Sunday, October 18, 2015

California Bay Area. Drought? What Drought?

Vulture Capitalist Mark Pine's home. 8000 gallons a day
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired.

I am sure that almost anyone that reads this blog is aware of the serious drought that is gripping California.  It is not simply a matter of a shower or two or three being able to solve our water problems either; the state’s aquifers are in in distress.

For 29 years I worked for the East San Francisco Bay’s water utility, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, known by most residents as EBMUD. EBMUD is a public agency governed by the Municipal Utility District Act.

Most of my 29 years I worked in the maintenance department as part of crews that would repair leaks or install new water services to homes or businesses, I started as a laborer and retired as a Heavy Equipment Operator (HEO). I reckon becoming an HEO and passing my GED puts me in the top echelons of US working class society and quite naturally, just like the 1% do, my two marriages have been to women of my own class, a nurse and an Administrative Clerk.  Having this public sector job transformed my life.

The East Bay has a varied weather pattern as we have the Pacific Ocean to the west of us and hills on the east. The climate on the west side of the hills bordering San Francisco Bay is a temperate one whereas just a short trip of 6 miles through the Caldecott Tunnel that takes us eastward through the hills we have a much hotter and drier climate.  Temperature differences of 15 or 20 degrees are not uncommon.

Some of the wealthiest East Bay resident live in the cities east of the hills in towns like Danville, Diablo, Alamo and other others. EBMUD provides water to about 1.3 million people in the East Bay in 35 cities including some parts of these communities. One of these wealthy communities is Blackhawk. During periods of drought, and we’ve had many of them, the District as we called it, was much more aggressive in responding to reports of leaks and calling us out on emergency overtime to repair broken mains, service laterals, hit hydrants and the like.  Consumers are warned about excessive use and reminded to water lawns only at night or early morning and generally to use less water.

We always used to talk among ourselves during these drought periods that there was no way the rich folks over the hill would be saving water, they have the money to pay the penalties that might hurt working class and poor people.  We saw the hypocrisy around the concern for this precious resource when rich people living in what is a naturally arid area had huge lawns and exotic landscaping.

I live in San Leandro, a predominantly working class town on the west side, south of Oakland although one of the abusers lives on the list lives here. And excepting those with their own wells, or those that have planted all native flora, lawns, what’s left of them, are brown not green and many people are losing plant life that isn’t indigenous to the region. I was talking with a former co-worker the other day and we both agreed that someone out in Danville with $20,000 of landscaping is not going to let it die because of a fine form a water utility.

The San Francisco Chronicle which I only buy once a week now since it went up to $1.68 an issue, requested a list of the highest residential water consumers in EBMUD’s service area and the results are pretty staggering.

It turns out the top of the list is Danville’s George Kirkland a former Vice Chairman of Chevron. We shouldn’t be surprised at his 12,578 gallons a day, after all, he’s in the upper echelons of the global polluting industry. In 2012 Chevron paid John Watson, it’s then CEO $32 million, up from $25 million in 2011. In 2012, on top of his salary, Kirkland received $12.9 million in stock option grants according to the SEC filings.

Second on the list is Vulture Capitalist Mark Pine. He’s a pretty thirsty character too using 8,090 gallons daily. Not sure what his net worth is but he and his wife put their 7-bedroom home on the market for $13.8 million in 2011.

Third on the list according to the Chronicle is the Oakland A’s owner Billie Bean who says it’s not really his fault he’s been using almost 6000 gallons a day. Apparently it’s not the pool and the landscaping but there have been some leaks found and he’s “displeased and embarrassed” by the usage.  That must have been some leaky faucet. The movie Moneyball was based on him and his methods.

One hefty user on EBMUD’s lists back in the nineties during previous dry times, was Kenneth Behring a developer and former co-owner of the Seattle Seahawks. You have to be amazed at the gall of these sports characters.  Sports franchises and particularly the stadiums they need to play in are practically nationalized industries. The profits of course are private, only losses are nationalized. I wrote in a previous blog about the con game these business ventures are as the taxpayer pretty much guarantees their success.

