Capitalism’s assault on the Ogallala Aquifer

Many people may be familiar with the California drought and the depletion of groundwater there, but few are aware of the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest underground sources of freshwater in the world.

Located underneath eight different states in the prairie lands of the central United States, the Ogallala Aquifer provides drinking water to  about 1.8 million people, and provides about 30 percent of all groundwater irrigation for the entire country.

The Ogallala Aquifer took millions of years to form and now it could take less than 200 years to destroy. Today the aquifer is being pumped dry faster than it can be replenished, with certain areas already having been tapped out. In 2013, a Kansas study estimated that the aquifer would run dry in about 50 years. Even if the pumping stopped today, geologists say that it would take 6000 years to replenish itself naturally.

These facts are particularly shocking considering that the Ogallala Aquifer produces about $20 billion worth of food a year. This is food and water for millions of families everywhere that will disappear along with it. Nearly one-fifth of the total agricultural harvest of the United States lies in the country’s prairie land – the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer would be devastating.

The most outrageous fact of the matter is that both the state and federal governments have known about this dilemma for over 50 years!

How can it be that both state and federal governments have done nothing, knowing well that millions of people could go without food and water if decisive action was not taken? The answer is simple and disturbing: profit.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, in 2014 agribusiness spent over $127 million lobbying politicians. In the last 10 years agribusiness has spent over $1.2 billion lobbying government officials. With these figures it is no wonder that politicians have done nothing while agribusiness has continued to pump the aquifer dry.

The politicians claim that we live under a democracy, but where was the democratic process when it came to managing our resources and our water? What good is our supposed democracy when our environment and our lives can be sold to the highest bidder?

The wealthy land owners care nothing of the future of generations that will be devastated by this. The only concern that the wealthy owners of the agricultural industry have is profit. The owners do not care about the future of the water, people or environment because they can go and relocate their business somewhere else in the world. They have the luxury of being able to take a jet anywhere they please. The people who work the land and depend on it for food and water do not have that luxury.

There are only two things that will stop the plunder of our precious resources, the extinction of the human species or the reorganization of society based on human needs and environmental sustainability – socialism.

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