Thus, I was interested to read the San Francisco Bay Guardian's story on the two events. Although it's sad that the article is biased against the corporations (I am willing to accept partisan opinion in the Age of Faux), I think it unforgivable that the reporter has such a terrible grasp of economics.
- She thinks that a law requiring public reporting of bottled water withdrawals is important. (It's not.)
- She quotes Maude Barlow on economics, e.g., "[water] demand is never affected by inflation, recession, rates or changing tastes." That's SO WRONG.
- Her survey of 35 people (!) "reveals" that 31 think water is a human right. She (and many others) fails to distinguish between water for drinking and water for lawns, fields, etc. (Forget the 35 people -- I wonder how the question was posed!)
- This is the worst paragraph:
The problem has its roots in the inherent conflict between conservation and profit. Saving water is relatively cheap, but there's no money to be made by eliminating waste. Developing expensive new water sources, though, is a potential private gold mine.There are two mistakes. First, the best conservationist is a monopolist. (Monopoly profits result when quantity is withheld from the market and prices rise, e.g., OPEC.) Second, the connection between conservation and new water is obvious -- if new water costs a lot (e.g., desalination), then it PAYS to conserve -- or use less.
- Later on, someone from Food and Water Watch (Barlow's cheerleader organization) says [in reference to Poseidon Corp's Carlsbad Desal plant] that "There's a lack of regulation with a private company controlling the water." That's LOL funny! First, private water companies in California have their prices controlled by the CPUC. Second, Poseidon has a contract with its customers, and contracts cannot be arbitrarily changed. Third, Poseidon has no power. If it REALLY turned off the taps, the local government could seize the facility.
- The author has issues with history. She says "historic water rights... have been granted to a small lobby of powerful growers who sell their surplus rights for profit" when she should have said "historic water rights were granted to growers who now make big profits from selling their surplus rights."
I'll leave you with this gem:
"There are [bottled water] companies I call water hunters," explained Maude Barlow. "They destroy water to make their products and profit. Unfortunately, some of the companies that are leading this conference are bottled water companies. I don't know how you can become 'water neutral' if your life's work is draining aquifers."Seriously, I hope that they put this article in the textbooks -- so students can learn how bad hack journalism can get.
[Is "hack" too harsh? Maybe "bad" or "naive" or "lazy"? For one thing, don't cite blogs (cite original sources; I need articles to cite!). Second, stop quoting Barlow on economics -- about which she knows nothing.]
Wait -- there is ONE good point in the article: Citizen oversight of the water supplier (SFPUC) can result in good outcomes for citizens. Good point.
Bottom Line: This article will either preach to the choir, mislead the uninformed or anger those who know something. It's a waste of space that does not make the SFBG look good.