Thursday, January 10, 2013

Water Grab on the Plain

Yesterday, local filmmaker Matt Middleton answered my last post with a link to his site against the amazing and as yet little publicized proposed rape of our watershed by a mysterious Italian billionaire who wants us to believe he is benevolent. This is hard to believe, as he wants to take all the water from the Plain of San Augustin, an area larger than Rhode Island and mostly known outside of our area for being the background for Jody Foster's Contact, which now supports ranching and wildlife, and pump it to commercial entities hundreds of miles away for purposes he prefers not to mention. (He talks of the "benefits" of putting surface water back in the ground-- what does he think wildlife and cattle drink?) At various meetings, his spin doctors have managed to give no answers, even to skilled questioners, environmentalists, lawyers, ranchers, and Libby; he is unintentionally building some unlikely coalitions. So far their slipperiness has not won them their permits, but they intend to come back. And make no mistake, they want ALL our water.

Up front: I agree completely with Matt's concern and passion, but severely doubt his Mafia theory, for many reasons. Any millionaire from Milan probably has more money in his coffers than all of Italy south of Rome, and either has no need of the Mafia or employs them when necessary. His is the kind of money that drives the pipeline from Canada to Chinese consumer ships in the Caribbean across the Oglalla aquifer with no regard to local ranchers or farmers. Besides, for historical reasons, (we) snooty northerners often tend to scorn the southern peasants and their "protective societies"; my father's people used to say that Africa-- meaning the corrupt Levant and the Moors, not black Africa -- begins at Rome.

Whether he is right or I am about the Mafia is immaterial. The control of water by either local communities or distant metropolises is the big issue to come in the arid west, a civilization made effectively of city states and their watersheds, just like the ancient Middle East and Central Asia. Matt is on the side of the angels, and I hope he makes a film about the whole deal, preferably without insulting half of my ancestry (that's a joke). Whether the controlling authority is the Mafia or the Chinese People's Liberation Army or Arab oil companies or Ted Turner or Texans, the west is getting tired of being a colony. Read his link to the San Augustin Water Coalition and keep checking it out. I will doubtless have more to say here and more length. Meanwhile, go to his site and see the pieces of his historical documentary Way Out There for a glimpse of the town and country we both love, now under threat from a power so remote that as far as I can tell its proprietor never intends to visit the land he intends to destroy.

Afterthought: I am sure Federico will think I am an alarmist, and have some pungent and true and uncomfortable, even necessary additions. But I am a scientist by training too, and when people will NOT answer questions except with "trust us"- I WON'T.


Luisa said...

Heh. I've heard "Africa begins at the Pyrenees” and "at the Sierra Morena" [farther south]...

Thanks for covering this water issue. Protecting aquifers is a tough fight, but such an important one.

Pete said...

Interesting and worrisome. We have a similar situation here in Southern California. A company called Cadiz, Inc seeks to pump massive amounts of water in the Mojave Desert and transport/sell it to people in Orange County for their lawns and pools. They call this proposed theft the "Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project." No need to worry about water affecting the desert environment - it's just a barren wasteland, right?

montanapettis said...

The web site to veiw is
for way out there clips and info on the benefit for the cause.

Anonymous said...

For what little it is worth, water rights are entering the public conscious elsewhere (finally!!). There is a nasty little argument going on in CT right now concerning a proposal to expand an existing system to benefit a, shall I say?, contentious state/corporate development. Those who live in the watershed being eyed are not amused.