UN Ted’s Latest Land Grab: Ted Turner Wants America’s Water for the World
Ted Turner’s massive land acquisitions in the Nebraska Sandhills consolidate a property spanning nearly 500,000 acres raising questions about his future intentions for the land and the water beneath it as humanity enters an increasingly water insecure future and corporate interests identify drinkable water as the most lucrative future commodity on the planet.
In the picturesque Sandhills of Nebraska, one of the most hauntingly beautiful and solitary geographies in the world, the presence of one of the world’s richest men looms over the undulating grassy savannah of endless rolling hills and waving prairie grass and sunflowers like a thunderhead on a Nebraska summer horizon. Twenty years after his first land grab rattled coffee cups and tilted cowboy brims in the center of the Cornhusker state, massive land acquisitions by the second largest land baron in the United States are as old hat as his namesake cable network is for Atlanta Braves baseball, bad 80’s movies and fake news. Turner’s most recent purchase of 15,000 acres in north central Nebraska barely moved the meter.
Now 80 years old and ailing with Lewy Body Dementia, (the illness which purportedly drove Robin Williams to suicide) Ted Turner, a man who has been famous over his lifetime as a world championship sailor, brash business tycoon, swashbuckling professional sports franchise owner, cable television news pioneer and avowed atheist is now equally famous for buying up parcels of unspoiled American grassland that just happen to be situated over the largest repository of fresh groundwater in the world: The Ogallala Aquifer. An underground lake containing enough fresh water to cover all of North America, three feet deep.
But no worries. It’s not about the water, Ted says. Like a CNN headline, few people are buying.
Turner’s latest denial about ceded water rights and future plans for his half-million acres situated directly above the Ogallala Aquifer came this week in response to his latest purchase of 15,055 acre ranch that had been surrounded on three sides by Turner’s Spikebox Ranch, assembled in similar sized chunks bought from local owners beginning in 1996.
Since those first purchases in Arthur County, Nebraska in the late 1990’s, Spikebox Ranch has grown to 141,149 acres and Turner’s total holdings in Nebraska now include 506,935 acres of some of the most prime grassland grazing territory God ever made. And all of it located directly above one of the true miracles of natural sustenance, the Ogallala Aquifer. A 175,000 square mile underground ocean of crystal clean groundwater that has fed humans, cattle and corn from southern South Dakota to the Texas panhandle. An oasis of drinkable abundance responsible for sustaining life, agriculture and economy in the arid landscape of the Great American Desert for a thousand years.
A look at the aquifer map (insert left) shows its sprawling geological footprint across the middle of America, lapping at the rooted foothills of the Rocky Mountain range and winding serpentine through pieces of eight states. Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas. But set like a glittering blue diamond amid the aquifer’s thinner yellow shallows, the Ogallala map also shows something else–A near perfect coincidence of Turner’s land holdings and the deepest sweet spot of the aquifer’s vast buried treasure, an area of underground water larger than Lake Michigan, saturated with 1,000 to 1,400 feet of the Ogallala’s deepest of the deeps, directly beneath Turner’s Spikebox Ranch.
“I’ve never sold any water rights to anyone and don’t intend to,” Ted Turner said in 2008, responding to reporters for Nebraska’s largest newspaper when they asked the question on everyone’s mind: What happens to those water rights when one of the richest of the land rich is no longer in charge?
For a man who has made an art form out of answering questions nobody asked and ignoring those that are, it may have been Turner’s piece de’ resistance. We can believe he told the truth. We might also believe reporters asked the wrong question. It can also be conceived that a man who is Chairman of the United Nations Foundation and has donated more than $2-Billion to various arms of the United Nations sustainability initiative, “selling” water rights to the United Nations would be contrary to form. Donating those rights in whole, or declaring them an accessible public trust dedicated in perpetuity to UN oversight is a very likely option.
Given the state of the world and future projections regarding fresh drinking water, selling those water rights for an outrageous profit for himself or his children might also seem an obvious play.
With billions of people on the planet now thoroughly trained that their drinking water comes in $3-plastic bottles rather than for pennies a month at the household faucet, Turner’s land holdings and ancillary water rights carry obvious strategic value even as experts warn of a water scarce future with very predictable impacts on the value of every water source in the world. When a businessman of Ted Turner’s historically nosey acumen stakes a claim with such obvious connotations, only fools and simpletons fail to notice.
And the water wars are already waging.
Swiss bottled water giant, Nestle pockets more than $6-billion annually from bottled water sales in North America alone, and continues to expand their bottling rights with 100 factories in 36 nations, two of which are contracted to draw 130-million gallons from Lake Michigan, ironically, just miles from the town of Flint, where residents can’t safely drink their tap water because of contamination and where state and local leaders have done virtually nothing to utilize other water sources to alleviate the shortage. Billionaire entrepreneur, Elon Musk recently promised to fund a new water system for Flint.
All in all, the present profiteering on a once ubiquitous, abundant, communal and occipital natural resource raises aquifer-deep questions about ownership of the natural features of a nation, strategic disadvantages of corporate ownership of a survival staple and the sheer silliness and economic intractability of having corporations, non-governmental authorities or anyone else for that matter, sucking up and selling back to us the exact water that laps alongside us on lake and river shores and lies buried beneath the very soles of our feet.
More troubling, the extant possibility that the United Nations resident billionaire bulldog on Agenda 21 resource sustainability, resource redistribution and “equitable distribution of world resources,” has carved a massive foothold on the American continent, replete with the most precious, non-renewable and fragile life essential resource on the planet.
But like those Georgia Guidestones you built 40 years ago, you know, the ones that call for a 90% global population reduction down to 500-million? I’m sure there’s nothing at all to be worried about.