Most intelligent human beings on Earth pay heed to statements or events that indicate impending danger, a serious problem, or other unpleasant situation; particularly if a warning originated from several credible sources. It is really an epic shame that most Americans are not remotely the “most intelligent human beings” on Earth, because their stupidity prohibited them from heeding the decades-long warning from hundreds, if not thousands, of credible sources (climate scientists) that the wanton use of fossil fuels drives anthropogenic climate change. What is stunning is that despite the mountain of scientific research and empirical data, real extreme weather events, and devastating drought conditions, there are still climate change deniers and their Republican heroes who oppose steps to reduce the effects of climate change all in the name of corporate greed. For several California cities, that corporate greed is finally paying dividends, and not the good kind, leaving them without water.
For the past year meteorological experts, NASA, and hydrologists have been warning that the exceptionally severe mega-drought plaguing California would dry up the state’s water supply within two years. One California town began running out of water in May and is now bone dry and many more are following suit. In an area with the most fertile soil in America’s most productive agricultural region, the city of East Portersville is without water, and over 500 wells supplying the life-sustaining necessity for residents and farmers have completely dried up. Residents now have to drive to the local fire station, hand-pump water into barrels, and take it back home to drink, bathe, and flush the toilet; this in an area near what was at one time the largest freshwater lake west of the Great Lakes.
The county announced that it may be several years and cost $20 million before a new groundwater management program, which includes a hookup to other water systems, goes into effect. It will certainly be far too little too late because the other water systems will dry up long before any new program can be completed. In fact, dozens of communities report they are “on the verge of running out of water,” and many say their water supply will be exhausted within 60 days; if they are lucky. There are also 14 communities on California’s “critical list” that have started trucking in water and expect that what precious little they have will not last much longer. Across California, all 154 of its reservoirs are below 50% of their historic average and that estimate is being extremely generous according to images of the state’s lakes and reservoirs.
To make matters worse, as if that is possible, what little water the state has available is being poisoned by the oil industry due to fracking; particularly in the Central Valley where East Porterville is located. This past July state regulators shut down eleven fracking wastewater injection wells because they were suspected of being responsible for contaminating water wells and shrinking aquifers with toxins and carcinogens; particularly in highly productive agricultural areas. After the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) ordered a report to assess potential damage to groundwater supplies, they revealed that the oil industry did poison the dwindling water supply for agriculture and human consumption with no regard for the health and well-being of the people; or financial devastation to agriculture. Agriculture, by the way, that is responsible for providing food for a large portion of America and the world’s population, and as their water supply dries up, food costs are going to rise exponentially.
Adding to the loss of water due to oil industry greed and pollution, is the corporate greed driving Nestlé’s extraction and bottling of Californians’ water; water they sell back to parched consumers and the state to distribute to Californians in poorer rural regions. It is tantamount to water-theft because unlike farmers, individual Californians, and every municipality in the state, Nestle is exempt from complying with state water-saving efforts or regulations because they are pumping water on Native American reservations. Nestlé’s disregard for Californians’ water needs was expressed by the former CEO and current Chairman who exhibited the mindset driving corporate greed.
According to Nestlé Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, water is not a basic human right, and that if human beings get thirsty they have to pay Nestlé for bottled water. It takes the term corporate greed to a new level to, on the one hand, pump California’s water supply dry, bottle it, and then sell it back to thirsty Californians. Nestlé has a history of going into rural areas and extracting groundwater to sell in bottles “completely destroying the water supply without any compensation.” In one rural area of California suffering from the drought, Corporate Watch documented that Nestle “actually makes rural areas foot the bill” for taking the water and selling it back to consumers; most likely in the California towns where the wells are drying up.
Although California’s “exceptionally severe” drought is only in its fourth year of at least a decade long duration, it was predicted more than three decades ago. Climate scientists have been warning for thirty years that if fossil fuel emissions were not curtailed, ocean temperatures would rise, weather patterns would change, and one of the worst effects would be devastating droughts. Still, the oil industry and corporate greed funded successful attacks on environmental and climate scientists’ warnings they claimed were “liberal hoaxes” and “attacks on the oil and gas industry.” The result has been no action to reduce carbon emissions driving anthropogenic climate change responsible for California and the Southwestern U.S. droughts.
Republicans are as responsible for California’s drought as the oil industry and corporate greed because not only do they still deny climate change is driving the drought conditions they are campaigning to roll back environmental regulations; particularly those reducing carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels. They are also adamant that America needs to help the Koch brothers, American oil exporters, and a Canadian company increase its profits, and climate change’s damage, by building the KeystoneXL pipeline. It is a rupture-prone pipeline that will traverse America’s agricultural heartland, over critical aquifers, and through areas suffering droughts in the Southwest en route to the Gulf Coast.
California may not be the first state to suffer from the effects of global climate change, but the effects on agriculture will be felt across the nation as food prices increase; and they will increase. However, for the California cities watching their wells dry up and no prospect for even an average rainfall, food is not their primary concern; water to bathe, drink, and cook with is. While they are forced to use hand pumps and use containers to carry their water like tribal people in poverty-stricken third-world villages, one hope they reflect on why they consistently voted for Republicans whose devotion to satisfying corporate greed is why they have no water.