Saturday, August 2, 2014

How Corporations are Creating a Life-Threatening Water Shortage by Carl Gibson

“Imagine the swift and fierce government response if Al-Qaeda took a precious resource out of a delicate environment, sold it for profit and endangered 40 million people in the process. Now compare that example to the nonexistent government response to American energy companies, golf courses and corporations like Nestlé taking 75 percent of the groundwater out of the Colorado River Basin at a time when the American West is facing a record drought.

Corporations will continue to abuse their constitutional protections as legal ‘persons’ until fresh water has become fully privatized, or until corporate constitutional rights are eliminated with a constitutional amendment.

“Depleting a Precious Resource: Nestlé has two plants on the Colorado River Basin that take in water to bottle and sell under its Arrowhead and Pure Life brands. One is in Salida, Colorado, on the eastern edge of the Upper Basin; the other is in the San Gorgonio Pass, halfway between San Bernardino and Indio, Calif., on the western edge of the Lower Basin. According to annual reports filed up to 2009, Nestlé bottles between 595 and 1,366 acre-feet of water per year – enough to flood that many acres under a foot of water – from the California source. The company takes 200 additional acre-feet per year from the Colorado source. 

“This means altogether Nestlé is draining the Colorado River Basin of anywhere from 250 million to 510 million gallons of water per year, according to the acre-feet-to-gallons conversion calculator.
“The Colorado River Basin is an especially critical water resource, responsible for supplying municipal water to 40 million Americans and irrigating 5.5 million acres of land. As the US Bureau of Reclamation has documented, 22 federally-recognized tribes, seven national wildlife refuges, four national recreation areas, and 11 national parks depend on the basin.

“In a new report by NASA and the University of California at Irvine, researchers discovered that between December of 2004 and November of 2013, the basin lost 53 million acre-feet of water. 41 million acre-feet, or 75 percent of that loss, came from groundwater sources, like those pumped by Nestlé. That’s more than twice the amount of water contained in Lake Mead, America’s largest freshwater reservoir. 

“In the meantime, Nestlé, with 29 water bottling facilities across North America, pocketed $4 billion in revenue from bottled water sales in 2012 alone.

“But Nestlé isn’t alone in abusing the main water source of the Western United States. Expansive golf courses in desert areas, like those in Arizona and Southern California, require hundreds of thousands of gallons of water per day to maintain. According to the United States Golf Association (USGA), 2 million acres of American golf courses are irrigated, or 80 percent of the country's total golf course acreage. Between 2003 and 2005, the USGA estimated that 2,312,701 acre-feet of water was used to maintain golf courses, amounting to over 2 billion gallons of water per day. An NPR report from 2008 put that in perspective, comparing the average daily water usage of one golf course to the amount of water used by one American family over the course of 4 years.

“An ‘Insurmountable’ Water Crisis by 2040: Egregious abuses of limited freshwater supplies have led to panic from some and greed from others. If current drought conditions and water usage patterns persist, it’s estimated that the world will face an ‘insurmountable’ water crisis by 2040. Aarhaus University of Denmark, the Vermont Law School and the nonprofit CNA Corporation recently released a study showing that a global population increase compounded by an exponential increase in water consumption will inevitably lead to drastic drought conditions unless immediate action is taken. The study projected a 40 percent gap between water supply and demand by 2030 under current conditions.

“According to the study, 41 percent of American freshwater consumption came from energy production alone. Energy sources like nuclear and coal power were responsible for the bulk of water consumption, though the process of hydraulic fracturing – better known as fracking, where jets of water mixed with chemicals are blasted underground to break up shale formations that produce natural gas – was also high on the list…

“Constitutionally-Protected Corporate Greed: The research community isn’t the only group of people paying attention to the writing on the wall. Corporate executives are quickly making moves to privatize water resources, declaring the resource to be the next oil. Peter Brabeck, chairman and former CEO of Nestlé, has openly said that ‘access to water is not a public right.’ This is in spite of UN Resolution 64/292, which declares that water and sanitation are both basic human rights. The World Health Organization has said that one person needs 20 liters of water for ‘survival’ levels of use, including bathing and laundry… 

“Ever since the Supreme Court established that corporations are legally people in the Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad ruling of 1886, corporations have successfully overridden a slew of regulations citing the equal protection clause under the 14th Amendment. By proving that a certain regulation would unduly infringe on a corporation’s ability to make a profit, well-heeled corporate entities have lawyered up to defy regulatory agencies for over a century. 

“The Buckley v. Valeo ruling in 1976 further ensconced corporate personhood, and the Citizens United v. FEC ruling in January of 2010 established the precedent that because corporations have the same legal rights as a person, their money is considered free speech. So not only can corporations defy any new regulation on their future usage of precious water resources, but they can spend unlimited amounts of money in election cycles to elect politicians who will prioritize their right to make a profit over a citizen’s right to have access to water.

“As long as corporations are given the same constitutional protections as people, they’ll always escape regulation and accountability for their actions. Simply "getting money out of politics" is not enough – only a constitutional amendment that explicitly abolishes the concept of corporate personhood and separates money from free speech will guarantee that necessary actions can be taken to prevent a disastrous water shortage.

For the entire article, Click Here. This article was published at NationofChange.


  1. Every American needs to read "Cadillac Desert" by Marc Reisner.

  2. from Joni Lindgren:

    AND...Then add to this the fact that Colorado has over 4,450 fracking wells and since January of this year, Colorado has had 497 oil spills! Two years ago, do you remember a HUGE fire that decimated a high-end neighborhood? The news attributed it to either arson or to lightning. It was an oil spill!

    Let's not forget that to frack, it takes a LOT of water for the process! The gas and oil companies and those tapping into the water supply are going to destroy the beauty of that state! Over the past few years,

    I have seen the reservoirs in the mountains drying up. Thank God last winter dumped a lot of snow on the mountains, but that was only one winter.

    It's the corporations who are ruining our country by sucking the life-blood out of every state for their damn greedy profits! I'm sick of the Republicans trying to protect their "liberty" and "freedom!" What garbage! They're convincing everyone that they want their "liberty" to harm the rest of us and the "freedom" to take what they want from people and our land.

    I hope the next president is more focused on environmental issues and overturning Citizens United and McCutcheon vs FEC, or we will have MORE and MORE drilling, more earthquakes, more oil spills, more ugly wells on the landscape, and more gasping for breath from the methane coming out of those wells. Our future will be more than bleak!