YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections
(Page 2 of 2)

Something's not right about this California water deal

A lawsuit by water agencies and environmental groups contends the Kern Water Bank transaction was essentially a gift of public property to private interests and therefore violates the state constitution.

August 18, 2010|Michael Hiltzik

You may know Roll better as the former owner of the collectibles firm Franklin Mint and as the purveyor today of Fiji Water. That's the paragon of conspicuous consumption marketed on the theme that it's socially responsible to import your bottled drinking water from an idyllic Pacific island where only about half the population has access to protected water sources, and where the government is a military junta whose disdain for civil liberties wouldn't raise eyebrows at a conference of Mideast oil sheikdoms. The Resnicks hang with green activists such as Barbra Streisand and Laurie David, so no one examines their marketing too closely.

Roll International hasn't played an entirely positive role on water issues in the Central Valley. Back in September, Stewart Resnick insinuated himself into the question of whether the severe drought in the region should be blamed on environmental restrictions designed to help revive fisheries and river habitats.

This fatuous fish-vs.-people controversy had been ginned up with the help of experts like TV commentator Sean Hannity and Rep. Tom McClintock (R- Thousand Oaks), whose goal was to pin the drought not on Mother Nature but on the "environmental left."

In a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Resnick accused federal agencies of "sloppy science" in imposing those restrictions. He demanded a new scientific study.

Feinstein, possibly aware that Resnick and his wife had made political donations of nearly $500,000 over the previous four years, mostly to Democrats, calculated how high she needed to jump. She pushed the government to fund a study by the National Academy of Sciences, which as it turned out reported in March that the restrictions were, indeed, "scientifically justified."

Phillimore, the Paramount executive, says that "the water bank enabled us to plant permanent crops," because Paramount knew it could water its trees even in droughts. That sounds like an acknowledgement that the water bank has encouraged business decisions that wouldn't otherwise be smart for a semiarid region.

As water becomes even more precious, it will soon be obvious that such usage isn't smart under any circumstances.

If one is forced to choose between devoting water to sustaining nut trees permanently in a near-desert, or finding the most efficient use for it among all possible options, what would be the right way to go — that is, if the choice weren't already made via an ill-considered decision now 15 years old?

Michael Hiltzik's column appears Sundays and Wednesdays. Reach him at, read past columns at, check out, and follow @latimeshiltzik on Twitter.

Los Angeles Times Articles