Whose Water is it Anyway?
Those of you who drink Fiji water, drink P♥M juice or eat nuts may want to skip this post about water and the Wonderful Company, the California-based agribusiness empire of Lynda and Stewart Resnick. By many accounts, the Resnicks are good people: entrepreneurs and wildly successful marketers; large donors to worthy causes; community builders – as David Brooks noted in an adulatory column on their efforts in Lost Hills, California. Lynda Resnick even helped Daniel Ellsberg photocopy The Pentagon Papers.
The issue is not them as individuals but as huge players in the Big Ag / Big Water industrial complex and the corporate and government policies that underwrite them. In California, and throughout the West, whoever controls the water controls much of the state; and in the current issue of Mother Jones Josh Harkinson introduces us to “the California Couple Who Uses More Water Than Every Home in Los Angeles Combined,” providing a vivid graph to buttress his point.
California has a long and scurrilous history of water shenanigans, brilliantly described in Cadillac Desert and Chinatown, Marc Reisner’s and Roman Polanski’s classics of the great Owens Valley water theft a century ago. But what we do with water today is insane: mine it on the islands of Fiji and send it around the world in small plastic bottles; use 1.1 gallons of it to grow a single almond in the California desert and 10 trillion gallons for annual U.S. beef production; and the latest boondoggle, the $67-billion “California WaterFix,” which will divert millions of gallons water from the Sacramento River directly to the southern Central Valley, instead of following its natural course into San Francisco Bay.
We don’t treat air as a commodity to be owned, bought and sold by powerful people, so why water, which is equally essential to all living things?