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The Water Is Free Until a Corporation Wants to Sell It to You

Charles P. Pierce
Photo credit: PETER PARKS - Getty Images

From Esquire

As we said a bit ago, coming soon to an aquifer near you. From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:

The owners of Cherrabah Resort, a four-star rural hotel in Elbow Valley near Warwick, have been approved to install water extraction and purification facilities on their land, which is surrounded by drought-ravaged farming properties. Residents of the Southern Downs are on severe water restrictions and the council has begun trucking in water to supply Stanthorpe. However, last month the council approved an application that could see millions of litres of water sucked up from groundwater and trucked to the Gold Coast for bottling.

And this is in a country that was burning down not a week ago, a situation exacerbated by historic drought conditions. Imagine what can be done in a country that those conditions haven’t completely paralyzed.

Acting Natural Resources Minister Mark Ryan said Annastacia Palaszczuk's Government understood the landholders' concerns about their water supply. "I am advised that Southern Downs Regional Council has given conditional approval for groundwater from Cherrabah near Warwick to be used for a bottled water project," he said in a statement. "The Government understands that the resort operator has committed to not start taking water for bottling during drought. They've also offered their allocation to local charities and local irrigators.”

And it’s not like it isn’t already happening here. In fact, it’s happening in Michigan. You know, the place where the city of Flint still doesn’t have enough drinking water, as the Guardian pointed out a while ago.

Despite having endured lead-laden tap water for years, Flint pays some of the highest water rates in the US. Several residents cited bills upwards of $200 per month for tap water they refuse to touch.

But just two hours away, in the tiny town of Evart, creeks lined by wildflowers run with clear water. The town is so small, the fairground, McDonald’s, high school and church are all within a block. But in a town of only 1,503 people, there are a dozen wells pumping water from the underground aquifer. This is where the beverage giant Nestlé pumps almost 100,000 times what an average Michigan resident uses into plastic bottles that are sold all over the midwest for around $1.

To use this natural resource, Nestlé pays $200 per year...“It’s almost like a civics class for us Flint folks,” said Luster. “You shouldn’t be able to profit off of water – it’s free. It came out of the ground.”

This kind of thing is already roiling local governments as the companies pumping water for profit get greedier. Avaricious companies and thirsty cities and states are already looking lasciviously at the Great Lakes, which contain 95 percent of the country’s freshwater, and which already have enough problems with the climate crisis, algae, invasive species, and the endless vampirism of the extraction industries. If you google “water commodity,” you will be inundated with pitches about how water is going to be the next boom product. This is not promising.

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