Missoula Wins, but Water Wars Continue

by William Skink

It’s the best news I’ve heard in months. Mayor Engen successfully led the City of Missoula’s condemnation efforts against the Carlyle Group and now the City is moving on to prepare for the next stage of the process:

The city of Missoula won the first round of its legal fight to take ownership of Mountain Water Co. – the preliminary order of condemnation set forth in a 68-page decision by Missoula County District Judge Karen Townsend.

So what happens now that Townsend has ruled? Expect a new round of legal proceedings, appeals, a debate over costs and planning talks to shift the private utility to public ownership.

I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the importance of Missoula controlling its water infrastructure. This legal battle is just one little skirmish in a larger war to control the most essential resource that exists on this planet. Without water, we die. It’s that simple.

No one should be surprised that Wall Street is snatching up water rights and water utilities across the globe. From Alternet:

The recent media coverage on water has centered on individual corporations and super-investors seeking to control water by buying up water rights and water utilities. But paradoxically the hidden story is a far more complicated one. The real story of the global water sector is a convoluted one involving “interlocking globalized capital”: Wall Street and global investment firms, banks, and other elite private-equity firms — often transcending national boundaries to partner with each other, with banks and hedge funds, with technology corporations and insurance giants, with regional public-sector pension funds, and with sovereign wealth funds — are moving rapidly into the water sector to buy up not only water rights and water-treatment technologies, but also to privatize public water utilities and infrastructure.

Seen in this broader context, Missoula’s victory is monumental. After missteps during he initial sale, and conservative estimates of cost that proved too conservative, Mayor Engen should be commended for staking his entire political career amidst public skepticism over this effort.

The future of human existence on this planet will center around water, and if we look at what’s happening in California, the critical steps to conserve what’s left will be stalled and fought by dangerously entitled rich people who simply can’t absorb the reality that their green lawns must be sacrificed for the greater good.

Here’s a piece from The Washington Post, Rich Californians balk at limits: ‘We’re not all equal when it comes to water’:

Drought or no drought, Steve Yuhas resents the idea that it is somehow shameful to be a water hog. If you can pay for it, he argues, you should get your water.

People “should not be forced to live on property with brown lawns, golf on brown courses or apologize for wanting their gardens to be beautiful,” Yuhas fumed recently on social media. “We pay significant property taxes based on where we live,” he added in an interview. “And, no, we’re not all equal when it comes to water.”

Yuhas lives in the ultra-wealthy enclave of Rancho Santa Fe, a bucolic Southern California hamlet of ranches, gated communities and country clubs that guzzles five times more water per capita than the statewide average. In April, after Gov. Jerry Brown (D) called for a 25 percent reduction in water use, consumption in Rancho Santa Fe went up by 9 percent.

What do other residents of this ultra-wealthy enclave think about these water restrictions?

The restrictions are among the toughest in the state, and residents of Rancho Santa Fe are feeling aggrieved.

“I think we’re being overly penalized, and we’re certainly being overly scrutinized by the world,” said Gay Butler, an interior designer out for a trail ride on her show horse, Bear. She said her water bill averages about $800 a month.

“It angers me because people aren’t looking at the overall picture,” Butler said. “What are we supposed to do, just have dirt around our house on four acres?”

It’s disturbing to see rich people throw tantrums over water restrictions. It certainly doesn’t bode well for humans adapting to a rapidly changing climate. It’s not hard to envision a near-future dystopia where the wealthy continue to play golf while the poor die off from dehydration.

For now, Missoulians can celebrate this significant victory. But stay vigilant, citizens. The war for critical resources will continue.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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3 Responses to Missoula Wins, but Water Wars Continue

  1. petetalbot says:

    I’m happy about the decision, too, but see appeal after appeal on the horizon. Carlyle has deep pockets.

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