about how to address the present situation. No, Mr. Hooper, we can't just go back to the farming practices of the '50s and pretend that irrigation isn't important to the present and future economy. Neither can we put the entire burden of retraction on present operators. even if you do it gradually. Your idea of gradual is most likely much faster than mine.


Bo here. Dangit Bob, you picked right up on my "Republican fact" I actually have no idea, nor does anyone else, I believe, in what amount of usage "mining" of this aquifer is sustainable. I do know however that the worldwide "mining" and burning of fossil fuels is unsustainable and extremely dangerous. I also know, as do you, that continued "mining" of this aquifer at the present rate is unsustainable. As we've discussed in the past, Scott County is currently unable to utilize the same amount of Ogalalla water as we did even fifteen years ago--the water levels have already been lowered enough that a great many once highly productive wells are no longer producing. County-wide, we currently pump roughly 1/2 our appropriated water rights--just not enough hours in the year or money for pumping. This depletion will eventually achieve your goal for you. Water for human consumption is much more valuable than water for feedgrain production, so cost/benefit paradigms continually shift. Yes, the Ogalalla is over-appropriated, but so is all fresh usable water in the western US, and all fresh, clean water on this planet is in dangerously short supply--at the current rates of usage and waste. The American (and perhaps human) lifestyle is totally unsustainable at todays rate of growth. I understand that you are upset about changes that have occured in your lifetime--western Kansas, in years of adequate rainfall, and without the depletion of the aquifer, during the last half of the last century, was as close to Eden as I could imagine. Unfortunately, that little bubble of prosperity was doomed with the arrival of the first white settler, and the need of the world to have its "breadbasket". Sad, sad, sad--change, change, change. Everything changes except human nature and our overpowering need to win today and let tomorrow present its own challenges. I, along with most western Kansas irrigators am at a bad place. We are only able to keep on doing what we've been doing, until we can't do it anymore. I'm 62--my mom is 98, my dad, 92. I have one brother disabled (53), one sister disabled (65), nieces in need of college educations, a grandchild to spoil, and my little toy farm is all I have to carry this load. All I know to do is all I can do. You can't have any of my water right until you convince me everyone is willing to sacrifice equally, and we both know that will never happen. Too much invested unwisely in too much temporary comfort. Take solice in the fact that western Kansas 150 years from now will support at least the same number of permanent residents as it did 150 years ago--at least zero, maybe more.


As usual,Ken,a loooong reply. Irrigators have done quite well financially by mining the aquifer. Had the State begun reduce appropriation amounts (by l pct in 1984, my first year on a BAC)that reduction would now amount to 28 pct., would have significantly slowed the depletion rate AND driven the effort toward more efficient, less water intensive cropping. Who stood in the way? GMD's and people like you.

Sorry, I've had it with pious rhetoric, had my fill of it, listened to all the whining... I'm sick and tired of the undemocratic control of a vital resource. No, you are not owed anything for a 5th Amendment "taking," sorry. You "own" a regulatable permit which you are free to market with the specific amount of the permit subject to the approval of the Chief Engineer.


And, Bo, if you could offer no credible source for the two gallon/person/day claim, why did you offer it? Had I not challenged you, some readers may have accepted it as fact.

As far as current over-pumping achieving the goal: some argue that there'll always be a little water left to drink--enough maybe to support a minimal non-agricultural population. However, the bottom of the bucket will more than likely have quality problems besides being more expensive to extract. I believe that at least one study has shown deep level ag chemical contamination.

A gentleman who worked with Guy Gibson, former Chief Engineer, said Guy knew that the aquifer was being wildly over-appropriated. One day, my source asked, "So what's gonna change that?" Guy responded, "Nothing will change until enough people start complaining."

Gibson understood the hydrologic interaction, and said sarcastically, "Well, groundwater is groundwater and surface water is surface water. Never the twain shall meet."

Haven't been your way lately, but I'm guessing the wonderful spring that fed Scott City Lake has either disappeared or slowed to a trickle.

Western Kansas is no place for groundwater mining. Sorry that you and others might have to suffer by having your water rights reduced, but I think you all knew (probably when you began) that it was a boom and bust deal.


Bob, you and I agree on a lot of things, but this definitely isn't one of them!

Whether it is 'pious rhetoric' (whatever the implication of that is) or not, good old Bob is hanging onto his idea that Bo & I along with other irrigators can just give up what is ours (our water rights).

Bob if you had gotten into the political side of things back in 1984 instead of attacking the water management districts, you might have been much more successful. I happen to have been on the board of NW Groundwater Mngmt. Dist. #4 when we tried desperately to get more restrictions on new wells and well spacing. That was prior to 1984, so, Bob I've been involved and well aware of the problem of over appropriation. Incidentally, all my water rights were several years prior to 1984 and my rights were not in technically grossly over appropriated areas. The Chief Engineer was very highly influenced and pressured politically to refuse approval of our restrictions. Why 'politically'? Because the irrigation industry and other local businesses wanted the economic growth from irrigation development. Every person who owned a small acreage could have been voting members. They chose not to be. The rate was 5 cents per acre and they didn't have to include any more than the minimum number of acres. Every city had representation voting rights.

