Investors Grabbing Colorado River Water Rights as Scarcity Grows
Do you think investment firms should be allowed to buy water rights of the Colorado River?
What’s the story?
- As Southwestern states struggle to abide by the federal government’s demanding water cuts, private Wall Street firms are showing interest in investing in the Colorado River.
- A joint investigation by CBS News and The Weather Channel found that the investors are looking into gaining water rights over the scarce natural resource — which 40 million people depend on for water.
What are firms doing?
- The Water Asset Management firm has bought land in the Colorado Grand Valley that hands water rights over to the company. The New York-based firm bought at least $20 million worth of land in the last five years, making it one of the largest landowners in the area.
- The hedge fund said it invests only in assets and companies that promote water supply and quality, but locals are concerned. In 2021, the firm’s co-founder and president, Matthew Diserio, said the U.S. water crisis is a “trillion-dollar market opportunity.”
- Additionally, Diserio told Fintech TV in 2020 that one of the firm's main strategies is to purchase the water and sell it back to the farmers and cities that are increasingly desperate for the resource.
- Andy Mueller, general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, confirmed that the investors only have an interest in the water rights, not the land, the people, or the environmental conditions. He said:
“It’s the water. These are folks that have identified the drought as an opportunity to make money…I view these drought profiteers as vultures…looking to make a lot of money off of this public resources.”
How are people being impacted?
- In Colorado’s Grand Valley, the Bernal family raises cattle and grows crops, all of which rely on water from the Colorado River. The family’s newest neighbor is Water Asset Management. Joe Bernal, who works for the firm’s farm, shared his concern. He said:
“That’s all we’ve got is that river…Would I have invited them here? No. Am I glad that there’s a big company here buying properties in our valley, under our system? Not really…We’ll be watching for what may be coming.”
- Former Colorado state senator and current rancher in the Colorado Rockies, Kerry Donavan, is alarmed by the amount of land being bought for water rights, pointing to the desperation and shortages soon to come. She said:
“Scarcity does equal value, right? They'll probably make money because the state will be forced to create a system that doesn’t exist right now to allow more flexibility in how a water right is used.”
What’s happening in the Colorado River?
- The Colorado River is running out of water, mainly because of the decline in water levels from the river’s two substantial reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell.
- Reservoir levels are plummeting fast due to the 23 years of megadrought in the region, leaving the states with little time to find other solutions to the impending shortages. Experts fear that if the drought continues, the reservoirs will reach “dead pool status,” where the water levels are so low that they become stagnant.
Do you think investment firms should be allowed to buy water rights of the Colorado River?
(Photo credit: iStock/Petr Kahanek)
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The saddest thing of today's corporate mantra is that they see tactics such as scarfing up critical water rights or price fixing as good business parctices. Neither are good business practices - all tactics such as these are quick simply just pure, plain and very ugly profiteering, in order to take from the people the right to gave drinking water or buy needed commodioties using their corporate resources to hold needed and necessary resources for ransom.
Thisnis no different than big pharma's continued raising of drug prices so that whenever the government uses it's buying power to reduce prices they can bitch and moan about having to go back to their previously profitable pricing levels.
In is no different than the trunk's use of taxpayer money to buy mass amounts of PPE during the pandemic and then selling it for a profit to large distributors who raised the prices, in some cases, by more than double - with all of the added costs eventtially paid for, once again, by tax dollars or increased insurance premiums.
Good business, this is not. This is crony capitalism at it's finest and yet another example of the just for money nad greed taking precedence over acting responsibly.
The US Government needs to own and manage water rights and access points as well to protect against contamination.
Currently we have foreign companies buying these rights and using the water to develop their fossil fuel interests despite all the water shortages occurring. This example is a country that is a NATO member but what happens when China & Russia start buying water rights if they haven't already?
"A state-owned company from the tiny Baltic nation of Estonia wants to change that. The company, Enefit American Oil, has proposed strip-mining 28 million tons of rock, heating them up to temperatures around 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and extracting a type of synthetic crude oil. Enefit plans to operate on about 7,000 acres of desert land just south of Dinosaur National Monument and produce 50,000 barrels of oil per day, almost doubling the entire basin’s production. Its novel oil extraction method is also reportedly up to 75 percent more carbon-intensive than traditional fossil fuel extraction. No operation of its kind currently exists in the United States."
