The first-ever official shortage on the Colorado River has intensified a debate over how to provide water for 40 million people across the Southwest and irrigate fields of thirsty crops like wheat, cotton and alfalfa.
Few voices outside government are more influential than that of the Walton family, billionaire heirs to the Walmart Inc. WMT 1.91% fortune, who have long advocated water markets as a key part to solving the region’s woes.
But some environmental groups say the Waltons drown out other, nonmarket approaches.
A Wall Street Journal analysis shows that a charitable foundation controlled by the Waltons, the Walton Family Foundation, has given about $200 million over the past decade to a variety of advocacy groups, universities and media outlets involved in the river. No other donor comes close. Two federal officials once affiliated with the foundation have been named to key Biden administration posts overseeing the river.
Putting a monetary value on water has raised concerns among those who benefit from guaranteed access to water and those who believe markets benefit investors while hurting farmers and the poor. Water markets in Australia have been blamed for helping dry up waterways due to overuse by a handful of wealthy farmers and investors.
I was just casually perusing through the internet the other day and came across this story. The Walton Family…a family worth a combined $238.2 BILLION and have more wealth than 43% of all Americans combined have decided that they want to buy something money has never been able to buy in America…water. Specifically the Colorado River. The Wall Street Journal wrote an article explaining their position which is that the River is in crisis and they’re going to save it by buying it and then selling the water to the 40 MILLION people who depend on it for everything from drinking water to electricity to irrigation to grow the food we eat.
The theory by the Waltons and others is that by privatizing the Colorado River water they can raise the price which will force people to conserve their water as if it were gas or electricity because water will be treated like any other commodity. Seems…I don’t know. I don’t know how a person can “own” rain and mountain spring run off. I am not an expert and full disclosure I lean in the direction that says the government isn’t really good at anything, but privatizing water?
What if a family business or just a straight up family can’t afford the prices that the Walton’s are charging. Would the Waltons really be comfortable closing down all these generational family businesses that rely on the water to irrigate their crops and fields for cattle? I don’t think the Waltons would ever shut down mom and pop businesses with pricing, personally. No indication that they would. Interesting concept though. Full episode above on Youtube and below on Spotify