Water-shark attack in SLO County

July 15, 2015
G. Edward Griffin

G. Edward Griffin


Everyone knows there is a drought-related water shortage in California, but less known (or at least less discussed) is that many parts of the state are not impacted. The Paso Robles water basin, which is one of the largest aquifers west of the Rockies, has ample ground water in spite of the drought. Based on historical records, it is likely to continue that way. San Luis Obispo County has been blessed by nature.

Less fortunate areas in California want to access the Paso Robles water supply — and will pay almost any price to get it. Those who have water are in a position to make a fortune.

But it gets complicated. Even if you are a landholder or a municipality with ample groundwater, and even if you are willing to sell some of it to Southern California, delivering it is not so easy. That’s why new pipelines are planned for the Salinas River basin heading south. Soon, there will be feeder lines and pumping stations scattered across the Paso Robles basin. Water will flow south. Money will flow north.

This is what attracts the water sharks. Corporations are buying the rights to as much land and water as possible. Their primary interest is not conservation or agriculture. They plan to acquire water at $200 to $500 per acre foot and sell it to drought-stricken communities for $2,000 to $5,000 per acre foot. Even more lucrative than selling water is renting in-ground storage space for water held under contract for future delivery. That, alone, could yield several billion dollars per year income – spelled with a B.

Water-shark strategy

1. Purchase land in the north-eastern part of the county where plentiful groundwater exists. This is close to the pipeline that delivers water to Southern California. Already they have drilled numerous high-volume wells in that area.

2. Convince ranchers and vineyards to sell their water to the corporations who then will pump the liquid gold to the main pipeline. Locals are told they will make more money selling water than producing crops.

3. Support government officials who want to place the water they control into a so-called “water bank” and sell the excess reserves for future delivery. However, much of the excess exists only in calculations and estimates that are greatly exaggerated. Insiders call this ‘paper water”. It is profitable to sell but, eventually, cannot be delivered.

4. Convince voters to support the creation of a new, Paso Robles Water District to “save the basin” and maintain “local control.” The outcome, however, will be just the opposite. The water board will work with county and state agencies to facilitate the sale of Paso Robles water to other communities. Local citizens will be taxed to pay for new pipelines to accomplish that. The basin will not be saved. It will be drained.

At the end of this process, the water sharks will be greatly enriched, those with wells will pay for using their own water, the Paso basin will have a real water shortage, and family farms will be replaced by corporate farms that can pay for water. City and rural residents who thought they had no skin in this game will find their water usage severely restricted, and their most affordable drink of water will come in a fancy bottle shipped from France.

Look to the past

We do not need to speculate about how this will turn out. There already has been a similar shark attack in Kern County. To see the future, look to the past.

The Kern Water Bank, Semitropic Water District was created in 1995 when 20,000 acre-feet of groundwater was transferred from the state to a new water district controlled by private investors. Since then, there have been numerous law suits against the bank, including one from other water districts, for over-pumping and depleting the aquifer.

Who are the SLO water sharks?

● Harvard Investment Natural Resources Division of Brodiaea Inc: Matt Turrentine and James Ontiveros formed Grapevine Capital to purchase large acreage in Northern SLO and Santa Barbara Counties with money primarily from the Harvard University endowment fund. Turrentine is a Director of PRAAGS, an association of large-acreage agriculture operators who likely will dominate the new water district, if formed.

● Windfall Farms, a Limoneira Company subsidiary: A publicly held Delaware corporation diversified among real estate, agribusiness, and water resources. From Limoneira’s web site: “Limoneira has the good fortune of possessing access to a variety of surface water and groundwater supplies…. The company’s opportunity for success in carrying out water transfers will be enhanced by conditions of increased scarcity.”

● State of California political sharks have sold five times the amount of water than can be delivered. That means 80 percent of it is “paper water.” Take-or-pay clauses in their contracts require buyers to pay even if they don’t receive the water.

● San Luis Obispo County political sharks are selling “paper water” but the amount is not published. The SLO County says it has an 11-year portfolio of banked water. A study discussed at a Water Resources Advisory Council on June 6, 2007, said the recipient would be Santa Barbara County.

Investing in groundwater is not unethical. Describing these groups as sharks is not intended to impugn their character but to emphasize their aggressive business plan. However, if they knowingly manage water resources to the detriment of their fellow human beings or if they practice deceit to promote their enterprises, then the word shark is overly kind.

A call to action

The sharks are calling for the creation of a North County water district. That tells us a lot about what we can expect from it. They say that, allowing this entity to tax us for the use of our own water and giving it the authority to decide if our water will be sold, somehow, equates to “keeping local control.” If we don’t do this, they say, the state will take charge. That argument is a ploy. It is the official policy of the state to not interfere unless local water-management policies prove to be unsustainable.

