Last update: 2/7/17
Contact: desertwatergrab [at] gmail [dot] com
I created this blog as a platform for a current research endeavor around water marketization in the Southwest US and Northwest Mexico primarily under the guise of conservation. I am an independent unpaid researcher and writer who has been blogging on issues of migration, border militarization, trade, transportation infrastructure, and resource extraction for several years.
Water is at risk in various ways aside from the diminishing quantity of fresh water due to drought and climate change. Water also faces contamination, privatization, commodification, marketization, while the environment is at further risk with increased desalination and use of wastewater. Tribal water rights are at risk as well. Those tribes that have not settled their claims may not get what they need, and now some are pushing for the amendment of existing settlements to enable water marketing, which is happening without the consent of tribal members. Note: I am white and do not speak for anyone, but I oppose the continued colonization of indigenous lands and impingement on their ways of life.
While with Trump as US president those seeking to create or expand water markets may not have to do it under the guise of conservation projects, it is important to see the ways in which capitalism expands to new frontiers not just with the attempt at turning water into a commodity to be traded, sold, or leased, but through the mechanisms by which conservation or restoration of watersheds and other ecosystems are converted into capital, i.e. “natural capital” supplying us with “ecosystem services” to which a monetary value can be applied and thus transferred into the realm of finance. The sale of offsets is a primary market-based mechanism of gaining from “green capitalism.” I plan to post more on the trajectory that led to this and the foundations and NGOs involved.
Areas of focus include the potential of a desalination plant on the coast of the Gulf of California in Sonora to supply Arizona with water (or exchange this water for Mexico’s allocation of Colorado River water); as well as the addendum to the 1944 US Mexico water Treaty called Minute 319 that facilitates water banking and exchanges along with dedication of water to the Colorado River Delta. While this ecosystem does need water, the means by which this was accomplished and other implications of the Minute are sketchy to say the least. I am also researching the Salton Sea and how the proposed solutions are likely to be market-based. Look for more on this in the future. I plan to examine water marketing on the Rio Grande as well. The situation is largely up in the air due to Trump’s antagonism towards Mexico. This puts the Lower Colorado basin states in a difficult situation, but may spare Mexico further water-specific problems, though this remains to be seen.
The conservation projects on the San Pedro and Verde Rivers in Arizona also have some interesting controversy I would like to explore. Looking at conservation projects, whether water offsets or the Resolution Copper land exchange, help us to understand the past, but may be less relevant in the future. Instead, I plan to shift my focus towards wastewater reuse and “toilet to tap” recycled water which will be a much bigger threat if Trump indeed gets rid of the EPA. While the EPA has in many ways just rubber-stamped development and resource-extraction projects, without an EPA or anything to replace it, there is little we can do to ensure that our drinking water is clean. While surely the institutions of the state protect and defend corporations, relying on a market system to provide water will only ensure that clean water is increasingly expensive.
I believe that instead of marketing water and turning to megaprojects like desalination plants, we should instead have a moratorium on mining, energy extraction, massive transportation projects, and beverage bottling.