U.S. Southwest, Already Parched, Sees ‘Virtual Water’ Drain Abroad

By Diana Kruzman, a freelance journalist who focuses on understanding how climate change is impacting communities around the world. Originally published in Undark. This article was supported by The Water Desk, an independent journalism initiative based at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Center for Environmental Journalism. It was also made possible, in part, by the Fund for Environmental Journalism of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

Driving into southern California’s Palo Verde Valley from the Arizona border, fields of vibrant green appear out of the desert like a mirage. Near the town of Blythe, water from the Colorado River turns the dry earth into verdant farmland, much of it to grow a single crop — alfalfa, a type of plant used mainly to feed dairy cows.

For decades, a significant portion of alfalfa grown here and elsewhere in the western United States — as much as 17 percent in 2017 — has been loaded onto trucks, driven hundreds of miles to ports on the west coast, and shipped around the world, mainly to China, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. A little over five years ago, one company decided it made more sense to own the land, and the water that came with it, outright.

The company, a Saudi Arabian dairy firm called Almarai, purchased 1,790 acres in the Palo Verde Valley to secure a supply of alfalfa for its dairy cows. Soon after, Saudi Arabia began phasing out domestic alfalfa production to preserve its water supplies, which were dwindling after years of overuse for agriculture. The purchase made headlines as critics including local politicians and environmentalists questioned whether it was fair for a foreign entity to use up valuable groundwater resources for products that wouldn’t ultimately benefit Americans.

But the company is far from alone. Foreign corporations are increasingly purchasing land in the U.S.; in the Southwest, thanks to longstanding laws on water rights, these purchases often come with unlimited access to the valuable water underneath the soil. Combined with nearly year-round sunshine, this has made the area a magnet for companies looking to grow water-intensive crops and raise livestock. Over the last 20 years, foreign companies have purchased more than 250,000 acres of land in six Southwestern states to raise cattle and pigs, as well as to grow everything from almonds to alfalfa, according to an analysis of purchase data that Undark obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

On its face, foreign ownership of farmland hasn’t proved significantly different from American ownership for large-scale production of crops like alfalfa. Domestic farmers have long shipped food overseas, and companies like Almarai, as well as independent researchers, have suggested the outsized focus on foreign companies may be xenophobic. American farmers and companies also control millions of acres overseas, mainly in Africa, Asia, and South America. But with their implications for food and water security — that ultimately, the U.S. is not in control of its own farmland — the purchases are drawing attention to the larger trend of industrial agriculture in the U.S. and the problems that come with it.

Corporate farms, researchers and policymakers warn, drain aquifers and threaten access to water for drinking and future crop production. The export of crops and the water used to grow them, known as virtual water, has been accelerating for decades, despite concerns that in drought-stricken areas such as the Southwest, this system is unsustainable in the long term. Although virtual water itself is not inherently problematic — and can even reduce water usage in some cases — its extraction from water-stressed communities is sounding the alarm as water crises become more urgent. Even as the Colorado River Basin enters its 21st year of sustained drought and climate change threatens to further exacerbate water scarcity, virtual water trading is expected to triple globally by 2100, with a large share moving from the U.S. to other countries.

“It’s basically exporting water in the form of alfalfa to countries that are water scarce,” said Alida Cantor, an assistant professor at Portland State University in Oregon who researches water management and sustainability. “But it’s exporting it from a region that is also water scarce.”

While concerns over how to balance agriculture and water availability in the Southwest are nothing new, virtual water is a relatively recent concept. First introduced by British geographer John Anthony Allan in 1993, the term signifies the water that is embedded in the production of commodities, from food to fibers to energy. Allan, who won the Stockholm Water Prize in 2008 for his work, framed it as a solution to global conflicts over natural resources and a helpful tool for water-scarce countries to feed growing populations. He suggested that countries lacking domestic water resources could simply import food and other commodities containing embedded water, and thus avoid having to deal with water crises directly.

Allan also argued that importing water-intensive goods instead of producing them can prevent environmental degradation in water-scarce countries that may otherwise have to damage fragile ecosystems to access water. And in theory, the virtual water trade could actually conserve water in the long run by allowing regional climate and soil conditions to dictate where certain crops are grown. Cooler temperatures lead to less evaporation from plant leaves, for example, and so countries that export virtual water end up using about 22 percent less water overall to produce a good than the importing country would need to produce it at home.