I'm well aware of the fact that all irrigators and irrigation districts didn't agree with our board. But, Bob, I've (as you said it) had my belly full of you accusing myself and all other irrigators of being greedy SOBs for not caving in to your unrealistic demands for control of Mngmt. Districts.

I've had my say. How about some other folks joining in the discussion? Are there no other irrigators who read here? Are there no other persons who know that this is a political issue that concerns property rights and equitable representation on regulatory issues?


Bo again, Bob--I don't have to have my water rights reduced by my fellow western Kansas residents. There is no legal precedent to support such "taking". My water rights can only be legally reduced by depletion, or by voluntary action. You insist that your rights to use and waste as much water as you choose outweigh my rights guaranteed me by legal precedent, but have offered no (that I am aware of) legal document or opinion that demonstrates that the state of Kansas is somehow legally obligated to provide you with the amount of water you deem acceptable. You maintain that I am endangering your lifestyle by exercising my rights, and believe you can convince a majority of our citizens that voting away my rights is fine, because you outnumber me, and my legal exploitation of a valuable resource is wasteful and greedy. I think anyone who, with no legal right attached to property, uses any more than two gallons of water per person per day is also wasteful, and that if some of us are forced to make sacrifices for the benefit of all, that all must also make sacrifices. Restricting all water "mining" to two gallons a day per person will convince me of my need to sacrifice for your benefit. If I lose any portion of my water right, my small farm becomes economically unviable--it will no longer be possible for me to continue to farm in any way other than as a hobby, unless economic conditions become such that food becomes prohibitively expensive. I know, I know--not your problem--but I won't be the solution to your problem, either. And yes, I knew when the land was purchased that irrigation would one day become impossible, but that I would be able to determine that time with an economic cost/benefit analysis--not have that time determined for me by popular opinion. This is still Kansas---the population has demonstrated time and again an absolute willingness to vote contrary to their own interests based on what they see as principles, whether you and I and Ken and Diane agree with the majority (and their "principles")or not.


The most accurate metaphor I can think of for those mining the Ogallala and basicly controlling policies is one of "drunks running the liquor store." No, not a polite way to say it. but it's a case of addiction more than sober greed (although there's surely some of that, too)

Dealing with an addiction requires honestly and openly confronting the issue and often some pain and sacrifice, for addicts and enablers like feedlot operators and bankers as well.

You and others know and have known for decades that there's a big problem here, and the best irrigators have done is to temporize and superficialize--essentially relying on "local" control to CYA. That hasn't been good enough.

The problem hasn't gone away. Brownback's theatrics are evidence of that. He knows the public knows the problem is serious. Global warming and the likelihood of more drought and higher temperatures are serious threats.

Neither of you has the answer, you say. Well, I do. Where water is being used in significant excess of recharge, Kansas Administrative Regulations empower the State of Kansas to declare intensive groundwater use areas. You will argue that if water appropriation rights are reduced over time, those right holders are entitled to financial compensation for a taking. I disagree and I believe the courts will find exactly that.

A respected water law expert, John Peck, essentially agrees that water rights can be reduced over time without compensation. (It should have begun decades ago.) An appropriation right does not equate to ownership of water--only to a regulatable permit. In the recent reduction of water appropriation rights in the Wet Walnut issue, NO compensation for any "taking" occurred. I agree that the takings issue has not yet come before the courts. It's passed time for that, and I would suspect and hope that the issue got plenty of public attention and wound up in the Kansas Supreme Court. One reason that hasn't happened is the well-sold, deliberate propaganda about "local" control and "stakeholders" getting the job done.

Another option that would likely work is to legislate a hefty severance tax on water use. You wouldn't like that either.

I fully support tougher water use requirements for municipalities, including accelerating rates and fines for water running down the curbside. However, given that 95 pct. of water in this region goes to ag irrigation, to compare municipal usage with irrigation usage is an apples and oranges comparison.

In the early 60's I spent a little time in SW Kansas working for Hinkle Drillling of Garden City and was then part of the problem. The water then looked to me, as a 20 year old, like an endless miracle.

As to the idea that we "all" should make sacrifices. We the broader public already ARE by allowing the mining to continue on the present scale and by our inaction becoming enablers.

If you're upset at what I have to say, that's understandable. Perhaps you'll also understand why I don't really give a damn. I've seen waaaay too much pious rhetoric from your water pumping church and waaay too little action.


Bob, thanks for giving this issue the time and attention it needs.

I agree that the "takings" issue will be thrown out because water ownership isn't a right. Drilling and use are defined through a regulable permit for a specified amount of water, and it's a permit that can be rescinded or modified for a variety of reasons. The point of such regulable permits is to "safeguard" (and I use that term lightly) a natural resource that belongs to all of us.

In this case, when people start howling about takings, I'm reminded about the typical Republican system of privatizing the gains and socializing the losses. When the water's gone or fouled because of overuse for agriculture and ranching, the rest of us are supposed to accept an apology--if we're lucky?


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