Opposition to the trading of California’s Water Supply on Wall Street
March 19, 2023


Whereas, in 2020 Wall Street began trading water futures, specifically in California, as a commodity.  The country’s first water market launched on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on December 7, 2020, with $1.1 billion in contracts tied to water prices in California, according to Bloomberg News; and

Whereas, the United States is the second biggest consumer of water in the world, with California accounting for 9% of the nation’s daily consumption. The size of California’s water market is four times larger than any other state; and

Whereas, the market allows farmers, hedge funds, and municipalities to hedge bets on the future price of water and water availability in the American West. The new trading scheme was announced in September 2020, prompted by the region’s worsening heat, drought, and wildfires fueled by climate change. We must also consider the effects of population growth and pollution; and

Whereas, the California State Constitution requires that the water be used “reasonably” for a “beneficial use;” and

Whereas, some experts say treating water as a tradable commodity puts a basic human right into the hands of financial institutions and investors, a dangerous arrangement as climate change alters precipitation patterns and increases water scarcity; and

Whereas, the CFT has an obligation to address social justice, racial justice, and climate issues that could put its members as well as the general population in the State of California at risk; and

Whereas, water is a life-sustaining natural resource that is necessary for the survival of the human race; it should not be treated as a common commodity, like that of gold or oil; and 

Whereas, if the trading of water on Wall Street continues unopposed, we may find that this natural resource becomes more at risk and less plentiful for poor people, working people, people of color, and people living in less affluent communities; and

Whereas, if the trading of water continues unopposed in the state of California, it may become a trend, and other drought-affected and agricultural states throughout the United States could begin to do the same; and

Whereas, the world has already seen these types of blatant racial differences in Flint, Michigan, the Navajo Nation, and most recently, northeastern Oregon. The move to sell water futures in California stands as a foreboding indicator of the transformation of water from a basic right into a limited-access luxury. It is a frightening expansion of a reality that already exists for poor, Black and brown, and Native American communities across the country; and

Whereas, the CFT represents communities that will be affected by the trading of water futures.  

Therefore, be it resolved, that the CFT publicly oppose the commodification of water in the State of California; and

Be it further resolved, that the CFT work with legislators and other public figures to address the concerns of this resolution; and

Be it further resolved, that the CFT commit to making its members aware of the commodification of water in the State of California; and

Be it further resolved, that the CFT consider running a public campaign against the current trading of water futures in the State of California; and 

Be it finally resolved, that the CFT forward this resolution to AFT for adoption at the 2024 AFT Convention.

  • Submitted by Ethnic Diversity in Leadership Committee and Labor and Climate Justice Committee