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Monday, April 13, 2015


by Howard Winn

The Colorado River has been dammed and diverted so many times that it no longer flows regularly into the Gulf of California, leaving its once-fertile Delta on life support. Despite its current state, the Delta can be restored. Photo credit: Blue Legacy Source: Environmental Defense Fund

Wars over California’s limited water supply have been going on for at least a century. Water wars have been the subject of some vintage movies, including the 1958 hit The Big Country starring Gregory Peck, Clint Eastwood’s 1985 Pale Rider, 1995’s Waterworld with Kevin Costner, and the 2005 film Batman Begins. Most acclaimed was the 1975 Academy Award winner Chinatown with Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, involving a plot between a corrupt Los Angeles politician and land speculators to fabricate the 1937 drought in order to force farmers to sell their land at low prices. The plot was rooted in historical fact, reflecting battles between Owens Valley farmers and Los Angeles urbanites over water rights. Today the water wars continue on a larger scale with new players. It’s no longer just the farmers against the ranchers or the urbanites. It’s the people against the new “water barons”  – Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Monsanto, the Bush family, and their ilk – who are buying up water all over the world at an unprecedented pace. — Ellen Brown, Sky Valley (WA) Chronicle, April 9, 2015

They are using up the Colorado River
so that hardly anything reaches the sea.
Thirsty fruits and vegetables suck up
the liquid more valuable than oil,
so much so that a fossil fuel billionaire
is buying up water companies to make
the financial killing he feels is coming.
Wind farms, solar panels, tidal generators,
hydro-electric and atomic energy,
all can create that vital commercial power,
but water escapes into the fruits
and vegetable destined for super markets
and the stomachs of millions of the hungry
or the seriously overweight.
Oil and gas is so out of date, not to mention coal,
and the oil baron will sit in his Fort Worth castle
or Upper East Side condo in New York City
and send his billions based on water
to off-shore tax havens surrounded by the sea.

Howard Winn's poetry and fiction has been published recently in Dalhousie Review, Galway Review, Taj Mahal Review, Descant (Canada), Antigonish Review, Southern Humanities Review, Chaffin Review, Evansville Review, and Blueline. He has a B. A. from Vassar College and an M. A. from the Stanford University Writing Program.