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Midwest USA Paper Plugs Awakening News, Asking: Is a Groundwater ‘Trade Deficit’ Gurgling Under Our Feet?

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John Devine, writing at the website, has posed an important question that should be asked, but which almost no one is asking: “How low will the wells go before the bankers say, no.”

In other words, if accessible fresh-water supplies, especially groundwater, get overtaxed and run dry, then credit might dry up, too. The credit-raters at Moody’s reportedly have already started taking the water factor into account.

Clearly, corporate behemoth Coca Cola ought to consider this question — as should “the banks financing Coca Cola’s massive mining of India’s aquifers,” Devine pointed out. Yet it appears that most of India’s vulnerable citizens are in the dark, in a place historically prone to extreme drought.

Stateside, things aren’t looking much better. National Geographic reports that more than one million acre-feet of US water has been used, evidently free of charge, for the benefit of the Chinese and Saudi dairy industries (who knew?). Such copious amounts of water in the often-dry and fire-prone American West are being used to grow alfalfa for export to China and Saudi Arabia for feeding their cows.

This little-known arrangement has been criticized by Holly Irwin, a member of the Board of Supervisors of LaPaz County, Ariz., which borders California. She found that Saudi interests have bought Arizona land for growing alfalfa, without any apparent accounting of water-usage in the desert state.

National Geographic also has identified 17 farming sectors, detailing the amount of water each sector consumes to produce one pound of food (beef, pork, etc.), or in the diary sector, one gallon of milk. Here are examples:

• It takes a lot of water, 1,800 gallons, to produce one pound of beef.

• And it takes 880 gallons of water just to produce one gallon of milk.

Meanwhile, big water bottlers like Nestle are permitted to slurp Canadian aquifers for less than $4 per million liters, but you don’t hear much about it. Nestle also has a massive Michigan-based operation, to bottle what should be cheaply-accessed public groundwater and sell it back to the people at a huge mark-up.

However, what’s being overlooked even more is how much clean groundwater is being consumed to produce one pound of fish in a fish hatchery.

Most hatcheries operate with a flow-through system, using massive amounts of groundwater, combined with a high pollution factor. Conservatively, a flow-through hatchery uses 2 million gallons of groundwater per 24 hours, as Devine well knows. He used to run a hatchery in Ontario—though he ran it with a water-recycling system that cut groundwater-usage by about 90% and drastically cut pollution.

But the world’s governments, scientific journals (including National Geographic) and universities, so far anyway, don’t seem particularly interested in the hatchery issue, even though a typical hatchery is just another type of farm and should be treated as such. It should go without saying that we should measure groundwater usage regarding aquatic animals above all, not just regarding ground-dwelling livestock.

The bottom line: If we’re not careful, we’re going to reach the tipping point where we unduly impact groundwater supplies beyond the capacity of Earth to sustain or regenerate it—while arrogantly assuming that the value of water is unworthy of serious consideration whenever water is used as a component of production for fulfilling trade deals like the alfalfa example.

Thus, a “water trade deficit” may soon be upon us, yet we’re not cognizant of it.

So, it’d be helpful if readers of this article would contact their local and state officials, including governors, and help raise the issue about the overall impact on water quality and quantity brought about by hatcheries, as well as fracking, massive water-bottling operations, soft-drink manufacturers, etc.

You’d think that bankers would have relevant data stashed somewhere “regarding the sustainability of aquifers, or the lifespan of aquifers, very similar to [gathering] data on mining operations [of ore] of the past and present,” Devine wrote, adding more broadly: “Citizens living in regions that are heavily into fish-farming, such as Norway, Sweden and the UK, should have a ‘report card’ done on the status of their aquifers and their groundwater trade deficits.”

Mark Anderson is a veteran journalist who divides his time between Texas and Michigan. Email him at

From The Progressive Populist, December 1, 2017

See more articles at WWW.POPULIST.COM

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