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A look at the couple who use more water than LA and San Francisco combined

Here’s a long read from Mother Jones, but a good one: Lynda and Stewart Resnick have sold consumers on Wonderful pistacios and Halo/Cutie mandarin oranges, own vast groves of grapefuirt, oranges, and lemons, plus Fiji Water and Teleflora. Their success is built in part on a mastery of California’s water rules, to the point where “they are now thought to consume more of the state’s water than any other family, farm, or company… more of it in some years than what’s used by the residents of Los Angeles and the entire San Francisco Bay Area combined.”

After cutting a deal that not only got them more of the state’s limited supply of water but allowed them to sell it back to California for almost five times what they paid for it, the Resnicks have joined the state’s agriculture sector in calling for more diversion of Delta water south through the Delta Tunnels project. Their wealth and political and society connections have clearly helped the pro-tunnel side. They’ve even rebranded the project as vital to water security in the face of an earthquake or other disaster.

The Resnicks are also known as philanthropists; they recently “rebranded” their companies with an eye to making their corporate philanthropy a more public part of the business, though critics point to an expose piece that detailed poor living conditions in what is essentially a Resnick company town as a possible catalyst for that generosity. Still, their success in marketing nuts as a health food has led to increases in almond and pistacio acreage, a problem in a water-strapped state facing uncertain rainfall and critically overtapped groundwater. After years of drought, you have to have some pretty deep pockets to drill the wells you need to keep crops alive. If you are curious about “how the other half farms,” read this piece to the end, and compare the Resnick’s influence with that of a former employee, who farms 300 acres of wheat near an almond grove—when they have water.

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