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Cornering the market on thirst
Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
May 28, 2003
"When the well's dry, we know the worth of water." — Benjamin Franklin
Not long ago I received email from a reader who asked that I share my observations on bottled water, Palomar Mountain bottled water in particular. His issue was that while San Diego County residents are being asked to conserve water, and bureaucrat's debate toilet to tap and desalinization, why is a private company exporting clean water to the global market when it should be used to meet regional needs.
Palomar Mountain Spring Water is a textbook case of free market profiteering. There is no use denying that draining the Palomar Aquifer is environmentally irresponsible, there is also no denying that the individuals bottling ground water do so under the legal guise of capitalism. Draining aquifers is no different than clear cutting forests, drilling for oil, or strip mining the oceans of life. To the god's of profit no offering is too great.
The reader who prompted this observation included a list of countries where Palomar Mountain Spring Water can be purchased. Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Spain, China, Jamaica, and American Samoa are just a few. My Question is how much sense does it make to allow one corporation to profit from regional water sources when the county is facing a severe water shortage? Another question is what is the ecological impact of undermining the hydrological processes of the Palomar Mountain region?
We all know water is scarce in Southern California semi arid, environment. Water conservation is now a way of life for the golden state, yet we still allow water to exported rather than utilized locally. With the price of this life sustaining resource continuing to climb, as availability diminishes, population growth continues unchecked. This begs the question- Can we afford to allow private corporations to drain groundwater resources for personal profit?
In a sane world the answer would be a resounding no.
Before starting this column I took a fact-finding mission to the local supermarket. Not only did they not carry Palomar Mountain Spring Water, they where flush with boutique water from Canada, France, and Fiji. Other than tap water, the closest consumers can get to local water is bottled by the multinational corporations such as Pepsi and Coca Cola. In fact Dasani and Aquafina are just bottled tap water with pretty names. Oh sure there are enhanced versions, but all in all consumers are being conditioned not to question the alarming reality of water privatization.
All over the world there is an assault on the long held belief that access to water is a human right. Just this year the United Nations had to officially define the status of water, due to corporate pressure to the contrary. As the commodification of the very essence of life on this planet continues, it only stands to reason that sooner or later the poor will be priced out of the market. Once water is privatized, what will prevent it from being traded like oil on the open market, with aquifers and rivers soon drained dry to enhance corporate control?
The thirst for wealth is making planet earth a much poorer place.
The Palomar mountain ecosystem will not survive if it's waters are pumped faster than they can be replenished. Ask yourself, "How many species must go without so that people in Saudi Arabia can grab a bottle of spring water?" Another question needing to be asked is if ground water depletion contributes to the drought? If so, the bottling of Palomar Mountain Spring Water contributes to the bark beetle infestation currently plaguing southern California, which kills trees, and thereby elevating fire risks already high due to drought conditions.
Suffice it to say, the cost of bottled water is not reflected in the price the consumer pays.
Let's face it folks, the fact that we are fighting over access to Colorado River water should be a major clue. In terms of providing water for an expanding population, our region is barely making ends meet. We do not possess a surplus of water, and therefore can no longer afford the luxury of selling our limited water resources on the open market. San Diego county water should stay in San Diego County to be used by San Diego County residents.
Now is the time to write or call county officials and ask for a policy review of ground water depletion and water privatization. Supervisor Pam Slater can be reached at (619) 531-5533.