But water-intensive crops aren’t always grown in areas with an abundance of water. India, one of the world’s biggest virtual water exporters, is also one of the world’s most water-stressed countries, with severely overdrawn groundwater resources and a rapidly growing population.

The type of water that’s used matters, too. While the majority of virtual water embedded in internationally-traded food comes from rainfall — called green water, and generally considered renewable — about 20 percent is stored on the land surface in rivers and reservoirs or underground in aquifers — called blue water — and is used to irrigate crops. Blue water is much more susceptible to overuse; in particular, groundwater, according to one study, is effectively nonrenewable, because it can take centuries for aquifers to replenish once they are depleted, particularly in arid areas without significant rainfall.

Researchers like Paolo D’Odorico, a professor of ecohydrology at the University of California, Berkeley, say blue water is already being overused. D’Odorico argued in a 2019 blog post that the globalization of food systems has disconnected consumers from the places their food is grown, leading to the “over-exploitation” of rivers “partly by distant actors who do not directly suffer the environmental consequences of their decisions.” As a result, this “unsustainable virtual water trade” now makes up 15 percent of the water used in irrigation around the world, a share that increased by 18 percent from 2000 to 2015.

In the U.S., the effects of this unsustainable trade are felt unevenly. Although America also receives goods containing virtual water from other countries, it is currently one of the largest net exporters of virtual water in the world. And while the majority of the country’s exported virtual water is green water that falls as rain on the Missouri River Basin, nonrenewable groundwater exports are concentrated in the southwestern U.S., where the Central Valley aquifer system in California underlies one of the country’s biggest agricultural regions. American crops ranging from alfalfa to almonds — of which up to 70 percent are exported — are major moneymakers for states like California, but also require intensive watering.

With scant rainfall, the southwestern aquifers, as well as the Colorado River, provide the main sources of irrigation water in the region, and both are threatened by drought and overdrafting. Other factors such as climate change contribute to water stress, said Brad Udall, a senior water and climate research scientist at Colorado State University, as do municipal water users — large cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas. Agriculture, though, uses about 80 percent of the water in the Colorado River basin, and Udall said agricultural water usage will have to play a large role in keeping reservoirs along the river, including Lake Powell and Lake Mead, full.

“If you continue to have this massive imbalance, where use is greater than inflows, these reservoirs that over the last 20 years have buffered the difference will go empty,” Udall said. “And that’s what everybody, every smart person wants to avoid, because if they go empty, you then end up with a ‘Day Zero’ South Africa issue where nobody really knows what the rules of the road are. Nobody’s certain of their supply.”

Western water policy advocates have long criticized the practice of growing water-intensive crops for export in water-scarce areas, focusing mainly on American companies and farmers. Now, though, foreign companies buying land to export those same crops are starting to receive more attention. According to the USDA, as of 2019, 35 million acres of land are held directly by foreign investors, a number that doubled between 2004 and 2014.

Not all of this land ends up being used for farming, and in fact, some of the biggest purchasers over the last couple decades have been timber companies and European energy firms seeking large swathes of empty acreage for wind farms. But for some companies, relatively lax water laws in the Southwest make farmland a good investment with a nearly unlimited supply of low-cost water. Others, like Almarai, have begun purchasing farmland in the U.S. as a direct result of dwindling water supplies at home, a process that is exacerbated by hotter and drier conditions in parts of the world fueled by climate change.

Data obtained by Undark from the USDA — while self-reported and likely undercounted, according to the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting — show that in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado, 152 foreign companies have purchased more than 250,000 acres since 2000 to use for agriculture, from ranching to almond farming to vineyards. More than half of the acreage was dedicated to cattle and pork production, and companies from Mexico, China, and Canada were the top purchasers of agricultural land during this time period.

Some of these purchases have come under scrutiny before. In 2013, a Chinese company called Shuanghui International — later renamed WH Group — bought America’s largest pork producer, Smithfield Foods. The deal came with 146,000 acres of land in nine states. More than 33,000 acres are in Utah, which is currently attempting to increase its access to Colorado River water in anticipation of drier conditions. Two years earlier, two Chinese entrepreneurs purchased a 22,000-acre ranch in Utah for about $10 million, which they used to grow alfalfa for export to China.

