[env-trinity] Water Commodity Market

Byron bwl3 at comcast.net
Mon Oct 31 11:15:01 PST 2005


PUBLIC CITIZEN PRESS RELEASE

 

For Immediate Release:                         

(415) 596-9772 

Oct. 31, 2005                                                    

 

"Water Market" Concept Betrays Public Interest, New Report Shows

 

Commodifying Water is Detrimental to Consumers, California's Environment and
Economy

 

OAKLAND, Calif. * Creating water markets in California, a system that would
allow for open sales of water and water rights and enable water distribution
to be run by the highest bidder, would irreversibly harm consumers and the
state's agricultural system, said Public Citizen today in a new report. The
consumer group called on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the California State
Legislature to re-prioritize the state's interest in protecting water as a
public trust. 

 

When water is treated as a commodity rather than a public good, conflict
arises between poorer rural areas and wealthy urban neighborhoods, Public
Citizen has found. Public Citizen's report, Water for People and Place:

Moving Beyond Markets in California Water Policy, shows that the largest
buyers of water in the state are Southern California water agencies and
private development corporations, predominantly located in Southern
California. The purchased water comes from the vast agricultural lands in
the Central Valley and the Imperial Valley, which depend upon imported water
supplies. 

 

While these valleys house the wealthiest agricultural region in the United
States, they are also home to the poorest populations in California, and the
rural communities*cut off from the agricultural canals and aqueducts*have
the highest number of drinking water quality violations.

 

In California, it is likely that the rural areas in the north and the dry
agricultural valleys will be further neglected as water increasingly goes to
nourish Southern California property values and subdivisions built by
developers who can pay more for water than farmers.

 

"Water is not the same as sneaker designs, Hollywood movies or pizza crust;
there are no consumer choices," said John Gibler, author of the report and a
California researcher for Public Citizen. "Everyone needs water to drink and
bathe. Everyone develops thirst equally. In a water market, those with
access to the most capital can decide, by the power of their checkbooks,
whose thirst is most valuable."

 

California houses one of the largest and most complex water infrastructures
in the world. Taxpayers and ratepayers across the state and country paid to
build the many dams, canals, pumping stations and hydroelectric power
stations that make up this system. The movement of water in the state, from
the rainy and less populated north, to the dry agricultural valleys in the
middle and the highly populated cities of the south, depends entirely upon
the publicly funded water projects. With hundreds of dams and thousands of
miles of aqueducts and canals, agribusinesses and Southern California cities
have bloomed beyond imagination, while rural, farm-working communities have
stagnated, left to pull water from aquifers that have been depleted and
contaminated by industrial agriculture.

 

 Water has long been a controversial issue in California as its population
continues to grow and its urban areas explode with growth without any
consideration of water usage or needs, threatening the viability of
agriculture as well as the rural communities that provide the industry's
labor force. Among the biggest proponents of the notion of water marketing
are corporations involved in urban housing development.

 

The California constitution declares that the public owns the water. Over
time, however, changes to state and federal laws have made it possible for
people and businesses with water rights to sell those rights on a temporary,
long-term or permanent basis.  In 1982, the legislature directed California
's Department of Water Resources, the State Board, and "all other
appropriate state agencies to encourage voluntary transfers of water and
water rights." And in 1992, Congress passed the Central Valley Project
Improvement Act (CVPIA), allowing contractors with the federal water project
to sell water to cities or developers outside the project. No such sales of
federal project water have yet taken place, although the CVPIA is credited
with spurring a recent increase in state water sales and trading.

 

 The two largest proposed urban development projects in California*Newhall
Ranch and Tejon Ranch's Centennial*illustrate the longstanding inequities in
land ownership and water subsidies. Both projects are business ventures
pursued by corporations, focused on new urban development outside of any
existing city. Both projects lack a sufficient natural water supply to serve
future residents. And both projects plan to buy rights to drinking water for
future residents from Central Valley agribusinesses or descendents of
old-time land and water magnates.

 

Public Citizen calls on the governor and state legislature to reallocate
water based on need, not price. The report recommends banning all for-profit
water sales between private entities and establishing a statewide task force
to study water use in California to identify urgent drinking water needs in
rural parts of the state as well as wasteful water practices.

 

"Treating water allocation*who gets water and how much*as a business
disempowers communities and environmental advocates by cutting them out of
the decision-making process," said Gibler.

 

To read the report, go to

http://www.citizen.org/documents/Water-for-People_web.pdf.

 

Byron Leydecker, 

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

Consultant, California Trout, Inc.

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 ph

415 383 9562 fx

bwl3 at comcast.net

bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org (secondary)

http://www.fotr.org

http://caltrout.org

 

 

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