Most Americans would heartily agree that water, the most fundamental of human needs, belongs to all the people of a geographical region; particularly water stored deep underground in aquifers. In California where an historic drought caused by anthropogenic climate change is in the fourth year of what experts claim is a condition that will last indefinitely, three highly profitable industries are taking the lion’s share of the very limited underground natural resource with no regard for the people or the devastating economic impact of their actions on the state’s taxpayers. One of the industries is crucial to the nation’s food supply and contributes to the state’s economy, but it is finally facing water restrictions to hopefully ameliorate the effects of the historic drought. However, two other industries have shown absolutely no interest in reining in their water theft and one of those blatantly admits it wants to steal more California water “if it could.”
Nestlé is a highly-profitable international corporation whose CEO is just thoroughly disgusted because California residents are upset about their water being squandered for corporate profit while he is looking for ways to take more of Californians’ water. The Nestlé Corporation’s CEO, Tim Brown, claims that it was just plain wrong that 200,000 Californians’ appealed to the U.S. Forest Service to stop Nestlé from pumping precious California groundwater out of a national forest during a severe drought. Recently on a radio program when Brown was asked if his corporation will ever consider “halting the company’s unprecedented water extraction during an historic severe drought,” he replied, “Absolutely not! In fact, if I could increase it, I would!”
Brown’s real interest is not only draining every last precious drop of California’s water from underground, but taking advantage of the water shortage to drive up corporate profits by selling thirsty Californians’ their own water after pumping it out of the ground, using even more water for processing, and bottling it for resale. It is little known, even among Californians, that the bottling process requires over three liters of water to produce one liter of bottled water.
Now, since California is in the early stages of what is already an historic man-made severe drought, one with no end in sight ever, it would seem impossible for the state’s officials to avoid placing severe restrictions on any pumping of California’s precious, and rapidly dwindling, groundwater irresponsibly; irresponsibly means wasting the one natural resource most basic to human beings’ survival. Oh, it is true that California’s water, about 80% of it, is being used by the agriculture industry that not only feeds America, but sustains the world’s seventh largest economy (California), but along with the oil industry, Nestlé is wantonly and without remorse wasting water that will cost the Golden State billions of dollars in the near future and much more over the long term.
There has not been a lot of attention given to a serious consequence of inordinate groundwater pumping by corporate agriculture, the petroleum industry, and Nestlé. California’s land is sinking at incredibly alarming levels. Scientists, particularly geologists, have known about the cause of California’s sinking land for some time. When unsustainable amounts of water is pumped out of underground aquifers, regardless the reason or which industry is responsible, tens-of-thousands of square miles of land are “deflating like a leaky air mattress;” inch by rapidly increasing inch. When the Earth sinks due to unrestricted draining of the aquifer the technical name is subsidence where the land collapses down where the water used to be; in California the land is currently sinking more than a foot per year.
California’s surface water will be gone within a year, and that being the case, 60% of the state’s supply is now being drawn from underground aquifers. Just the cost of electricity generation is stunning as tens of thousands of pumps run day and night, every day, using up approximately 5-percent of the state’s total electricity. The pumping increase is directly attributable to the drought and is an increase of 40-percent over a normal year and enough electricity to supply every home in San Francisco for three years. However, that is not the real damage that inordinate pumping by profitable corporations is wreaking on the state according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
As the water level in underground aquifers drops from inordinate pumping, particularly without rainfall to replenish the supply like in the current California drought, the sinking land starts to “destroy bridges, crack irrigation canals, and decimate highways;” something that has been occurring across the Golden State since the beginning of the historic drought. The current damage due to over-pumping that has led to the sinking land mass is not inconsequential by any means. The USGS cited several examples of “subsidence” devastation including two bridges in an area that produces about 15% of the world’s almonds that have “sunk so much that they are nearly underwater” and will cost millions and millions of California taxpayer dollars to rebuild. Nestlé or the petroleum industry will not contribute one red cent to repair the damage their over-pumping caused.
The USGS also reported that one nearby elementary school is “descending into a miles-long sinkhole,” and a “canal system already faces a $60-million price tag to repair” because “the dam supplying the water is sinking.” Across the state, city and private citizens’ wells are “being bent and disfigured like crumpled drinking straws as the Earth collapses around them” with very conservative estimates to replace the useless wells coming in at well over $500-million. All the while, the petroleum industry continues pumping groundwater out of the aquifers to mix with toxic chemicals and the Nestlé bottling company wishes it could “take more water.”
Nestlé CEO Brown attempted to blame Californians for his corporations’ squandering of the dwindling natural resource when he said, “If I stop bottling water tomorrow, people would buy another brand of bottled water, it’s driven by an on-the-go society that needs to hydrate.” This is the same Nestlé corporation whose chairman last year condemned the United Nations for the ridiculously “extremist idea that drinking water is a human right,” and waged a substantial war to nullify the Ontario Ministry of the Environment’s decision that Nestlé would limit the amount of water it took during times of severe drought regardless of whether or not the multi-national conglomerate believes that water belongs to corporations or that no government on Earth dare limit how much water Nestlé steals from Canadians. It is noteworthy that Canada was not facing near the level of “historic” or “severe” drought as California and was not watching its land mass sink over a foot a year, but it did have the foresight and courage to place prohibitions on the amount of water a profit-driven international corporation could steal from the people.
It is high time California end Nestlé and the petroleum industry’s devastating practice of stealing and profiting from Californians’ water. Yesterday the state did step in and level restrictions on the agriculture industry, and if they can regulate an industry that feeds the nation and sustains the state economy, there is no reason why giant corporations such as Nestlé and big oil should escape unscathed. There is no doubt that neither corporate agriculture, the oil industry, or Nestlé will ever be held responsible for the hundreds of billions in damage across California due to sinking land masses, so the least they can do is stop exacerbating California’s severe drought and cease wasting California’s rapidly dwindling underground water supply.
Although some very wet years with very serious precipitation will replenish California’s one-year supply of surface water relatively quickly, geologists admit that once the aquifer is depleted and the ground collapses around it filling in that void, there is no amount of rain that will ever replenish it. By then Nestlé and the oil industry will have moved on to another state and deplete its water supply and collapse its land as well. Destroying a land and all its resources is what locusts do best, and the oil industry and Nestlé are nothing if not destructive pests that need to be eradicated with extreme prejudice.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.