Originally published November 23 2015
Water wars and rule by tyranny: California's city mobs plan takeover of rural water supplies
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) As drought continues to bake California, it is becoming apparent to more and more residents that the remaining water resources are held by a small number of mega-farmers who undoubtedly hold a great deal of sway over government officials given the enormity of the Golden State's agriculture industry.
As reported by Bloomberg Business, just a handful of landowners – some 500 farms in total – control the rights to 3.1 million acre-feet a year of the critical resource that flows mostly from the Colorado River. That amount is equal to about one-third of all of the water that is used by California cities, home to 37 million people, where neighbors are squealing on neighbors who over-water their lawns.
As Bloomberg Business continued:
Or, to measure another way, it's half again as much water as Governor Jerry Brown aims to save under his April executive order, which set a February 2016 deadline for a 25 percent reduction in urban use. An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons (1.2 million liters) and can supply the household needs of about 10 people for a year, though actual water use rates vary widely.
Farmers in water-rich Imperial Valley know how precious the resource is and they realize that in order to preserve their livelihood – a way of life that extends back a century or more for many of them – they will have to deal with the needs of a state mired in a four-year drought.
Farmers will likely be given no choiceIn the meantime, politicians, lawyers and regulators have been pushing Valley farmers to get every drop of water they can. In 2003, the Imperial Irrigation District, under pressure from U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and other federal and state officials, agreed to sell as much as 280,000 acre-feet a year to the city of San Diego. It was a major controversy; farmers in the Valley still talk about the "deal" at length, Bloomberg Business notes, and emotions are still very raw because they believe that similar water transfers (as it was called) are likely in the future.
As is always the case, so much of a resource controlled by so few people in dire times has opened up the farmers to outsized criticism.
"The Imperial Valley belongs to a plutocracy of corporate agricultural and real estate interests that hoard water," Carolee Krieger, the president of the California Water Impact Network, a nonprofit group in Santa Barbara, told the web site. "They're fighting to control water that California needs to preserve its environment."
Bennett Raley, the U.S. Department of Interior's top water official when the San Diego agreement was reached, warned farmers in blunt tones not to believe they have the collective power to block such transfers in the future.
"The economic pressures associated with urban growth in the West are extremely strong," he told a community Valley forum in 2002, according to press accounts cited by Bloomberg.
Are 127 golf courses really necessary?Since then, the pressure to conduct more water transfers has only grown more intense, especially as the drought has drained reservoirs around the state. Some are attempting to use the California drought situation as "proof" that global warming/climate change is occurring, even though rainfall in most other parts of the country set records this past year. Nevertheless, the fight over remaining water resources in California has intensified.
Some farmers remain defiant. One, Craig Elmore – whose grandfather, John, arrived in the Valley from Missouri in 1908 – said that he spends about $600 per acre to level his fields and dig ditches for maximum irrigation effect.
"People think transferring water out of the valley is a great sin," he says. "Wasting water can be an even greater sin."
Others are skeptical that the need for their water is really as great as it sounds.
"Do we really need 127 golf courses in Palm Springs for Obama and the Hollywood elite?" Imperial Valley farmer Ronnie Leimgruber, whose grandfather immigrated here from Switzerland in 1918, asked.
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