Friday, February 3, 2023

The Water Speculators Arrive In Colorado - And What That Might Mean For You

 The alarming shortfall in Colorado River water has now forced the federal government to mandate seven western states  (Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, California and Wyoming) to put forward a joint proposal on how to conserve the dwindling water supply that serves 40 million people. All this has greater import now as private investment firms ("vultures" in the parlance of one activist) have landed in our region with the primo imperative to make money off our water.

The Interior Department had asked these 7 states to contribute by Tuesday plans for how to voluntarily reduce water usage by 2 to 4 million acre feet — or up to one third of the river’s annual average flow. Six of the seven Colorado River basin states - excepting California-have complied.  They showed how they could meet the federal government’s demand to make unprecedented cuts to water usage as more than two decades of drought in the West has pushed crucial reservoirs to dangerously low levels.

In the midst of this turmoil a new threat to our water supply has emerged. This would be a New York-based investment firm called Water Asset Management, which  according to public records, is a hedge fund headquartered on Madison Avenue.  This entity has just bought at least $20 million worth of land in Western Colorado in the last five years, making it one of the largest landowners in the Grand Valley.

The hedge fund, founded in 2005, says it invests exclusively in assets and companies that ensure water supply and quality. In 2021, its co-founder and president, Matthew Diserio, called water in the United States "a trillion-dollar market opportunity."  Another commentator, in a recent CBS Mornings report, called water the "new oil".  He isn't far off and too many Americans still don't get it, or how close we are to a water crisis.

Clean water is growing increasingly scarce due to a number of factors, not least of which has been a western U.S. 23-year megadrought, the worst in 1,200 years. That's in addition to overuse by Western states. Nor can we omit the Republicans' yen to cut water quality regulations, as they did during the horrific Trump administration.  I.e. to permit companies to dump more effluent into rivers, lakes and streams, as well as other pollutants.  And this is on top of hundreds of streams already drying up (e.g. from EOS Earth & Space News):

Meanwhile, here in Colorado PFAS chemicals are among the worst culprits spreading cancers and ill health to all who come in contact with them, e.g.

What Are The "Forever Chemicals" (PFAS) And How Do They Affect Kids? 

According to Greg Postel, a storm specialist at The Weather Channel:

"The Colorado River relies mostly on snowpack in the Rocky Mountains that feeds into the river as it melts in the spring and summer.  But climate change is making the west hotter and drier. For every degree the temperature has gone up, the flow of the river has dropped by about 5% — a nearly 20% reduction over the past century."

Adds Postel:

"It's taken a major toll on the nation's largest reservoirs. Lake Powell in Arizona and Lake Mead in Nevada — they are at historic lows. They're at just 25% of their full, combined capacity. There are real fears that this crucial water supply for the West is on the brink of disaster."

Now enter the water speculators and "investors", such as Water Asset Management.  What the hell are they doing way out here in Colorado, and away from their capitalist enclaves in New York?    According to Andy Mueller, general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, interviewed in a CBS segment Monday:

"It's the water.  These are folks that have identified the drought as an opportunity to make money."


"I view these drought profiteers as vultures. They're looking to make a lot of money off this public resource. Water in Colorado, water in the West, is your future. Without water you have no future."

Strong words with a powerful edginess, but why?  Maybe because Mueller's job is to act as a steward for our water resources. His bailiwick is to protect Colorado's share of the river, which flows through seven states and is a critical water source for cities including Denver, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Albuquerque and Los Angeles. He said Water Asset Management has acquired more than 2,500 acres of farmland and is interested in the water rights that come with it. 

What would that mean for the future? Basically, taking over as many acres of water resources as their money permits, then selling it or 'renting' it to the highest bidders. It means nationally, as potable water sources diminish, the cost of this commodity will explode.  Think, if you dare, of the full privatization of your tap water - and at the same time- exploding prices for bottled water.  (Think $8-9 a botte, up from $3,50 now).

It's not beyond the pale, but in Colorado right now there are more immediate concerns, namely of the privatization of water sources for farming - which is bound to send food prices sky high.  This is why Kerry Donovan, a former Colorado state senator. is alarmed by the amount of land being bought by investors such as Water Asset Management. Once they secure the water rights in strategic locales they will be able to dictate the costs of water for farms, and the prices we all pay at the supermarket.  Not to mention, being left with the lesser quality of water full of PFAS chemicals.  Cancers anyone?

See Also:

“Let’s cut the crap”: Colorado River plan still isn’t enough, experts say, and California isn’t on board




by Thom Hartmann | February 1, 2023 - 7:43am | permalink

— from The Hartmann Report


How’d you like a side of liver cancer with those fries? Testicular cancer with your chicken sandwich? Childhood obesity with your “kid’s meal”?

These were the findings of a 2022 analysis of wrappers performed by Consumer Reports while looking for chemicals called PFASs in packaging for fast food products sold across America.

PFAS is an acronym for Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, a family of over 12,000 chemicals that was first discovered in 1938 by a 27-year-old chemist named Roy Plunkett. By combining fluorine with carbon, he invented chemicals that resisted water, oils, grease, and even heat: they seemed both inert and indestructible.

They’ve since been given the nickname “forever chemicals” because of that very indestructibility: they persist for years, decades, perhaps even centuries in the environment.

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