Someone will have to explain why a sane society would still allow this to be legal, because I can’t figure it out:

mong the windmills and creosote bushes of San Gorgonio Pass, a nondescript beige building stands flanked by water tanks. A sign at the entrance displays the logo of Arrowhead 100% Mountain Spring Water, with water flowing from a snowy mountain. Semi-trucks rumble in and out through the gates, carrying load after load of bottled water.

The plant, located on the Morongo Band of Mission Indians’ reservation, has been drawing water from wells alongside a spring in Millard Canyon for more than a decade. But as California’s drought deepens, some people in the area question how much water the plant is bottling and whether it’s right to sell water for profit in a desert region where springs are rare and underground aquifers have been declining.

“Why is it possible to take water from a drought area, bottle it and sell it?” asked Linda Ivey, a Palm Desert real estate appraiser who said she wonders about the plant’s use of water every time she drives past it on Interstate 10. “It’s hard to know how much is being taken,” Ivey said. “We’ve got to protect what little water supply we have.”

The issue is complicated by the fact that this is Native American (Morongo) land, and Nestle is paying the tribe an unknown but presumably tidy sum for access to the aquifer. But it’s still a travesty. The southwest is in a period of record-breaking drought. No one knows just how bad it is, exactly, but it’s pretty bad.

It’s likely attributable in part to climate change, but it’s also possible if not likely that the entire southwestern United States has been experiencing a period of unusually wet weather over the last long while, and the recent drought represents a return to normalcy on the scale of centuries.

If that is the case, then the entire southwest is going to need to heavily re-examine its water usage in dramatic ways. Agriculture may need to be cut back, lawns will need to go to xeriscape, golf courses will need to be eliminated, and much else besides.

It will also necessarily put a damper on development in many areas where high real estate prices are crying out for increased smart growth infill.

And certainly, companies will have to be prevented from taking precious water resources and bottling them for profit. Continuing to allow that in this sort of environment is straight out of a science fiction novel set in an Objectivist dystopia.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

David Atkins

Follow David on Twitter @DavidOAtkins. David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.