Saturday, January 2, 2010

Who Owns the Water?

Several weeks back I wrote . . .

1. Should water be privately owned and should ownership be couched in terms of “rights” by special interest groups or corporate entities?  Stated differently, is water a public commodity to be held in trust by the state and dispensed equitably for the common good – or – is it owned, as is a mineral deposit, and mined for personal gain? 

2. Should water utilities be governed by a Public Utilities Commission that sets rates for consumers?  And profit levels for suppliers?

3. Would the irrigation used to supply plants be better spent in the Southwest by supplying people?  Not a foolish question.  Looked at differently, if you were packing in the back country with a few liters of water would you consume the limited water you had or would you feed the nearest mesquite tree?

What emerges from these questions is a suspicion that water is, like the air, a public commodity…that water may belong to everyone and should be handled that way.

“You know that song,” says Wendy Wierich in her blog,, This Land Is Your Land?  “I got to thinking the other day about the vast natural resources that exist in the United States…”

“Here’s the question”, she continues, “How is it that individuals can get rich from national natural treasures?”

“If ‘it is our land’, we should get to decide what happens” she points out.  “If the government owned the natural resources, we could put the profits in a fund to pay for education, health care, retirement, social services for everybody. Everybody.”

“Instead a very few fat cats get fatter and the poor get poorer. We could all benefit from the intelligent mining of public natural resources. As it is, and as it will be, only a few will get the goodies.”

I don’t like the rhetoric nor do I agree with the sentimental approach.  And, by the way, she really should have cited Woody Guthrie if she was gonna use his words.  But, there is a kernel of truth here.

Maybe I get away from the point…who owns the water?...we’ll approach -- perhaps answer --  that question, next.

See also,