As water rationing grows more severe in drought-stricken California, it has recently come to light that Wal-Mart has been purchasing local tap water and reselling it to the public at a huge markup- earning $600 for every $1 spent, an absurd profit margin and an example of atrocious corporate exploitation in the depths of the worst water crisis America has seen in decades.
As Governor Jerry Brown calls on the public to reduce consumption by 25%, corporations and big businesses haven’t had to cut their usage, and have found numerous ways to profit from the crisis, including selling toxic wastewater back to farmers for irrigation purposes. “It’s only logical that as the governor has asked all Californians to reduce their water consumption that he holds extractive industries like bottled water companies to the same standard, yet he hasn’t asked anything of them” complains the head of the Food & Water Watch nonprofit.
This isn’t the first time that California’s notorious lack of oversight for corporate water usage has made headlines. Most recently, Starbucks responded to a Mother Jones report about the bottling of their ironically named “Ethos” water by relocating their plant to Pennsylvania. Not only is the bottling of water damaging to geographic water tables, the waste that arises from the plastic bottles has contributed heavily to the world’s garbage crisis.
Raven Stevens, community liasion for the Gateway Neighborhood Association, had this to say on the issue: “Crystal Geyser in one day plans to pump more water than any three of my neighbors will use in an entire year…The entire state is under a 25% cut, farmers are letting fields go fallow and we don’t have one piece of legislation regulating water bottling.”
It’s an astonishing show of either hypocrisy or gross incompetence from the California government to allow corporate profiteering to run rampant over the state’s heavily stressed water reserves, reducing the likelihood that the water table and aquifers will recover enough to make for a sustainable future. Hopefully, the public outcry will push legislators to deal with the issue once and for all, and make the right choices for California’s future.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.