Dave McNew/Getty Images
by Nick Martin
The basis of all human life is now officially on the market. Call it the No Future futures index.
Bloomberg reported on Sunday that California water futures are now officially on the Wall Street markets, with the United States–based CME Group heading up the 2021 contracts connected to the state’s billion-dollar water market. The “commodity” was most recently going for $496 per acre-foot with the main purchasers of the futures—which were first announced by CME in September—expected to be large-scale water consumers, chiefly utility companies and the states’ Big Ag corporations. (California is home to the largest agriculture market in the nation.) “Climate change, droughts, population growth, and pollution are likely to make water scarcity issues and pricing a hot topic for years to come,” RBC Capital Markets managing director and analyst Deane Dray told Bloomberg. “We are definitely going to watch how this new water futures contract develops.” We’ve officially reached a new phase of the Mad Maxification of America.
“Mni wiconi”—Lakota for “Water is life”—is not just a snappy slogan popularized by the Standing Rock movement. It’s a fact of human existence. The move to sell water futures in California stands as a foreboding indicator of the transformation of water from basic right into a luxury good. It’s a frightening expansion of a reality that already exists for poor, Black, Latinx, and Native communities across the country, from Flint, Michigan, to Navajo Nation. Welcome to the future.
Back in 2012, MIT News profiled the head of the company Sourcewater, which at the time had introduced the idea of creating an online exchange for gas and oil companies to quickly and easily source and purchase the water necessary to keep up with the rampant domestic fracking boom. These companies needed water but didn’t want to pay a ton for its transportation; Sourcewater helped them accomplish that. And because American businesspeople have been conditioned to bow down to middlemen who help drive down costs, Sourcewater was viewed as a success story. Read through the MIT News piece and you’ll find all the circus-like twists necessary to justify the company’s purported innovation. “Reducing the amount of truck travel via the new online marketplace also brings environmental benefits,” the outlet wrote of a company created to help facilitate fracking.