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Page added on January 29, 2008

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As Supplies Dry Up, Growers Pass on Farming and Sell Water

In a state where water has become an increasingly scarce commodity, a growing number of farmers are betting they can make more money selling their water supplies to thirsty cities and farms to the south than by growing crops.

The shortages this season among the most intense of the last decade are already shooting water prices skyward in many areas, and Los Angeles-area cities are begging for water and coaxing farmers to let their fields go to dust.

“It just makes dollars and sense right now,” said Bruce Rolen, a third-generation farmer in Northern California’s lush Sacramento Valley. “There’s more economic advantage to fallowing than raising a crop.”

Instead of sowing seeds in April, Rolen plans to leave his rice stubble for the birds and sell his irrigation water on the open market, where it could fetch up to three times the normal price.


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