"But Enefit’s grand plans hinge on one crucial resource that’s in short supply all over the American West: water. The operation needs millions of gallons a day to break up the petroleum-carrying rock and extract oil. In 2011, the company purchased a water right for approximately 10,000 acre-feet — or 3.2 billion gallons — of water from the White River, a tributary of the Green River which flows into the beleaguered Colorado River."
CAUSES ASKS: "Do you think investment firms should be allowed to buy water rights on the Colorado River?" ME: Maybe, but probably not. Long, complicated reasons grounded in 19th century Western water law, its priority system and issues, and the severability of water rights (and mineral rights as well) from the land itself. I can see definite benefits to smaller, low priority, water uses, and also great opportunity for corporate exploitation. Gonna be interesting how this all plays out in practice and under law.
like any commodity
No. Absolutely not. Water is a precious resource in the Western States. It is the source of life. It is NOT a commodity that should be used to increase the wealth of those who are already obscenely wealthy. And just as an aside: Are the tribes going to get their just portion of their water?
Water is the major source of life and should never, NEVER be used for financial gain by any one entity. Controling water rights is just another way of controling the masses for no other reason but GREED. The Federal Government should step in and stop this madness ASAP. If not, then it is up to the states to do so. I should not be FORCED to pay for my right to life and neither should you. Paying for water treatment is another thing altogether but at the same time, should be regulated for health reasons that benefit all. This kind of greed should not go unpunished and never be allowed.
Shoo Zuchi Proposition 11>Ziten flub
Water is a human right not a privilege that only those who can afford can enjoy.
Privatization will only lead to disaster. Preventing greater turmoil requires a green energy transition, rainwater collection projects/tech, and nationalization of the water supply.
Haven't we learned anything? We allowed corporations to move jobs overseas so they could make more profit, without any regard for the American workers. Now we are going to let investors dictate what we pay for water? We are already paying more than the rest of the country for gas, gasoline, electricity and water. This is absolutely ridiculous!
Absolutely Not!. The Colorado river is a natural resource that belongs to the people. History has shown us that controled water rights turns nefarious and self serving to a limited few.
Farming in the dry of deserts makes no sense. Rethink farming and get ready for mass exodus. I have been blessed with the opportunity to row down the Grand Canyon (Colorado River) 5x. In 1984 there was cold flood waters, but in 2022 the water was scary warm and at the lowest flow I have ever seen.
A dangerous precedent, if it is a precident. Although the states and communities that rely on the dwindling water in the Colorado River seem to be clueless of the potential disaster, permitting a private, for profit firm to buy into this diminishing natural resource is disasterous. We have repeatedly seen the results of profit seeking firms and how they cast aside social, health and our future's concerns for more profit. Look at the recently published profit margins of the oil companies as they continually jack up gasoline prices to increase profits. Greed overshadows social issues the majority of the time and circumstances.
Tender loving greed by SELLING the water back?????
water rights are for all, at the same price. Water rights by investment groups is nothing more than robbery.
absolutely not! investment firms are only interested in making lots of money. they should not be allowed to make people buy water.
Water rights shouldn't be bought and sold...
And this is not the same as concert ticket scalping? It does nothing to improve productivity and level the playing field, enriching middlemen that are rent seekers.
Water is a real problem for the west, the West has been over developed believing water would always be had!
Now whole neighborhoods are being cut off from reliable water sources!
The agricultural industries in the West are also going to suffer, then so will we from higher prices on those products!
Uh...NO! No one should "own" our water sources!
Money can buy everything is not working out well for America.
There's nothing acceptable about making a profit on human desperation. I wish I could say I've never heard of anything so morally corrupt, but the last 1.25 years of astronomical rent increases has been the same practice of making unreasonable profits on human desperation for basic survival!! Mankind is quickly losing any traces of what separates it from the rest of the Animal Kingdom.
A non-profit investment to improve the availability of a life sustaining resource such as water for the production of food would be a worthy and appropriate endeavor. Raising rents reasonably to cover investments that improve the quality and safety of human living spaces would also be commendable. A dog-eat-dog world just for greedy profit is not an environment destined to survive long or happily.
Water and water rights and mineral rights all belong to to the people of the world, just like the air we breath. In reality no one really owns the world! We are flying on this rock through space and at anytime could be wiped out asteroid or supernova! So are they going to deny people water?