Why Just About Everything You Hear About California's Water Crisis Is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong
Continued from previous page
That's what the state's "historic" $11-billion bond measure that will appear on the November 2010 ballot is all about. A columnist at the Stockton Record said it best: It "really amounts to an old-fashioned California water grab based on the failure to face nature's limits."
In the convoluted world of California water politics, nothing is ever what it seems. And this time, it appears that even the most well-meaning of journalists fighting the good fight fell hook, line and sinker for the propaganda spun out by California's well-greased water oligarchy. But if everyone got something as basic as the premise of California's supposed water crisis -- the drought -- wrong, what else did they miss? Turns out, quite a bit. With no real drought in California, a lot of the myths, falsehoods and outright lies meant to stir up the masses might no longer makes sense. On the other hand, just because the state has rain doesn't mean the state can't run out water, not with the way corporate farmers are ramping up the pumping of the state's increasingly-overtapped water supplies. So here are the top five things your bullshit meter should be picking up:
Myth: Urban water conservation is key in protecting California's water resources
Schwarzenegger's mandate that urban water use be cut by 20 percent has earned the governor a lot of green cred, but few people realize that his plan for water conservation is actually a forced wealth transfer scheme in a environmentalist disguise. Conservation is a good idea, but it won't do much good for California, no matter how diligent residents are about turning off the tap while brushing or the number of low-flush toilets they install, not unless farmers are forced to conserve water as well.
It is a simple matter of discrimination. Why is the agricultural industry exempted from mandatory conservation when it consumes an unreal 80% of California's water ? There won't be much conservation going on even if every living soul in California up and moves to another state. Because no matter how much water city dwellers save, it'll be sucked up by wealthy corporate farmers who are always on the lookout for more taxpayer-subsidized wet wealth. And with water trading for a minimum at ten times what they pay for it on the open market, every gallon a city dweller conserves will will end up as cash in the personal bank account of some wealthy corporate farmers. It's all part of the master plan because, even as the governor talks up urban conservation, he tries his darnedest to get them more water.
Myth: Irrigation water rationing is causing California's unemployment to spike to critical levels.
I could quote from a number of news sources -- Fox News, CBS, Mother Jones , the New York Times -- to demonstrate the pervasiveness of this bogus notion, but luckily there is no need because most of the stuff is oddly similar to the media spam cranked out by Governor Schwarzenegger's press secretary. Something like this: "[Drought] conditions are causing a loss of livelihood for many thousands of people, an inability to provide for families, and increased harm to the communities that depend on them . . . the Central Valley town of Mendota, as one example, already reports an unemployment rate of more than 40 percent and lines of a thousand or more for food distribution."
Had any journalist bothered to look up its unemployment rate for some other year, they would have seen that water has never been a factor. Over a decade ago, Mendota's unemployment normally ranged from 28 to 32 percent. In 1998, a wet year, it had an unemployment rate of 38 percent. In 2002, a slightly dry year, unemployment was still the same: 37.7 percent.
The chronic hardship seen in Mendota, and the much of the Central Valley, can not be neatly blamed on the weather. There are other bigger, more ominous forces at play here. Mendota is in a bad place, at once existing on the edge of America's poorest Congressional District and also in one of its wealthiest, most subsidized farming communities: the Westlands Water District. This is how Lloyd G. Carter, a veteran UPI reporter who has covered California's farming industry for three decades, describes it: "Rule is by the rich. Indeed, in Westlands, which is a public agency, the growers with the most land have the most votes in electing directors to the district's board. The late Justice William O. Douglas called this voting control by the big growers a corporate political kingdom undreamed of by those who wrote our Constitution."
To put it another way: the billionaire farmers who run Westlands like their own fiefdom have always liked to keep their labor costs down, preferring low-paid migrant workers to those who would register with the unemployment office.
Myth: The "drought" is hurting small, family farmers -- "the backbone of America" -- the most.
Small farmers are hurting, but rarely does it have anything to do with water rationing. You'll find gobs of farmer pity in just about every story filed on the Central Valley, but most forget to mention that the bulk of the land threatened by water shortages is owned by wealthy corporate farmers clustered in and around Westlands Water District, in the driest, hottest and most isolated corner of the Central Valley. Most of these "farmers" don't rise with the crow of the rooster, but fly in on private jets from Orange County and Beverly Hills. Most journalists, like the one who wrote a long rambling piece in the David Eggers special Bay Area newspaper production, Panorama, insist on painting scenes of family farm life in sentimental pastel while ignoring the agribiz moguls who really run the show.