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Hurtado Wants Feds to Probe Hedge Funds’ Acquisition of Water Rights

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Two California state senators are concerned "by the sharp increase in the purchasing of water rights by hedge funds." (DWR/Ken James)
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State Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D-Bakersfield) and state Sen. Dave Cortese (D-San Jose) are calling for U. S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate possible drought profiteering and water rights abuses in the western states.

portrait of state Sen. Melissa Hurtado

“We must be able to determine how anti-competitive practices and corporate investors may be disrupting water rights – leading to potential water shortages, water theft, and skyrocketing water rates.” — State Sen. Melissa Hurtado, D-Bakersfield

“As the West grapples with historic drought, California farmers and water managers are struggling to find the water we need to survive.  We must be able to determine how anti-competitive practices and corporate investors may be disrupting water rights – leading to potential water shortages, water theft, and skyrocketing water rates,” Hurtado said in a news release Wednesday.

Said Cortese: “Private interests have zeroed in on our precious water supplies and are buying up local water rights, the economic and social impacts of which could be disastrous. Water scarcity is already worsening, threatened by climate change, pollution, and increased demand. We must stand firm in keeping water a resource for the public.”

A county supervisor in Arizona joined the California state senators in calling for the investigation.

“As a representative of the La Paz County Board of Supervisors here in Arizona, I share (their) concerns,” said Holly Irwin. ” “I am seeing this firsthand in the unincorporated town I live in and the district I represent.”

Water Diverted to Grow Cannabis

In addition to raising anti-trust questions, Hurtado and Cortese expressed concern about the potential for hedge funds to divert water intended for food production to cannabis growing operations.

“Recent investigations have cited complex operations involving the purchase or leasing of land and water rights to support substantial (cannabis) grows,” they wrote to Garland.

Read the Letter to Garland

In their letter to Garland, Hurtado and Cortese also said they were concerned “by the sharp increase in the purchasing of water rights by hedge funds that have been taking place at least since 2015, and through anti-competitive practices, has the potential to subvert our regional water and our overall security.”

You can read the letter at this link.

 

 

Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email