Almarai, which has purchased more than 15,000 acres in Arizona and California since 2014, has received a large amount of attention and pushback from local lawmakers and sustainability advocates. The company, which also owns land in Argentina and Romania, announced in 2014 that it would eventually import all of the alfalfa needed to feed its cows in order to “protect the natural resources in the Kingdom.” A 2015 directive from the Saudi government banned the local production of green forage for animals, for which precious groundwater would be used, on farms over 120 acres.

A major draw for Almarai and many other corporations may be the easy access to water for landowners in states like Arizona and California. Water laws dating back to the 1850s, when White Americans first began pouring into the region, established a doctrine of what is called prior appropriation, which gave first-come-first-serve water rights for unlimited use to anyone who staked a claim, according to Cantor, the Portland State University professor.

In California, farmers access irrigation water from the Colorado River at a much lower cost than municipal users in cities like Los Angeles. In Arizona, rural areas outside of big cities like Phoenix and Tucson are not subject to groundwater pumping restrictions and are not required to report how much water they use.

Companies notice these lax rules. “There’s concern that a lot of these large corporate farms are taking advantage of the fact that we have unregulated pumping allowed in rural Arizona,” said Kim Mitchell, a senior water policy adviser at the nonprofit Western Resource Advocates. The worry, she added, is that the companies “may not have the same level of concern for safeguarding long-term water supplies” compared to “the historic farming operations that have been here a while.”

The direct effects of other countries buying the virtual water on American farmland are difficult to quantify. About 29 percent of unsustainable virtual water in the U.S. was exported as crops in 2015, mainly to China, Mexico, and Canada, according to a 2019 study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. While American-owned farms likely contribute the majority of these flows, the virtual water shipped by foreign-owned farms is unknown.

But in areas where water-intensive crops such as alfalfa grow, residents have felt the effects of declining water supplies. Since 2010, the groundwater table has fallen by more than 50 feet in some parts of La Paz County, a rural area about 130 miles west of Phoenix where Almarai operates one of its alfalfa farms, according to a 2016 report from CNBC. Meanwhile, reservoirs along the Colorado river have reached historically low levels, prompting cutbacks to water access for Arizona and Nevada.

These issues are not unique to foreign-held companies, but part of the larger problem of corporatization of agriculture as a whole, Mitchell said. Large corporate farms often have the capital to dig deeper wells and access more groundwater, according to a 2019 investigation by The Arizona Republic. Although Almarai says it makes an effort to irrigate sustainably, residents who rely on groundwater pumping for personal use in areas where Almarai operates farms have seen their wells dry up, and have had to drill deeper and deeper to access water. (Almarai did not respond to requests for comment from Undark.)

“It’s another case of, you suck out all the resources, then ship off the wealth and the value someplace else, and the local people get some kind of pittance,” said Jody Emel, a research scientist at Clark University and former water resource planner in Arizona. She said she believes that prior appropriation water laws granting nearly unlimited access for “beneficial use,” which includes agriculture, will have to be revisited. “I think if we don’t deal with science,” she added, “we’re doomed.”

Buying farmland directly also allows these companies to guarantee long-term access to the crops — and water — they desire, said George Frisvold, a professor of agricultural and resource economics at the University of Arizona.

“What’s the economic rationale of actually buying up land as opposed to just going, ‘I need alfalfa?’” Frisvold said. “You’re locking in that supply over a longer period of time than if you were just buying something on the spot market.”

>In recent years, lawmakers have attempted to impose greater regulations on groundwater use in states like Arizona, but have met resistance out of fears that local farmers would lose access and local economies, which are often dependent on agriculture, would suffer.

“It’s like, ‘I don’t want to be regulated, but I want my neighbors to be regulated,’” Frisvold said. “So you see tensions in areas where you’ve had water tables drop, but at the same time, there’s a fairly strong resistance in a lot of quarters [to] having government control.”

But while foreign companies seeking to access water have raised particular concern, the larger issue remains the globalized agricultural system that is a cornerstone of the rural economy in the Southwest, Frisvold said. Foreign demand for alfalfa supplied by American farmers far outstrips the amount grown by foreign companies that own land in the U.S., indicating that the problem will be harder to solve than just restricting foreign land purchases.

