Never Too Late? Harvard Snags Paso Robles Water Rights Before Deadline


You knew they were book smart, but it turns out Harvard isn't so bad with wine, either.
Harvard University's Brodiaea Inc., a company owned by the University's sizable endowment fund, recently secured water well drilling permits just a few days before “lawmakers banned new pumping,” a Jan. 23 Reuters report said. 
While the move raised eyebrows with some area experts, others lauded the University for investing in its vineyards.
“You've got a value-added product, you've got agricultural real-estate as a hedge against inflation, and if you can be smart about operating it you can come up with a pretty consistent cash flow that can produce a return on investment that is not as volatile as other products,” said Dana Merrill, owner of a vineyard services firm near Paso Robles.
The move comes in the wake of a brutal drought which has affected the area.
Harvard's last-second push for more permits left some area advocates wondering what the organization will do with the water they're predicted to procure from their proposed wells.
“It remains to be seen what commitment they have to the business,” said Susan Harvey, a representative from a local advocacy group. “Is Harvard going to keep their water or cut back on returns to protect water quality and quantity?”
According to Reuters, irrigable land in Paso Robles is between five and seven times more valuable than dry pasture. 
The proposed wells will dig down between 700 and 900 feet, a distance which is “two to three times deeper than the average residential well,” Reuters said. 
A local real estate expert told Reuters the move was a wise one.
“The area they bought in has some of the best groundwater in the region, and having working wells puts their investment in a strong position,” the expert said.
Yahoo! Finance published the Reuters story about the Harvard purchase. The article spurred a variety of spirit responses from readers, many of whom were wary of the move by one of the country's most respected educational institutions. 
Several commenters said the last-second move by Harvard was an example of the “rich getting richer”, while others raised concerns about whether or not it was necessary to drill for water when many farmers – wheat, barley, oats and almonds were mentioned –  rely only on rain for their harvest.

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