Theses Master's

From Rural to Urban: The Creation of Water Markets, Agriculture and Farmworkers in California's Imperial Valley

Velasco, Christopher Anthony

In October of 2003, an agreement was signed allowing for the creation of the largest market and reallocation of water in the United States. The Federal Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA) sought to clarify usage of the Colorado River, which supports 40 million people across 7 states and northern Mexico and serves as the water source for hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland in California alone. Imperial Valley’s agricultural landscape reaches almost every American grocery store, as it produces the majority of domestically harvested vegetables during winter months and plays a vital supply role in producing feed for livestock in California and around the nation. This paper focuses on the response from the agricultural industry and farmworkers to the commodification and reallocation of water between the Imperial Irrigation District and the San Diego County Water Authority. In order to gauge the response, data on field crops, consumptive water usage and farmworker employment was collected from 2001-2011. This period was selected to measure changes because it represents pre-QSA (2001-2002), implementation (2003) and the scaling up of the QSA (2004-2011.) Finally, several interviews were conducted with farmworker advocacy groups and data on farm-related employment was collected in order to gauge the economic and social implications of the QSA. As a result, planning has a stake in the future of this particular region as it is the primary source for domestically harvested winter crops in the United States, calling for the need to bring water consumption by water agencies in-line with the reality of expanding urban populations in Nevada, Arizona and California. As water becomes an increasingly scarce resource, especially for arid regions, the QSA provides policy makers with an example of how the negotiation process works for an uncharted area for American planning, that is a market-based approach to the socially-optimum allocation of water.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Srinivas, Smita
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
June 7, 2013


Title continues: "Studying the Response to Commodification and Reallocation of Water between the Imperial Irrigation District and the San Diego County Water per the Federal Quantification Settlement Agreement"