I live a few minutes from the Colorado River along the California/Arizona border. To the casual observer, the beautiful turquoise water is a haven of activity in the desert: speedboats, barbecues, deckchairs, bikinis and floating restaurants. I spent many days this summer playing and relaxing on boats, jetskis and other gas-guzzling water toys under the desert sun in the clear, blue, clean river.

But it isn’t just a playground. It is hugely important, for a much more vital reason. The Colorado River constitutes one of the greatest feats of modern ingenuity – it is the largest water storage and distribution system in the world, providing drinking water to over 25 million people in the Southwest including the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tuscon and San Diego; and irrigation to over 3.5 million acres of farmland. A series of enormous dams (including Hoover, Davis and Parker Dams) have created a series of vast lakes (including Lake Mead, Lake Havasu and Lake Powell) totalling a 250,000 square-mile basin, from which thousands of miles of aqueducts deliver water to various water districts contracted to private companies with private customers.

Obviously, such a damned big reservoir system is hot property, and the rights to such water have been hammered out for many years. Numerous compacts, agreements, treaties and court decisions have contributed to the ‘Law of the River’. Under the Law of the River, water is divided up between seven states, American Indian Tribes and the nation of Mexico.

Now. To the point. Part of the Colorado River system near the US/Mexico border is a 23-mile stretch of the All-American Canal near Yuma, Arizona. The canal delivers water to farmers in California’s Imperial Valley. The canal also has a leak. Fortunately for the farmers, even with the leak, they have plenty of water for their purposes. So, to this day, the leak has not been repaired. But some smart, efficiency-minded folks out in San Diego came up with a great idea: ‘We’ll pay you farmers if you’ll allow us to fix the leak and transfer the water saved by the repair to us over in San Diego.” Sounds like a fair deal for both parties, since San Diego could certainly use the added supply.

But there’s a problem. You see, the canal seepage has percolated into the aquifers beneath the Mexicali Valley across the border in Mexico, and some opportunistic Mexican farmers have been pumping it out and using it for decades! Amazing, isn’t it? Mexicans have been thriving off what America hasn’t used. It evokes the image of a homeless man living off what can be salvaged from the trash at McDonald’s. So now they’re going to repair the leak…. which puts some scavenging Mexicans out of business.

And they’re not happy – the Mexican farmers and several leftist environmentalist groups have sued the United States government in Las Vegas in an attempt to stop the repair project! They argue that it will hurt the poor farmers in Mexico who have been pilfering the water for years. In moments of honesty with themselves over the likelihood of such an argument to succeed in a US court, they have added to the lawsuit the “environmental threat” that such a move would “inevitably” pose.

So far, its the state of California and Environmental Idiots v Mexicali. There are two more parties who want to join the circus also: the states of Arizona and Nevada, who have now entered the lawsuit on the basis that, if Mexicali wins and can claim a right to 67,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water, California may have to draw that much more from Lake Mead to meet its needs, which directly affects the water rights of both Arizona and Nevada.

So, you build a system to store and distribute water that you establish ownership for. All parties agree to that ownership arrangement. A canal springs a leak. You make an agreement to repair it. And someone who had been helping themselves to the water that resulted from that leak tries to sue you because they think they now deserve it?

Switching to Jesus mode. A man comes across a vineyard, of which there is no obvious owner. Almost a year passes, and the grapes are just ripening. The man decides, since there is no sign of the owner and the fruit will be wasted if he does not harvest the grapes, that he will go ahead. He does, and year after year he reaps the vineyard. He makes a lot of money. One day, many years later, the owner returns to his vineyard and, rather than be angry with the man, he simply says, “You have made a lot of money from my vineyard. But it is my vineyard, and I’d like to make use of it myself now.” The man is disappointed, as his lifestyle will have to change, but realises that he has been lucky to receive the fruit of someone else’s labour for so many years. He thanks the vineyard owner, and leaves gratefully. Does he have the right to be upset with the vineyard owner? Is he entitled to the vineyard because he has used it for so many years? Of course not. It’s someone else’s property. Something doesn’t become someone else’s property when they borrow, rent, or simply take it for themselves – property rights are reserved for the owner. Right?

Not in the disturbed, buckled minds of the left. “This water supports the employment and well-being of the people in the Mexicali Valley,” said Gaylord Smith, a San Diego lawyer who agreed to represent the farmers, as well as several environmental groups that also oppose the canal project. Smith believes that they are now entitled to the water, simply because their farming now relies on it. It’s insane. It’s a ludicrous idea. The canal is being fixed because it is broken! The owner is fixing his own canal! And he isn’t allowed to do it because those who are swiping, snatching, pilfering, embezzling, pinching, poaching, pirating, filching, shoplifting, THIEVING, STEALING, LOOTING for their own selfish gain, suddenly feel that they now have some sort of inherent right to do so?

And without so much as a thought for those who DO have a historically sound legal right to that water: residents of California, Arizona and Nevada who rely on it as a key source for what is the fastest growing area of the United States. “It could occur at the expense of all the Lower Basin water users,” said Central Arizona Project Deputy General Manager Larry Dozier. According to the Arizona Republic, Dozier says that the repair work to the canal is a key part of the district’s strategy to protect its Colorado River water supply.

Can you imagine the uproar there would be from all leftist quarters if the United States had tried to sue THEM for protecting THEIR water rights? Do ‘rights’ blow with the wind when we want them to? Or only in one direction? And what is their ultimate solution to this dispute? Just NOT to fix the leak? Only the left could come up with such a dysfunctional answer: an answer that relies on a canal leak NOT being repaired.

Even the Mexican government has been slow to support the Mexicali farmers. They concede “…that the water captured by the newly lined canals was not part of Mexico’s 1.5 million acre-foot allotment from the Colorado River.” Wow! Even the socialist, namby-pamby Mexican government knows that Mexicali has no right to the stuff. They know these folks just happened to strike lucky for a few decades. It. Ain’t. Their. Damned. Water.

People do not have rights just because they happen to be the benefactors of what the rights provide. Rights are based on principle: in this case, the principle of contractual agreements with regard to property ownership. Far from being unjust, as the Mexicali lawsuit suggests, upholding such contractual rights is the embodiment of fairness.

John Wright