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Class War For Idiots / Water Wars / December 16, 2009
By Yasha Levine

Farm Water

The problem with the water debate, to the extent there is one, is the way it’s spun. Long dominated by eco-warrior do-gooders, the fight for water has been framed as boringly and abstractly as possible. How is the “environment” supposed to register in our primitive brains when 1 out of 5 Americans still think the sun revolves around the earth? In fact, it’s pretty simple what the big struggle for water is all about: the rich fleecing the rest of the country. Fact is, they’ve been treating our water wealth like one giant personal trust fund. And it seems they’ve been hitting up the ATM so often that even NASA’s satellites can see the withdrawals all the way from space:

New space observations reveal that since October 2003, the aquifers for California’s primary agricultural region — the Central Valley — and its major mountain water source — the Sierra Nevadas — have lost nearly enough water combined to fill Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir.

. . .

Combined, California’s Sacramento and San Joaquin drainage basins have shed more than 30 cubic kilometers of water since late 2003, said professor Jay Famiglietti of the University of California, Irvine. A cubic kilometer is about 264.2 billion gallons, enough to fill 400,000 Olympic-size pools. The bulk of the loss occurred in California’s agricultural Central Valley. The Central Valley receives its irrigation from a combination of groundwater pumped from wells and surface water diverted from elsewhere.

That much water would be enough to keep the taps and toilets flowing for half the people living in America for a year. And, in terms of cash-money, it’s worth many billions of dollars. At the most conservative estimate (using the rate at which California’s water officials buy back water from farmers), it amounts to something like $6 billion. But it could go all the way to a hundred billion if the state’s dry spell persists. And because NASA says that most of the pumping happened on the south-western edge of the Central Valley, all those billions have been going to the richest corporate farmers in California, the kind of farmers who commute to work at the crack of dawn on their personal jets while getting briefed by their financial advisers on a plan to scrap their farming operations and transition into water trading full time. Because selling taxpayer-subsidized water back to the masses at a markup has been the easiest money they ever made.


Here’s a fun wealth transfer fact: Farming adds no more than 4% to California’s state gross product while consuming 80% of its water, which simply means they have enough subsidized water to get taxpayer handouts for growing worthless crops that nobody needs, and trade the rest as a commodity on the open market:

For decades taxpayers have provided subsidized water to California farmers at rates far below fair market value. When the amount of cheap water delivered to farmers was reduced during the severe drought of the early ’90s to protect two species of endangered fish, a group of San Joaquin Valley water districts representing some of the nation’s biggest farming operations sued the government for “taking” what they claimed was their private property.

But an Environmental Working Group (EWG) investigation of state and federal data found that from 1995 to 2003, those same farms received a total of $248 million in federal farm subsidies. And since 2001, the water district representing nearly all of those farms made almost $40 million in profit by selling subsidized water back to the taxpayers at market rates.

We think that the naked plunder of resources takes place mostly in third-world hellholes and history books. Sure, the 19th century robber barons who ran around America sucking it dry of oil and stripping it of timber might be dead, but their degenerate grandchildren are still following in their footsteps:

James G. Boswell II, 86, Owner of Cotton Empire, Dies at 86


James G. Boswell II, who inherited a huge expanse of farmland in the San Joaquin Valley of California, then quadrupled its acreage to create a cotton-growing empire, died last Friday at his home in Indian Wells, Calif. He was 86. . . . Mr. Boswell was a complicated, reticent man. He saw himself as a cowboy and was proud that he had lost two fingers in a cattle-roping accident. He golfed with Arnold Palmer. He sat on the boards of General Electric, the Security Pacific Bank and the Safeway supermarket chain. He was chairman, president and chief executive of his company from 1952 until he retired in 1984. . . . He was named after his uncle J.G. Boswell, who married Ruth Chandler, the daughter of Los Angeles Times Publisher and real estate baron Harry Chandler. . . . Mr. Boswell is survived by his second wife, the former Barbara Wallace; his son, James, who now runs the business; two daughters, Jody Hall and Lorraine Wilcox; and five grandchildren.

You probably never heard of the Boswell clan, but people like them secretly run California. And they also run its water.


Yasha Levine is a mobile home inhabitin’ editor of The eXiled. He is currently stationed in Victorville, CA. You can reach him at levine [at]

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Add your own

  • 1. Anomynous  |  December 16th, 2009 at 10:44 am

    “sued the government for “taking” what they claimed was their private property.”

    What a bunch of bullsh8t. Anything thats overnment subsidized should not be considered private property.

