All resources, particularly natural resources, on Earth are finite and when they are gone there is nothing whatsoever that will bring them back. It is why conserving or managing resources is crucial to a civilization’s survival and why a resource like life-giving water is such a precious resource; particularly during a time of drought. As anthropogenic climate change is producing extremely warmer, and in many areas drier, weather, it would seem to be of paramount importance to take whatever steps possible to preserve a precious resource like water.
As California suffers the fourth straight year of an historic drought, Governor Jerry Brown took the unprecedented step of mandating a 25% reduction in water use for all Californians; it is virtually water rationing. However, it is unlikely California will reduce its water use by a quarter, partly because some residents do not believe the mandate applies to them, and partly due to corporations’ lust for profit. Curiously, some Californians cannot accept that the drought is serious in spite of what they see with their own eyes or empirical data showing the state is truly drying up.
Although there was some rain earlier in the year, meteorologists had already recorded the worst snowpack in history during December through February; typically very wet months. However, they were somewhat hopeful things would change in March which normally brings substantial rainfall, cooler temperatures, and significant additions to the mountain snowpack. As the Golden state’s climatologist, Michael Anderson, said, “Unless we end up with some particularly good snows here in March, we are going to end up with a new lowest rank here.”
Subsequently there was little rain, and record high temperatures, in March, so there was absolutely no snow which means no runoff to fill depleted, and nearly dried up, reservoirs. No reservoir water means agriculture is, for all intents and purposes, dead or in the throes of a slow economically painful death. Many irrigation districts, in league with corporate farms, are selling what precious water is still available to Southern California for three to four times the normal rate and letting their fields and crops go to Hell. They claim they can make more money selling Northern California’s water than they ever could after a good harvest and as usual, greed and money trumps common sense. Plus, farmers can claim crop losses to reap the benefits of federal crop insurance and make no mistake, the majority of the claims will be made by giant corporate farms that already drain government coffers through corporate agriculture subsidies; what small family farmers label corporate welfare.
There is a very limited and diminishing amount of water underground, but it is prohibitively costly to pump it for agricultural use. What little water is left underground is either being sucked out, blended with carcinogens and toxic chemicals for fracking and oil wells, or stolen by a giant multi-national corporation and sold to residents whose wells have dried up or have been shut down due to oil industry poisoning them.
Every single day in California, the oil and gas industry uses way more than 2 million gallons of what precious little water the state has remaining in dangerous extraction techniques such as fracking, acidizing, and cyclic steam injection. This abominable waste of water is in spite of California farmers, cities, and residents struggling to find ways to conserve water and meet the new mandate to reduce water use by 25% to survive an historic drought. While the rest of the state is now forced to do its share to conserve a rapidly diminishing water reserve, the oil and gas industry continues using, contaminating, and disposing of staggering amounts of precious water each day.
To make matters that much worse, the over 2 million gallons of toxic water the oil and gas industry disposes of daily is pumped into the aquifer and poisons the diminishing underground supply at an alarming rate; so much so that well over a hundred (at last count) drinking-water wells have been shut down by state water regulators and the EPA due to oil waste-water contamination.
The shuttered wells have forced residents of some California cities that are completely out of water to travel to buy bottled water for all their needs. Worse, the water the people are forced to purchase for basic survival was absconded from Californians by another corporation that believes water is not a basic human right but a commodity reserved for the corporation’s profit in the ultimate representation of corporate greed at the expense of human lives.
The Nestlé company, one of the world’s largest multinational corporate entities, operates several water-bottling plants up and down California in some of the areas hardest hit by the historic drought. Instead of helping conserve a dwindling natural resource, Nestlé is robbing what little water the state has left either to sell on the foreign market or to the areas where wells are dried up or poisoned by the oil and gas industry. Just to demonstrate the Nestlé company’s disregard for California’s lack of water, it takes three litres of water to produce one litre of bottled water, and Nestlé rejected several requests and demands from resident and activists to “halt its irresponsible and wasteful” bottling operations because they are in business to make money. What is even more despicable, like the oil industry, Nestlé enlists willing Republicans and employs lobbyists to block attempts to force the company to adhere to water conservation efforts the rest of the state is held to in the name of protecting corporate profits. Nestlé’s CEO is notorious for claiming water is not a basic human right and just another commodity that exists for the company’s profits.
Californians are livid and virtually up in arms that the oil and water-bottling industry are not part of the conservation effort, and as water becomes scarcer, or vanishes next year as every expert under the California Sun projects, the two profitable industries will face a thirsty public literally up in arms. Make no mistake, California is a predominately liberal state, but its residents do stockpile weapons and are unafraid of using them; particularly if it means basic survival.
It is noteworthy that the state’s farm bureau acknowledges that there is such a thing as climate change and seems to understand it plays a role in increasingly warm weather, but they blame their members’ lack of irrigation water not on the oil or water-bottling industry, but government regulations; not the lack of rainfall from anthropogenic climate change because they are Republicans. Sadly, the preponderance of stupid in California’s conservative agriculturally productive Great Central Valley where the drought is wreaking the most havoc drives voters to believe EPA and Clean Water Act regulations are responsible for drought conditions and they dutifully send Republicans to Congress to wage war on what they regard as the real enemy; the EPA and not the oil industry responsible for exacerbating climate change.
It is also noteworthy that another group not adhering to water conservation efforts is the bible crowd who claim lack of prayer is driving the lack of rainfall. A little over three months ago a cabal of evangelical churches in the Central Valley convened and decided the solution to the historic drought was mass prayer. Subsequently, when weather forecasts called for rain, the day before rain was due churches held prayer rallies and after rain showed up according to the forecasts, the faithful determined god intervened, claimed the drought was over, and ignored conservation efforts. They thanked their deity, watered their lawns, washed their cars, built swimming pools, hosed down their sidewalks, and took longer showers as acknowledgment their prayers were answered and the drought was over. In fact, despite water restrictions, churches continue wasting water on lawns and landscaping because churches are apparently not subject to water-reduction mandates any more than they are taxation.
California is in serious trouble due to the effects of climate change and it is an atrocity because the state has some of the most stringent environmental regulations in the nation. Still, environmental regulations or not, the state is due to run out of water next year and it will take a concerted effort to preserve what little water there is left. The mountains that are typically covered with at least thirty inches of snow are barren dry, lakes and reservoirs are extremely low or dry, and while responsible and terrified residents take extraordinary measures to preserve the most necessary of natural resources, the oil and bottled-water industry are wasting water like it is incredibly abundant.
Republicans in Congress are using the devastating drought as a reason to eviscerate California’s environmental regulations and are having a measure of success among California conservatives who are certain the problem is not anthropogenic climate change, but federal and state agencies tasked with reducing the effects of climate change. Republicans have demonstrated their willingness to take everything from the people to enrich their corporate funders, but they have gone too far in protecting corporations that are robbing the people of a resource necessary for survival.