Has the Walton family gained an outsized influence over a crucial environmental crisis?

Colorado River.
(Image credit: PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

The Walton family, billionaire heirs to the Walmart Inc. fortune, have been very involved in efforts to solve the water shortage crisis on the Colorado River, a Wall Street Journal analysis found. Over the past decade, they've given around $200 million to various advocacy groups, universities, and media outlets devoted to helping the river bounce back, putting them far ahead of any other donor to the cause, per the Journal.

While that sounds like a good thing — and there clearly are benefits — there are some skeptics who feel that the Walton's preference for water markets as a solution isn't the right approach because it could lead to a rush of outside speculators investing in water, potentially to the disadvantage of farmers and the poor. And considering the money they've invested, as well as the fact that two officials in the Biden administration were once affiliated with the Waltons' foundation, there are concerns that the family has secured an outsized influence on policy discussions surrounding the Colorado River Basin, the Journal writes.

University of Oxford water-resource researcher Dustin Garrick told the Journal that the foundation's giving has "sharpened the divide between those at the table and those left behind." For example, Gary Wockner, founder of the environmental group Save the Colorado, said his funds were cut off after he pushed back against some policy ideas from other Walton family recipients. "I was told 'you're out of alignment,'" he told the Journal. Read more at The Wall Street Journal.

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Tim O'Donnell

Tim is a staff writer at The Week and has contributed to Bedford and Bowery and The New York Transatlantic. He is a graduate of Occidental College and NYU's journalism school. Tim enjoys writing about baseball, Europe, and extinct megafauna. He lives in New York City.