Don’t Let Wall Street Get Rich Off of Our Water

California aqueduct. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Oh great — here comes a new stealth attack on the fragile, life-sustaining natural resources of Planet Earth. This latest assault by Wall Street alchemists would redefine one of our most basic resources: water.

Everyone knows that water is “invaluable” — it’s literally life, requiring a constant intake by each of us, or we quickly die. But the Wizards of Wall Street want to reduce potable H2O from its environmental, humanitarian, and spiritual essence to just another perishable economic good that they can market-price and sell to the highest bidder — turning our water into speculators’ gold.

This contrivance has opened the door for financial manipulators who’ve quietly been devising razzle-dazzle schemes to allow rich global investors to play in water. They’re now pushing water futures, automated split-second trading, “water grabbing” ventures, hedging schemes, and other financialization hustles to maneuver the monetary value of this essential resource.

To see this ethically debased future, look to an outfit with the ominous acronym of WAM (Water Asset Management).

WAM is buying up water rights in low-income farming communities in places like Arizona, then literally moving the “commodity” to rich suburban developments that will pay more. WAM profiteers call water peddling “the biggest emerging market on Earth… a trillion-dollar market opportunity.”

They even boast that the crises of “drought, flood, and fire” caused by climate change creates a market volatility that will provide “an unprecedented period of transformation and investment opportunity for the water industry,” allowing investors to “thrive and prosper.”

We need to force a public discussion about this crucial question of environmental and existential ethics: Is access to an affordable supply of clean water to be a human right for all — or will we let it become a wet dream for rich speculators?

James Hightower is an American syndicated columnist, progressive political activist, and author.