The magnitude of energy costs imposed on the general public by irrigation development in Washington is very large. These costs come about through two separate phenomena. As water is withdrawn from the Snake and Columbia Rivers for irrigation, use of this water for creating hydropower is lost. Also, pumping of water for irrigation requires significant quantities of electricity which is currently sold to irrigators at very low average costs. However, both the lost and used energy must be replaced or added to the supply at the opportunity cost of current thermal power generation. These phenomena result in a cost of about $150 per acre per year that is paid through the general public through increased utility rates. This article describes the magnitude of such costs in terms of large and small family farms, and in terms of employment created by irrigation development.


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