    Pay in full the market price of water with your own money then its your private property. Until then piss off.

    Fuwggin welfare queens taking handouts taking money from the productive class.

  • 2. hmr80  |  December 16th, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    Here’s a good book on the Boswell’s cotton empire and how they drained Tulare Lake (the largest freshwater lake west of Mississippi).

    The King Of California: J.G. Boswell and the Making of A Secret American Empire

  • 3. Rubicon  |  December 16th, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    If farming for cotton and rice stopped in Caif, then I reckon most of the water wasting would be handled since those two crops use enormous amounts of water. And cotton is also huge with pesticide use. And cutting off subsidies, like Charles Schwab gets for growing rice and having a “waterfowl protection area” on his extensive Delta acreage. So, when do the guillotine-ings start?

  • 4. Expat in BY  |  December 17th, 2009 at 2:09 am

    “We farm, you eat, any questions?”

    Yeah, you waste water, Americans eat someone else’s products, get a real job.

    I can see in 20 years these same bloodsuckers holding signs that say: “We sell you water, you drink, any questions?”

    Keep up the good reporting Yasha.

  • 5. brian  |  December 17th, 2009 at 8:04 am

    “Its Chinatown Jake”

  • 6. eric  |  December 17th, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    “She’s my daughter!”
    “She’s my sister!”
    “She’s my daughter AND my sister!”

  • 7. peter  |  December 17th, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    i am willing to suck turds out of your bunghole, oh great one

  • 8. proletariat  |  December 22nd, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    I don’t disagree with giving farmers first crack at water, but this is just ridiculous. Of course, we wouldn’t even be having this crisis in the first place if rich white assholes didn’t see it fit to have nice green lawns in the middle of a desert and 18 golf courses, each of which consumes more water than a 1000 acre farm.

  • 9. Donald Canaday  |  December 24th, 2009 at 8:50 am

    heres another way to make rain.first get a b-52 pane and oad it up with an machine,that keep moisture and humidy in super computers cool,like version called”enterprise”.secound,after dispursing an moisture,spray with another b-52, dry ice into first dispersal.third create a static discharge of ectricity into first two mixtures and pray that you have got rain mopisture…

  • 10. proletariat  |  December 24th, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Or, you could just force all the cigar chomping rich assholes to play their silly little ball game on astroturf instead of hundreds of gallons of over-irrigated water in the middle of a desert.

    I think my idea is a little easier to implement.

  • 11. Expat in BY  |  December 25th, 2009 at 6:10 am

    I’d further Proletariat’s suggestion by putting the astroturf golf course in a nuclear test range… and restart atmospheric nuclear testing in the range shortly after.

  • 12. Necronomic Justice  |  December 28th, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    @10, and @11 And I would add some Boots Riely for a sound tract.

  • 13. Freepony  |  January 14th, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    Let’s see, the water bond turns over publicly owned recourses, 48% of water exports, to private enterprise, i.e. the Westlands water agency, allows the agency to sell it back to the public. Calls for a urban water reduction target of 20% by 2020 but effectively twilights the mandate on Jan.01,2021. Asks the Delta Stewardship Council, the same agency which increased delta exports by 1.3 m.a.f. this decade, to police environmental protections within the ecosystem. Allows a change to the diversion point on the Central Valley Project, and increases flow as needed thus allowing the Governor’s Delta Vision Process to proceed with its mandate of the cheapest and best plan to save the Delta by moving water around it. You and I will be paying the 1 billion a year bond service, while buying subsidized water at premium rates from billionaire agribusiness tycoons. Recreation will not be a problem because former state parks will be reduced to salt marshes and poisoned tidal flats not needing maintence. We won’t need fishing licenses or hunting licenses anymore because endangered species rulings will be overturned to protect agriculture. And finally when the selenium rich central valley is taken out of production along with the stagnant delta cesspool we can stand with our fellow Californians and say well done our beloved “Golden State.”

  • 14. j. nop  |  May 8th, 2011 at 8:01 am

    Billionaire Stewart Resnick owns the Kern Aquifer. He parties with Feinstein, Schwarzenegger and gets private deals to spray us with his pesticides here in Central Ca. Subsidies to chemical and industrial ag. are unsustainable and concentrate wealth in the hands of fewer, thus capturing our “elected” politicians, and ruining our democracy.

  • 15. Rudy Razo Chavez  |  July 12th, 2018 at 8:43 pm

    Great varticle on the water stuuf and the Boswells!!

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