Moreover, growing demand for water-intensive products like meat and dairy, as well as water scarcity driven by climate change, are expected to spur even more virtual water exports. In a 2020 study in the journal Nature Communications, researchers estimated that virtual water exports around the world could triple by the end of the century, from 961 billion cubic meters in 2010 to 3,370 billion in 2100. And the trade in nonrenewable groundwater is expected to form a significant share of that increase, growing fivefold by 2050 and doubling its 2010 value by 2100. The U.S. is expected to be the biggest exporter of nonrenewable groundwater, according to the study, with exports going to the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa.

For Cantor, the predictions emphasize the need for the U.S. to reevaluate its support for corporate agriculture on drought-stricken land in the Southwest as a whole.

“There’s enough water to meet our basic needs, absolutely, but we need to think about the ways” it’s actually being used, Cantor said. “Where’s it actually going?’” she added. “What are some of the ways in which the way we use water just doesn’t make sense?”

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. PlutoniumKun

    It would be interesting to hear the views of the Mexicans in the Colorado delta in Mexico on the topic of having water stolen, virtual or not, seeing as much of that water used to belong to them.

    1. The Rev Kev

      A coupla months ago there was an article that was saying that because of contracts, that Mexico is still pumping water across the border to the US in spite of the fact that they have drought conditions there too. And the local farmers were not happy about that fact at all.

    1. Carolinian

      That’s a very good second link with lots of detail about AZ water management. Here’s the “money” quote

      “People want to make money,” he told me. “That’s what this is all about. To be perfectly frank, there are people who have millions (of dollars) tied up in land holdings in Pinal County whose future hinges on whatever the water policy ends up being. It’s worth almost nothing if there’s no water.

    2. JWP

      That book began my interest in water and the problems here in the West. The final chapter on the silting up of many of our largest reservoirs was impressive and concerning. Combine that work with the rapid drops in water levels from the ongoing drought and Reisner’s warnings are far greater than most think. I am interested in when the migration North and East out of the SW will begin due to heat and water scarcity, as well as the food price increases when growing begins to falter and become impossible down there.

    3. John Emerson

      From “Cadillac Desert”, read decades ago, I think I remember an argument that scarce water shouldn’t be used to water alfalfa at al, whether for export or otherwise. Alfalfa is a low-value crop only used to feed livestock, and should be far back on the queue.

      I rhink I also remember that the Colorado River never reaches the ocean any more.

      In Oregon the Bundy brothers are organizing another insurrection to get all the water for their kind even at the cost of driving a salmon run to extinction. They more or less believe that all public land is up for grabs to the first comer.

  2. Wukchumni

    I guess the real calamity in a race to the bottom, is damning the land for the future.

    Huge areas of the Central Valley here will be essentially ‘forbidden zones’, the water underfoot all played out, game so over.

    Almonds were tempting in a few ways, it only takes 3-4 years for an almond tree to be productive with some varieties, and can only be grown in a few places in the world, plus the high worth of over $4 a pound once upon a time although not now! …presently $1.47 lb

    There are vast oceans of almond trees here, the majority of the nuts for export, and it takes a gallon of water a year per nut output and there is approx 350 almonds per pound, so we’re getting a little under 1/2 a Cent a gallon for irreplaceable fossil water mostly shipped to Asia, madness.

    Now, it’ll get interesting here as everybody is sucking on a mutual milkshake, sure to cause many wells to go dry with the only alternative to go deeper which is really spendy to do, and if past is prologue as per our last parched stretch, there will be a 6 month to year wait for the drill team, and almonds aren’t worth $4.40 a pound as in 2015.

    1. JohnnyGL

      It seems like pistachios are getting a similar ramp up in production as you’ve described with almonds. I don’t know how much of this is replacement, or adding to existing production.

      If only we hadn’t asphalted, grassed, and housed over so much of that prime farmland in Orange County.

    2. freebird

      Tragic stuff. Meanwhile you still pay $10 a pound and up retail. So we’re getting screwed at the register as well as having our resources sucked dry. (and please, guys, I don’t want to hear about the great deal you get on 10 lbs at Costco, I’m talking regular folks at regular grocery stores).

    3. Anthony Stegman

      What may happen is the end of all fresh water flows into San Francisco Bay, as all fresh water will be diverted to aqueducts and canals to feed corporate farms and ever growing cities. Farmed salmon anyone? The western half of the United States is over-farmed and over-developed. Something has to give, and it will give sooner than anyone may think.

