Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post

Where money flows like water

Kern Water Bank

Outside of the arid west, it’s a little difficult to grasp. But where rain is a merely a seasonal phenomenon, water is very much a commodity.

As Mark Grossi writes in the Sacramento Bee, there’s enough skullduggery and swindling going on with California’s water to provide a storyline for a Chinatown sequel.

According to two lawsuits filed by environmentalists, a backroom deal orchestrated the transfer of the state-owned Kern Water Bank to an agency controlled by private interests. The water bank sequestered water from the state’s north in an aquifer, creating scarcity, then profited handsomely by selling the water back to the state during recent droughts. Intense pumping, plaintiffs say, forced local water tables to plummet 150 feet, drying up wells owned by residents, farmers and other water districts.

The suits seek to force the Kern Water Bank back into direct state control. A third suit seeks to force the cessation of pumping until an analysis documents how much water can be pumped without damaging wells.

State officials won’t comment on the pending litigation. The suits charge that Beverly Hills billionaires Stewart and Linda/Lynda Resnick, through their company Roll International, along with Tejon Ranch Co., one of the state’s largest landowners, call the shots at the water bank.

According to Resnick, everything has been done legally and the charges are a work of fiction.

According to the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Lance Williams, Resnick and his associates have invested close to $4 million in campaign contributions, leveraging a special relationship with US Senator Dianne Feinstein that pays lucrative dividends, according to critics. The cash keeps flowing in to various elected officials from the Resnicks, under various spellings, according to

Whether the federal government manage the west’s water better than state officials is an open question. If critics are correct and the corrupting influence of money can shape policy even at the federal level, then the answer appears to be no.

Leave a Comment