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Rich Landowners' Complaints About California Water Rationing Reveal NIMBY Hypocrisy

Updated on June 14, 2015
Californians, especially wealthy landowners, are using too much water in the face of a historic drought.
Californians, especially wealthy landowners, are using too much water in the face of a historic drought. | Source

California Water Rationing Reveals Hypocrisy, True Colors Among Rich Landowners

California is in a crisis. America's most populous state is facing a water shortage of epic proportions and has, belatedly, insisted that homeowners cut back on water usage. As a resident of Midland, Texas I saw the same scenario play out: No worries for years and years, and then sudden panic when the water table fell below a point which could not be ignored. Looking back, the situation seems silly. Why weren't water restrictions put in place before the crisis struck? Both Midland and California ignored the warning signs for too late and then had to scramble to turn off the tap.

On July 1, new water restrictions will take effect for wealthy neighborhoods...and many people are not happy about it. In fact, after the announcement of statewide water restrictions by governor Jerry Brown, the water usage in the Rancho Santa Fe district increased by nine percent. Wealthy landowners in Rancho Santa Fe argue that, if they can pay for water, they should get water.

Free market principles, right? Consumer freedom, right?

These conservative landowners have a point. The government water restrictions do violate the basic tenets of capitalism. But, then again, so does public school. California's water restrictions, given the severity of its drought, are justified. The landowners, by refusing to see reason, are failing to heed the lesson of the tragedy of the commons. As a common resource, fresh water must be regulated to prevent its being squandered. Most Americans support the idea that water be treated as a regulated resource, lest it be quickly wasted or too polluted for safe use.

The rich landowners in Rancho Santa Fe are being hypocrites. I assume, first of all, that they want the government to ensure that the water coming through their taps is potable. I assume, secondly, that they want the government to ensure that the water table from which their water is drawn is not polluted by other landowners and firms. Third, I assume that, when landowners insist that they should have the right to enjoy their lush gardens and landscaped property, they want the government to establish and uphold zoning laws and pollution laws. It's hard to enjoy one's landscaped acreage when there is a noisy, pollution-spewing factory right new door.

So the wealthy landowners support government restrictions on others when those restrictions ensure clean water and air for their properties. I guarantee that all of the wealthy "free market capitalists" who are bemoaning the California water restrictions would be quick to insist on government regulations if I purchased land for sale adjacent to their properties and wished to establish a nuclear waste site. But why? After all, I have purchased the land fair and square. As a fellow free-market capitalist, I am seeking a profit by allowing my land to be used as a repository for radioactive waste from nuclear power plants.

They should be able to use all the water they are willing to pay for. I should be able to use, for my own profit-seeking purposes, all the land I am willing to pay for. Since the landowners will insist on limitations on my nuclear dump site, I must insist on limitations on their water usage. My radiation could harm their property, and their excessive use of water could harm my property.

Since potable tap water is finite and cannot easily be allotted in individual units, it must be, and should be, regulated. We need enough for everyone, and therefore must ration when we have to. Just like we have rationed pollution allotments for corporations, in order to preserve enough clean air for everyone, we must ration water allotments for homeowners in order to preserve enough potable water for everyone.


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    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 2 years ago from Auburn, WA

      I read the article this morning and was shocked that they went public with their attitudes towards the situation. Everyone there has been irresponsible: residents, large landowners and most of all, their political leadership. Simple things could help like stopping all the formal landscaping, and getting rid of lawns. I was glad to see that San Diego has really developed the desalination industry and apparently, it might spread up the coast. Why they delayed on that is another mystery. That water could be pumped right to the Central Valley to maintain the state's ag industry. Voted up.

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