    4. Felix_47

      Good analysis. 1/2 cent per gallon. Uncle Sugar is footing the bill. I lived in the Mohave area for a while and you could see them spraying well water and most of it seemed to evaporate before it hit the ground as they spray in the middle of the day. The lack of water efficiency and conservation is so sad. I was shocked to learn it was all for Saudi Arabia. I guess if Uncle Sugar wants to make Saudis and Chinese rich that is what we vote for. I can’t wait for it to run out. Of course our payola political class will find another thing to suck blood out of. A pox on all their mansions from Washington to Riyadh to Shanghai.

  3. Jessica

    Robert Heinlein wrote about a concept quite similar to virtual water in his 1966 novel The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.

  4. Mikel

    The USA: land of short-term thinking. $$$

    If anyone thinks any institution here has a contingency plan that will be worth a damn for the general public in the case of any emergency, they’ve been hoodwinked.

    I need to become more of a Prepper….

  5. Watt4Bob

    I can’t help but notice the similarities with the period of the potato famine in Ireland.

    Plenty of food crops but all of it being exported, the locals left with nothing to eat but potatoes, and them rotting.

    And how is foreign ownership of Americas related to inflation in the food markets?

    We just learned that JBS is owned by Brazilian interests, (the same folks burning down the Amazon in order to graze beef sold to McDonalds) and the Chinese own Smithfield Farms whose industrial hog farms are responsible for an immense amount of pollution wherever they go.

    These folks are not only exporting our ‘virtual’ water, they’re polluting what they don’t export.

    It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that there is no guarantee that locals won’t eventually be left eating only what they can grow on land they that they own personally, and drinking water they must buy from foreign corporations.

    And if you don’t like the dry, foul and polluted neighborhood they’ve left you, you can always move somewhere else, after all, this is a free country.

  6. Michael Fiorillo

    As JP Getty said, the meek shall inherit the earth, but not the mineral rights.

    Michael Burry, of Big Short fame, has been buying food-producing land as a proxy for water. That’s probably a big part of the reasoning for Bill Gates buying it, as well.

    Lotsa hay-producing/water retaining land in upstate NY and other well-watered parts of the rural Northeast: perhaps NCers should band together and establish a land-and-water conserving REIT… for when people start migrating away from the dried-out West.

    1. tegnost

      As a long lost supporter of lesser seattle, I strongly encourage displaced californians to please, please,…go east…follow amazon into the promised land…savannah ga is cool, so is the delaware shore! Lot’s of money there, too, so yeah, water and money, what else could you need…it’s really moldy in the PNW, you wouldn’t like it at all…
      Brrr… I’m wearing my down coat in june…

      1. TimH

        SeaTac is top of my shortlist of where to go to from San Jose.

        Ignoring demographics, there isn’t much choice for States with adequate water, and without periodic heat or wind nastinesses. Oreg’no has the Cascadia subduction zone…

        1. redleg

          Seattle has that too, as does BC and Alaska. That’s why all those mountains are there.

    2. Tom Pfotzer

      Michael – if you’re serious about this (“[people] should band together to establish land-and-water conserving REIT”), I’d like to discuss it with you. I think this is a very good idea, and I think it might also be used as a mechanism to enable young folk to get a toe-hold on land ownership.

      1. JWP

        As a “young folk” who took up following this issue after reading Cadillac desert,” this is an extremely appealing idea seeing as I hope to continue living out West. I have always considered the land just east of the Cascades from Southern BC to Lassen to be an underappreaciated area of beauty and good living potential despite increasingly scarce water supply. It is also fairly untouched compared to California, AZ, and CO, so well worth conserving before the. big farms move in.

      2. Michael Fiorillo

        Hello Tom, I’m interested in it as a topic of discussion, though I haven’t thought it out much, and have no experience whatsoever in hydrology, agriculture, finance or real estate. That said, it is/might be a worthwhile prospect. Following the same logic, a separate REIT for vacant land in cities on the Great Lakes, where much of the infrastructure is already in place to receive climate refugees from the SW.

        If that doesn’t scare you off, it could make for an interesting talk, at a minimum. How do you suggest going about it?

    3. MK

      But our nasty winters scare away many. Upstate NY (the real one, north and west of Albany) is affectionately known as the armpit of the Northeast.

