Las Vegas Sun

October 24, 2014

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letter to the editor:

Alfalfa and water by the numbers

Following up on the Saturday letter “The need to reduce water consumption,” according to an article in the April 28 issue of High Country News, approximately 35 million tons of alfalfa were exported to Taiwan, China, United Arab Emirates, Korea and Japan over the recent 10-year period ending in 2012.

It takes about 247,000 gallons of water to grow a ton of alfalfa. Therefore, approximately 8.645 trillion gallons of water from one of the West’s most drought-ridden areas was exported out of the country during that period. Was it a good deal?

The price fluctuates, however. The income derived from alfalfa in 2009 was about $270 per ton. Another way of saying what is happening is that for the 8.645 trillion gallons of water used, the growers got approximately $9.45 billion, or about $10.93 per 1,000 gallons.

By comparison, if you have a 5/8-inch meter and are in Tier 4 (the highest) for water use in Las Vegas, you pay about $4.58 per 1,000 gallons for some of the higher quantities you use.

So, buying from the farmers would make good conservation sense, but not good economic sense. Of course, if we send most of our water out of the country, what is left will go up in price rapidly.

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