By Sal Sandoval, M.D.
MERCED, CA —This has been the driest year in recorded history. The Sierra snowpack is 12% of normal. Delta water may be unavailable for many Central Valley farmers. In some counties ground levels are sinking as groundwater is pumped out. With fields left unplanted, up to 20,000 farm workers won’t have work this year. School districts will lose money as children move with their families in search of work. Beef prices may rise by 40%, and milk prices by 50 cents per gallon. Seventeen valley towns may go without water as pumps run dry. Five billion dollars in loss of revenue to farms, trucking, and food processing have prompted a state of emergency by Governor Jerry Brown and a visit to the Valley by President Obama.
In this irrigated desert, the most productive agricultural area of the world, water is on the verge of being privatized and sold to the highest bidder.
Into the third year of the drought, a political fight that has long been simmering is starting to boil over. Variously blamed on environmentalists, bureaucrats, fishermen, greedy farmers, wasteful homeowners, all sides are clamoring for relief.
Lurking behind the scenes, however, is a potentially more ominous player at the water trough. And that is the oil companies, who utilize enormous amounts of water to extract oil and natural gas from deep under the ground in a process called fracking.
It is suspected that the Westlands Water District is selling its water to oil companies. The water was obtained at subsidized prices and then sold at a profit to farmers and to Southern California. If farmers are charged $30 per acre foot of water and oil companies are prepared to purchase water at $3300 per acre foot, who is likely to get the water, particularly since Kern County where the Westlands Water District resides is called “oil land”?
All of the proposed “solutions” to the water crisis, whether Democrat or bipartisan happen to benefit the Westlands Water district, which is 49% controlled by Beverly Hills billionaire Stuart Resnick, who has made financial contributions to both political parties.
The drought and the upcoming elections signal that we are at a crossroads. One road enriches billionaires and career politicians, as it impoverishes and indebts the rest of us, and further degrades our environment. The other is a radical break from the two-party system.
The Green Party platform, for which Luis Rodriguez is California Gubernatorial Candidate, is the only one which recognizes that we exist in a fragile balance with our environment upon which our survival depends, as well as promoting an economic bill of rights of sustainable jobs, financial reform, and real democracy where production is planned to nurture us and our future generations.
Vote in the June primaries so that Governor Brown is forced to debate a candidate with a platform that serves our real interests and not those of profiteers who don’t care about us and our children’s future.
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