  7. Nce

    There’s a lot about water profiteering I could say here (the article doesn’t really clarify the difference between appropriative rights that apply mainly to surface waters, and groundwater regs, esp. in Cali, why that matters as to who gets water during conditions of water shortage, or to point out Walton Family Foundation funding of UC research associated with the CO R, which includes some of Udall’s work, etc.) but I’m more concerned about a 2021 UN conference I just learned about on Paul Jay’s Analysis.news website:


    This is associated with “The Great Reset.” All I can say is that I’m glad I’m old and won’t see a good part of the 21st century.

    1. Henry

      I knew that the “green revolution” had failed from listening to Vandana Shiva (i.e. Seeds of Vandana Shiva), but until I listen to Pat Mooney, I didn’t realize how badly industrial Ag was failing us. Even though they get heavily subsidized, control most of the resources and land, they still only produce ~ 30% of the food we eat. The other 70% comes from local small scale farms. So I agree their plan to use the UN to take control of all farming is terrifying. It is not just the fear of recreating another “Great Leap Forward”, but I don’t think many of us would survive the ecological damage of GMOs, gene drives and many more tons of poisons spread across the land. Of course, everyone can do their part to stop feeding the machine and buy local organic whenever possible. Better yet take part in life and grow some of you own.

  8. Anthony Stegman

    While Trump was obsessed with TikTok, WeChat, and Huawei the Saudis and others came in and took the water right beneath our feet. Apparently, there are no “national security” implications. Strange to say the least.

      1. Temporarily Sane

        Labelling any and all criticism of Trump as TDS is disingenuous. Deranged ranting about Trump that exaggerates his nefariousness, that is TDS. Simply pointing out something that Trump said or did is not TDS.

        Being super sensitive to criticism of Trump and conveniently ignoring his very real shortcomings, reverse-TDS if you will, is just as ridiculous.

        The long-standing corruption of the Democratic Party has resulted in the “Trump wing” of the GOP getting much more credit and respect than it deserves by dint of it being the only opposition to Democrat policy that people are regularly exposed to.

        Realistically, however, expecting one half of a rigged duopoly to “fix” America is nothing but a pipe dream. The two parties have a lot more in common than the Trump/GOP boosters like to admit.

        If one focuses on actions, rather than rhetoric, this becomes abundantly clear. The Biden admin has gone to town with the idpol rhetoric and pretending that old Joe is FDR 2.0 – but in terms of policy very little has changed. Kids are still in cages, the Cold War against China continues apace, ditto corporate “bailouts” and tax cuts for the wealthy and ole Joe is even meeting with President Putin.

        The two-party duopoly is a coordinated grift and the American people are the marks.

  9. Copeland

    There was a YouTube channel that I used to enjoy, not so much anymore. The creator started out doing a lot of homesteading type content, then he became popular and then very wealthy, probably because of YouTube, but who knows for sure. Then he bought property with water rights in Washington state, there is also a mansion on the property. He uses “his” water to keep his many acres of –fallow– grass fields nice and green around his mansion.

    I don’t know who’s worse, this guy or the Saudis.

    1. Temporarily Sane

      The Texas religious cult angle was a bit cheesy but overall it’s a great book. It even mentions Cadillac Desert, which is where I first heard of it.

  10. Bart Hansen

    Leviticus 25:23 The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.

  11. ddt

    A few thoughts from a victim of a groundwater plundering neighbor.

    I remember an episode of The Rockford Files (remember that show?) where someone on the radio was complaining about “them Arabs coming and stealing our water” so there’s been some sensitivity about this for a while now.

    Another is an article I believe I read here on NC about the Bush clan buying up hundreds of thousands of acres of land in Paraguay over a huge aquifer. So it ain’t just them foreigners coming and stripping us of our resources. We do it too, wink wink nudge nudge.

    Interesting book I read years ago titled “ Water Wars.” Biggest idea from that book is that water is not zero sum game but maybe we should start thinking about it that way.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      The Bush family is part of the International Rich. Them can do things like buy 200,000 thousand acres of land in Paraguay with the world’s largest aquifer under it. Us can’t. Do you own any part of this Bush water ranch? No? Me, neither.

      So its rich foreigners and rich Americans stripping non-rich Americans of our water resources, and rich Americans and rich foreigners stripping non-rich foreigners of their water resources.

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