A river running past the mall is diverted into a vast man-made lake with a high dam. The entrepreneurs who fund the effort are paid proportional to the height of water in the reservoir. Those who owned the river rights get a tax deduction. Below the dam are lands parched with some patches of green. The dam has certain spillways mandated by law. Some argue that the floodgates should be opened by law. Others argue that the water should flow in priority order to projects held sacred by those making the proposals. Someone proposes that the recipients of the water should kick back money to the entrepreneurs to make releasing the water profitable. Others point out that such arrangements are considered unethical. The entrepreneurs point out that without being paid on the height of water behind the dam nor paid for water released from the dam, they have no incentive to divert the river, or scoop out the reservoir or build and manage the dam with with its modest spillways. Without the financial incentives the land down stream would be not parched with patches of green, but a dust-bowl. "Not if you release the spillways," say the activists. "And after the water is gone, there will no more," say the entrepreneurs, "the river will revert to its natural course and the beneficiary will be the mall."
Whose water is it? Had Kafka written this parable, that question, graven on a broken tablet, might be found buried in the sand, more than likely a fragment of some acient contract dispute.