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Michael Hiltzik: Banking on water

That the natural scarcity of water in the West will inevitably lead to economic conflicts and, quite possibly, to political conflicts, there can be no doubt. How do we know?

It's already happening.

The case of the Kern Water Bank reported in my Wednesday column is just one example of how a group of well-heeled water users took advantage of bureaucratic ineptitude to secure for themselves a reliable supply of irrigation. Of course, their reliability means more doubt for everyone else needing water in California.

As for the political conflict, it's real enough to be available for exploitation. Fox's Sean Hannity plainly doesn't know anything about water issues in the Central Valley, but he knows an opportunity for falsification and demagoguery when he sees one, as this video clip demonstrates. The misrepresentation and manipulation are only going to get uglier.

The legal complaint about the Kern Water Bank transfer can be found here. A Hastings law school analysis of water bank projects in general is here.

The column starts below.

Students of California’s history of gold and oil rushes know it’s filled with examples of profiteering, conspiracy, influence-peddling and other chicanery. 

So there’s no reason the story should be any different with that liquid gold of the 21st century, water.
That’s the theme of a lawsuit filed a few weeks ago alleging there’s something smelly about how a group of private interests — notably a huge agribusiness owned by the wealthy Southern California couple Stewart and Lynda Resnick — got control of an underground water storage project the state had already spent $75 million to develop.

The lawsuit was filed by a group of water agencies and environmental groups contending that the transaction was essentially a gift of public property to private interests and therefore violates the state constitution.

Read the whole column.

-- Michael Hiltzik

 
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