Water and air are the most important resources on the planet. Breathing clean air seems to be accepted as a noble goal and the cost attributed to its improvement is usually universally accepted. However, the same cannot be said about access to fresh water as big business interests often argues. Many corporate interests contend that private ownership of public water out- weighs the rights of actual property owners. Corporate agriculture is quite different from traditional family farming. Yet, the factory farms that have taken over agribusiness demonstrate little regard for preserving a viable water supply.
Tilling the back forty is no longer the face of farming. Adding concern to an already parched situation is the California delta’s water mysteriously missing amid drought, news has come to light.
“Delta farmers don’t deny using as much water as they need. But they say they’re not stealing it because their history of living at the water’s edge gives them that right. Still, they have been asked to report how much water they’re pumping and to prove their legal rights to it.
At issue is California’s century-old water rights system that has been based on self-reporting and little oversight, historically giving senior water rights holders the ability to use as much water as they need, even in drought. Gov. Jerry Brown has said that if drought continues this system built into California’s legal framework will probably need to be examined.”
So what is all this water extraction being used for? Manuel Ramirez from K&M Press is an exporter in the Imperial Valley is quoted by the BBC in the account, California drought: Why farmers are ‘exporting water’ to China.
“The last few years there has been an increase in exports to China. We started five years back and the demand for alfalfa hay has increased,” he says.
“It’s cost effective. We have abundance of water here which allows us to grow hay for the foreign market.”
Japan, Korea and the United Arab Emirates all buy Californian hay. The price is now so high that many local dairy farmers and cattle ranchers can’t afford the cost when the rains fail and their usual supplies are insufficient.”
California Food Facts – Production & Crops lists the state’s leading export crop as almonds. Widely described in Mother Jones is the amount of water needed to produce a list of crops. A single almond requires 1.1 gallons of water. The lunacy of exporting a product that consumes such a high water usage is typical of an environment that has ignored the wasteful use of water resources for decades.
Even more alarming is contained in the CBS news report, Farmers May Sell Water Meant For Growing Crops During California’s Drought.
“Instead of growing crops, some California farmers will sell their water to other farms during the fourth year of the state’s drought.
Not all farmers will use their allocated amount of water this year, and several irrigation districts will allow farmers to sell their extra water.”
The practice of selling water may seem on the surface a free market transaction. Nonetheless, the dubious corporatist claim on a vanishing water supply defies rational policy. Now that California Governor Jerry Brown Orders Statewide Water Restrictions, and issued a decree, “The order calls on local water agencies to implement tiered water pricing that charges higher rates as more water is used and requires agricultural users to report more water use information to state regulators”, fails to rein in big agriculture.
Of course as with setting an enlightened public policy, especially when addressing an emergency, not all the blame should be placed on farming. Notwithstanding, their abuses, the underlying failure in allowing exporting crops that use up our domestic water reserves is the key failure in the Governor Brown executive order.
The National Geographic quotes from a Governor Brown statement:
“Some have questioned the production of so much food for export during a water shortage. Even as many farmers struggle to meet their crops’ demand for water in drought-stricken California, every year they also send billions of virtual gallons to other countries—in the form of the food and animal feed grown with that water.
The United States exports about 82 trillion gallons of water a year–more than twice as much virtual water as any other country. That’s largely because American farms are a big supplier of the global food chain.”
California is currently getting media attention. But when compared to global conditions, Water Usage & Privatization, makes some astounding warnings.
“About 90 percent of the world’s freshwater stocks currently remain under public control, but privatization is becoming more common as revenue-strapped governments increasingly cannot afford to maintain and repair crumbling municipal water purification and delivery systems often built decades ago. Historically, however, in places where privatization has been established, it has proven to be another cause of—rather than a solution to—chronic water shortage problems. That is, because corporations are (by their nature) more concerned with making money than serving people’s and communities’ best interests, water privatization has led to corruption, lack of corporate accountability, loss of local agency, weakened water quality standards, and steep rate hikes that eliminate poor people’s access to water.”
Government oppression is always a prime concern with public policy. Still, the greed of corporatist farming plays a destructive role when water usage is misused with flagrant disregard for the public welfare. As long as state and local office holders ignore balance and prudent measures to curb flushing freshwater down a wasteful hole, the prospects of a prosperous civilized society will be brought into question.
However long weather conditions remain that diminishes replenishment in ground water, the need to act now becomes more important. As expected corporatist interests will fight every inch to keep control of every drop. The globalists warming cultists will spin their fear agenda, but will do little to confront the destructive practices of the “Free Trade” sellout. The proper role of lawful government is absent. Heed this example of the special interests control of our future, through their influence of bad public policy.
James Hall – April 15, 2015