A new water district dominated by sharks will not sustain our water supply. It will plunder it. We must reject yet another level of political control and taxation. This has nothing to do with landowners versus renters, wineries versus ranches, or rural versus urban. It’s about water sharks versus the people of San Luis Obispo County.

When this issue appears on the ballot in 2016, vote no!

G. Edward Griffin is an advocate of transparency in government and is organizing a pilot project called “Need To Know – SLO.” He’s an author and documentary film producer who writes from his San Luis Obispo County retreat. He penned “The Creature from Jekyll Island — A Second Look at the Federal Reserve” now in its fifth edition and thirty-second printing. His many other published works include “World Without Cancer,” “Moles in High Places,” “No Place to Hide,” and “The Capitalist Conspiracy.” Griffin is Contributing Editor for The New American magazine and is listed in “Who’s Who In America.”

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We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat…

oh, wait..

If it quacks like a quack,

If it writes like a quack,

If it thinks like a quack,

It’s probably a quack.

Misleading title….I am telling you….the National Enquirer flair is getting more heavy handed.

Ah what an elaborate story. String together a few names, mention the State pipeline and off we go that outsiders will make billions (with a b) off water we don’t have nor could it be moved in any quantity over the objections of everyone in the North County. Don’t mention the new SGMA law that requires the Paso Basin to be sustainable. Ignore the fact the County has passed one of the toughest water export ordinances in the State. On top of that, fail to mention the discussion that LAFCO is proposing to make a condition of the district formation that no water of any kind can be exported out of the Basin…PERIOD! I know, it will never be enough. Mr. Wizard must be behind that curtain somewhere.

The old axiom applies to this less than scholarly effort. Never let facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory.

Just another political rip off that will get those financed by these “sharks” who will sell their souls to the devil for money, votes to promote their egos and arrogance. You think a political seat in SLO county is expensive now, just wait until the next election and watch.

And we, the victims, will get taken again.

I find his flow chart to be very interesting although he should have started with the Salinas Dam thence the downsteam shark attack. The Big Fish is the City of SLO which will control much of the downstream feed frenzy. Why?, because SLO has lawyered up a long time ago. The State of California has already made the claim that there is no unappropriated water in the Salinas River so if we are advised to forget the river we may as well forget tapping the river charged basin. So what’s up with this chess game? It will artifically run up the cost of water to fund numerous layers of Gov. More money means more jobs and with more jobs, more housing and with more houses less dirt to water. What about our quality of life?, we won’t be around to care and our successors will not know any different. Yes, just look south a 100 miles.

Exactly what is it that we “lemmings” are supposed to do? Water rights come with property of the type you are making reference; real estate law 101. Whether you read this article or not wont stop the Sharks from circling and consuming water. Clearly with all the home and hotel/resort development still strongly under way the water crisis is being used for the benefit of cities to raise rates and dupe the general public. Swimming pools are still being filled, etc., nothing we can stop here. Do you have any positive suggestions or do just just want to sit and call people names?

The other thing this article did not mention is what happens to the land when the water table gets to low, it drops.

I think it was the 80’s when that happened in Slo. the area around Sunset Honda was greatly affected as the ground dropped almost 12″. The city had to pay to rebuild the Honda showroom and other buildings because of the problem.

San Luis is now much better conserving water and not pumping ground water because they have seen what happens.

These water sharks think they can get around mother nature, but in the long run she always wins. It looks like Paso needs to go back and research the problems San Luis had, maybe they would reconsider what they really want to do., but I doubt it.

I couldn’t agree more.

However, most of the public are like lemmings, and don’t pay attention to the manipulation in politics of important subjects like water. They just blindly take tax money and rip out their lawns rather than think about what the real reasons are that we supposedly are in a water crisis. By the way, lawns cool properties down reducing power consumption and absorb rain runoff in the winter, something most folks don’t think about.

Great article that sadly most in this county won’t ever read.

I find your argument for lawns kind of funny. I’m sure what you state has some truth to it, but the negatives far outweigh the positives.

Sure, lawns cool property, but the only way they cool your house is from the cooler air from the lawn water evaporation blowing into your open windows. Are people really going to open their windows when its 100 degrees outside to cool their house to 95, or are they going to use the air conditioner energy to cool their house to a comfortable temperature? It would be a very rare case that a lawn around your house makes it livable. I also think that energy is in less of a shortage than water, and it would be really inefficient to use lawn watering to cool your home.

And a mulched yard will absorb water just as easily as a lawn. And neither of those water absorbtions will greatly affect the water tables.

Here in North County, I calculated the water needed to sustain our front lawn, 50′ X 45′, to be about 600-700 gallons a week, depending on summer heat. Then calculate the cost to pump that water with a 1 HP pump from about 380 ft, and pressurize it for delivery. That cost does not justify the slight change in micro-climate around the house. Deep-rooted, drought tolerant shade trees make a lot more sense. Even better would be intelligent design, since we do live in a desert-like area. The Sumerians knew more about home design than we do. :)