Farm Press Blog

Selling forecasts from bad numbers


Table of Contents:

  • When false statements are sold as truth is the logical conclusion to believe none of it?


I was recently sent the link to an article in which the sender wanted my assessment of a story. Without knowing the motivation behind the request, I complied.

The article had to do with a report out of the UCLA Anderson Forecast, which touts itself as one of the most widely watched and often-cited economic outlooks for California and the nation. Fair enough.

After seeing other news stories on the report and then finding a press release on the report, I have some concerns about how it could be used.

For instance, UCLA Anderson parrots the oft-mentioned statement that 80 percent of California’s water is consumed by agriculture. That’s simply not true!

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According to the California Department of Water Resources, agricultural uses in an average water year consume 42 percent of the state’s dedicated water supply; 11 percent is consumed by urban users and 47 percent goes to the environment. Those numbers vary in wet years and dry years, but it’s far from the 80 percent people like to cite. At the most, the state says agriculture consumes 52 percent of the state’s dedicated water supply in dry years.

I’m sure that number will be considerably lower this year as agriculture has been promised zero surface water and not growers have access to groundwater.

So, if UCLA Anderson’s numbers are wrong with respect to water use, what other assumptions, assertions and statements can we also question? Is it fair to surmise that bad numbers lead to false premises, which lead to poor policy decisions? If nothing else, poor assumptions are borne.

Discuss this Blog Entry 1

on Apr 15, 2014

Well Todd, did you contact them to point out the errors or get an explanation?

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