This is Ligonier's friendly neighborhood blog and an attempt to recapture our lively opinionated debates in a free speech zone.

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Friday, November 7, 2014

Water could end up being the new gold, or the new crude oil.

It doesn’t much matter what is rising in price – electricity, gasoline, food. All are vital; none are discretionary purchases. And for all but the top 1% of Americans, our earnings haven’t risen to be able to cope with higher costs.

"For now, however, water's still an input. It is used to generate electrical power, to make paper and chemicals, to extract and refine crude oil. Within the US farming industry, cotton farmers are most reliant on water, followed by farmers who grow corn and hay to be used as animal feed. There may be no perfect answers. We want low-priced carrots from Kern County and lettuce (44% of which is grown in water-scarce Monterey County, California).  We have a newfound obsession with almond milk, even though almonds – a $4bn a year crop – require immense amounts of water to grow, are almost entirely grown only in drought-stricken California where the climate is suitable but where the competition for water resources is fiercest. At the same time, higher gasoline prices fuel anxiety and anger.
 A section of Lake Oroville, in California, is seen nearly dry. As the severe drought continues for a third straight year, water levels are reaching historic lows. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images 

Ultimately, some of the battles over who gets to use the increasingly scarce water resources – not just in places like California, but in areas like Idaho, the Dakotas, across the midwest, Milwaukee and even pockets of the north-east, where rainfall is ample – may end up being settled by politicians or in the courts. That means, now that one election cycle is over, it might be time to start looking around at your local politicians and asking them what their thoughts are on this topic, if it hasn’t already become a hot-button issue as it has in California. If water, a scarce resource, gets rationed, who gets cut off? Who will pay higher prices first?"

Ligonier will face this battle for clean water before long... . Wake up, folks; get busy and defend your landbase. No one will do this for you.