“Sports, what would be a healthy cultural interaction in a civilized society, is a very lucrative business that relies heavily on public subsidies here in the US.  Owning an American Football franchise is the dream of most of these coupon clippers and for practically all of the stadiums throughout the US it is the taxpayers that foot the bill, 71% of the costs on average according to Bloomberg BW.  “  See, (Football franchises another example of corporate welfare)

Behring’s son Jeff and his wife Jane, themselves big users like dad, can’t understand it. They “…tried to do the right thing, allowing the lawns and landscaping in back to go dry during the drought, but Jeff’s 50 bonsai trees apparently got them on the list.”, the Chronicle reports.

Those Bonsai trees, all 50 of them, are some thirsty buggers. Meanwhile, the average residential customer in EBMUD’s service area uses about 250 gallons a day. *

The bigger picture is not simply these individual wasters but how water is used and distributed in society in general. Last year I drove down to the Grand Canyon and as I descended on Las Vegas out of Death Valley I came through Parumph Nevada. This area was a fertile area with many freshwater aquifers but when capitalist agriculture was introduced with colonization, the aquifers eventually dried up. There is no serious planning in the capitalist mode of production: cut it down, chop it up, drain it, build it whatever is profitable. As I drove through Las Vegas and headed east along Interstate 15 the temperature reached 115. “I’ll bet Las Vegas uses more energy and natural resources than entire countries” I said to myself.  What sort society would build a city like that in the middle of a desert? Not a civilized one for sure. 

Industry and industrial food production (agriculture) wastes much more water than individual capitalists.  California is perhaps the most productive agricultural area in the world but not naturally so, it is all artificial. How we structure our communities, where we build them, how large our residences are is all determined by developers, finance capitalists and others like them based on profits not how it advances human culture in harmony with the natural world. No other large country could live as we do, the planet cannot sustain it.

o        2 Japanese
o        6 Mexicans
o        13 Chinese
o        31 Indians
o        128 Bangladeshis
o        307 Tanzanians
o        370 Ethiopians
By 2012, We had about 4.5% of theworld’s population and use as much as 20% of its energy, which has declined a little and I assume due to the rise of China.

There is always talk of freedom and individual rights here.  But there’s no such thing as unrestrained individual rights in any society. The fact we use the term “society” implies a grouping of human beings, living and working in what should be harmony with nature to produce the necessities of life for that social unit. Without production, life can’t exist. There’s lots of things we are not “free” to do. And if we choose to do them, society is “free” to punish us., to take our home or even our lives in some cases.

A spokesperson for EBMUD points out that for these gulpers, “If needed, the penalty can be a lot tougher……..Ultimately, flow restrictions are always an option down the road.”

Money allows people to get away with murder and rape in our society.  No one has been jailed for the more than 100 deaths that some, yet unnamed person(s) at GM, caused through their action or inaction.  No top military commander has been jailed for Abu Ghraib barring a white working class woman that grew up in a trailer park and her lover. No American politician has been jailed for their crimes connected to the massacre and displacement of millions of people in the Middle East.

These rich folks aren’t going to stop their behavior when it comes to using too much water for sure. EBMUD, like many public agencies has a board of directors and that board has traditionally been dominated by big business interests. Water is gold in California.

Through their two major political parties this class determines social policy and through this political monopoly all aspects of our lives.  Working people need our own political party and must overcome those divisions that weaken us in order to build a direct action united movement against the 1% and their stranglehold on society.

I believe this is a necessary step but as our readers are well aware only a partial step in the right direction as it is my view that their precious market, capitalism, cannot solve these problems which will at some point destroy life as we know it. Only a democratic socialist economy and democratic socialist world federation of states can do that. We have a responsibility to our children to take action and not be drawn in to passivity by their endless distractions.

Another contributor to this blog puts it this way

Climate change, pollution, the threat of wars, mass starvation, droughts, floods, (Think North Carolina) earthquakes, threaten life on Earth as we know it. This threat is not centuries away. It is decades away. Millions of people increasingly recognize this. The millions who take to the streets to protect the environment illustrate this.

* For a full list of EBMUD's  East Bay water wasters go to:Http://

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