Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Water, water isn?t everywhere

Prolonged drought and heavier demand for reduced water reserves in the growing Western states have given modern meaning to Benjamin Franklin?s 1746 dictum, ?When the well?s dry, we know the worth of water.?

To be precise, a few Idaho legislators are putting a price tag of $80 million to $100 million on state-backed bonds to buy out farmers in southcentral parts of the state to cut into demand and make water available to other farmers who lack primary water rights and are in desperate need.

This is another of those issues that?s come home to roost: the state could?ve and should?ve anticipated a possible shortage when agriculture began moving farther out into arid desert areas that require high-lift pumping.

So, having gambled on the foolhardy assumption that water would be everywhere all the time, some water-needy agricultural interests are seeking what constitutes a bailout from a few all-too-willing legislators.

Would the same lawmakers be so quick to propose buying out businesses in ski resort towns if adequate snow failed to fall and retailers faced ruin--as has been the plight in some years?

Notwithstanding Idaho?s vital interest in seeing agriculture succeed, a line must be drawn: gambling and losing on water supplies becomes a personal liability, not the responsibility for taxpayers at large.

Oh, for the day when these same eager lawmakers would be so quick to comply with long-standing court orders to fund repairs for dilapidated public schools, which are the obligation of all taxpayers and are part of the state?s constitutionally required responsibilities to education.

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