water rights

Western View: Another Water Rights Grab

Dan Water, Western View

The website Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit group dedicated to honest and accurate reporting.  They recently tackled water rights, and exposed there are new faces, but they are pulling the same old tricks to get water to the cities at the expense of agriculture.

water rights
Aerial view looking north along the Palo Verde Valley, where the Colorado River defines the border between California (left) and Arizona (right)

According to the article, the old Los Angeles Department of Water and Power – now the Metropolitan Water District – learned the lessons of the past very well.  They are gaining access to water by using others to buy up land and rights for them.  For example, no less than Harvard University is now investing heavily in California land – but not for their own use.  Working with a small private company, it looks like the college is profiting from manipulation of agricultural water rights.  They obtain the rights, close down the farms, and sell the water to Los Angeles – so their developers can build more homes and bring in even more people.  

The private company working with Harvard – and several other big investors – is the Los Angeles firm of Renewable Resources Group.  The firm buys up farmland and eventually sells it or its water rights to the  Metropolitan Water District.  With Harvard, they bought 13,000 acres of Blythe’s Palo Verde Valley – land which has first call on Colorado River water.  That land will now lie fallow, no longer farmed, as its water now belongs to Los Angeles.  Similar deals are underway elsewhere.  The Renewable company – apparently working under various company names – bought a large tract south of Sacramento and sold it to Metropolitan, giving them access to San Joaquin water. 

Fields in the Imperial Valley
Southern California

Next on their hit list is the Imperial Valley.  The article says the Renewable Company, working under at least one other name, now is one of the largest farmers in the region.  But at the moment all they can do is farm; the Imperial Irrigation District will not allow its water to leave the valley.   For now.  

Over a hundred years ago William Mulholland destroyed the ag industry in the Owens Valley to get water to LA.  Today’s water barons are following in his footsteps.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I’m Len Wilcox Wilcox and that’s the Western View from AgNet West and Citrus Industry Magazine.  Visit us on the web and www.citrusindustry.net.

About the Author

Len Wilcox

Len Wilcox is a retired scientist who also ran a newspaper and has written for agricultural publications since the 1980s. He was a regular contributor to California Farmer Magazine. His commentary “The Western View” is a regular feature on Farm City Newsday and AgNet West.

Image credit: (upper left) Aerial view looking north along the Palo Verde Valley, where the Colorado River defines the border between California (left) and Arizona (right)/By DicklyonOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

(lower right)Fields in the Imperial Valley, Southern California/By
Spacenut525 at English Wikipedia – Own work Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Mathew Townsend., Public Domain, Link