Meanwhile it has become increasingly apparent that the huge underwater aquifers that have sustained this system of “pump all you want” have run dangerously low. Without intervention, this scarcity may only exacerbate the problem, as farmers and other landowners preemptively pump even more in an effort to get as much as they can for themselves before it is gone. That’s the thinking of T. Boone Pickens, a former oil-and-gas magnate, who is moving into water. Pickens owned a mid-size ranch above a section of the Ogallala aquifer, which supplies water to much of the Plains states of the US. He realized that in Texas his neighbors could pump out the water from under his land and sell it. Not content to let anyone else profit from “his” water, he began buying up water rights and land from his neighbors. Now, he is proposing that the city of Dallas, three-hundred miles away, buy the water he now owns, and has maneuvered the passage of legislation to allow him to build a pipeline from his ranch to the city to make it happen. So far, Dallas has demurred, but Pickens is patient: he reckons all it will take is a year or so of drought for big cities in Texas to realize they need more secure access to water.
Those with money water their lawns. Those without die of dehydration? Now, if we can just find a way to put a price on air.