Corporate agriculture giants are plotting a massive, multi-billion dollar water heist and they want you to pay for it. Part of their thirst was quenched in December when Senator Feinstein made it easier for them to resell public water for private profit. Now these water barons have their eyes set on a bigger prize: passage of an $11.14 billion bond measure to help them tap the Sacramento River. In order to protect California’s fiscal and environmental health, the state legislature should repeal this wasteful bond.
In an effort to conceal its true intent, the water bond initiative is named the “Safe and Reliable Drinking Water Act.” But in reality, it is a major threat to Californians. Key players in drafting and lobbying for it were Westlands Water District and Paramount Farms, both occupying the arid southwestern corner of the Central Valley, and two of the nation’s biggest and most powerful agriculture operations. Combined they hold over 800,000 acres of land and hold rights to over one million acre feet of water, which, for perspective, is more water than San Francisco and Los Angeles combined use each year!
Paramount Farms, owned by Stewart Resnick, a Beverly Hills billionaire, is the world’s largest grower and shipper of almonds and pistachios, lucrative crops that are exported overseas. It also controls the state’s largest underground reservoir, the Kern County Water Bank, which stores taxpayer-subsidized water intended for farming, but often sells it to real estate developers for big profits.
Paramount and Westlands want a massive tunnel to tap the mighty Sacramento River and its tributaries. The bond sets aside $2.25 billion to pay for the environmental damage that the tunnel would cause. Because of the enormous costs and environmental consequences of this project, once known as the “peripheral canal,” California voters overwhelmingly rejected it in in 1982.
A tunnel diverting the fresh water of the Sacramento River could spell disaster for the ecosystem of the San Francisco Bay Delta, the largest estuary on America’s West Coast. The salmon population nearly went extinct after record amounts of water were exported from the estuary in 2005 through 2008.
For these and economic reasons, the bond polled so poorly in 2010, that the legislature and Governor Schwarzenegger delayed it to the November 2012 ballot. Now Governor Jerry Brown and Senator Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento, fearing voters will rightfully shoot down the bloated bond this November, have proposed delaying it once again. All of these politicians have received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Resnick.
California’s financial situation is dire and this general obligation bond would force even more cuts to our public schools and essential public services such as healthcare and safety. California, already facing a $13 billion budget deficit, is still paying off massive debts from previous bond measures that continue to suck money away from these vital services.
Bad bonds don’t get better with age, especially this bond that is full of pork and paves the way for environmentally damaging projects like a massive tunnel to export delta water to wealthy agribusinesses at the expense of taxpayers. California needs real investments in our water infrastructure like upgrading aging pipes, cleaning up waterways and improving efficiency and conservation efforts. The best option to provide clean, reliable water to all Californians is a legislative repeal of the water bond before November.
More information on Food & Water Watch’s campaign to stop the corporate water grab can be found at: http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/take-action/in-your-community/western-r…
Kristin Lynch is the Pacific Region Director at the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch. She is responsible for developing and overseeing regional and national campaigns that ensure our food and water resources are regulated in the public interest rather than for private gain. Kristin has been developing, directing and implementing campaigns on various economic and social justice issues for over 15 years. Before joining Food & Water Watch, Kristin worked as a director for the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United where she directed labor, healthcare reform and electoral politics campaigns. Kristin has a J.D. from Golden Gate University School of Law and a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Minnesota.