Tuesday, June 30, 2015

water, water... but only if you can afford it

No doubt, you're aware that much of the southwest is in a severe drought situation.  More than once I've had friends from other parts of the US remark that they wish they could send some of their excess rain here.  Well, we'd like that too.  The primary water source for much of the area where I live is a man made lake - Lake Cachuma.  The last official number I heard was the end of March and it was down to 27% of capacity.  I'm sure it is lower now and we likely won't see any significant rainfall until October.
Lake Cachuma - everything in the foreground is supposed to be underwater

As you can imagine, the government is encouraging folk to save water.  Lawns are dead.  Water thirsty plantings are either pulled out or dead.  Many folk have buckets in their showers to catch water which is then used to water flowers or flush toilets.  Folk who can have stopped their daily showers.  The old adage, "If its yellow, let it mellow, if its brown flush it down," has been taken to new extremes.  Many households have cut back water use significantly.

You may have heard about Nestle continuing to pump water from California aquifers and sell it around the country while those who live on top of those very aquifers struggle to have enough water for daily needs.  Then there are the oil and gas companies who inject huge amounts of water in injections wells or in fracking, both using large amounts of water, and possibly/likely contaminating the aquifers upon which people depend and upon which much of California agriculture depends.  We even see stories out here of farmers using the contaminated water from oil fields to water the vegetables that many of us eat.

Well there is a third group of folk that really make my blood boil.  In the grand scheme of things they don't use as much water as either Nestle or the oil companies, but the symbolism really is infuriating.  They are the folk pointed out in this article in the Washington Post - rich folk who think that because they can afford it, they should get all of the water they want and use it in any way they please, screw the poor folk who can't flush their toilets, I deserve my lush green lawn.  In April after a state order to cut water usage by 25%, the folk in wealthy Rancho Santa Fe actually increased their usage by 9%.  According to the NY Times, daily per capita water use in Santa Fe is 427 gallons.  In July, they used 644 gallons per person per day.  Compare that to San Francisco, one of the most water effiecient areas of the state, where the daily per capita use is 44 gallons.  You read that right, 9.7 times as much water per person in Santa Fe vs. San Fran.

Here is a telling quote from the Washington Post article
People “should not be forced to live on property with brown lawns, golf on brown courses or apologize for wanting their gardens to be beautiful,” Yuhas fumed recently on social media. “We pay significant property taxes based on where we live,” he added in an interview. “And, no, we’re not all equal when it comes to water.”
We're rich so we shouldn't have to play by the same rules...

Fines don't work because the folk are rich.  Social conscience doesn't work for at least some of them... I'd like to see a limit on water use... give them a number of gallons per person per household  - make it a generous allotment, say 50% more than the state average - and when it goes above that, shut off the water.  And the tanker trucks that then drive in carrying water for those who can afford to buy from them... well, make those sales illegal until the drought is over.

This is one more example where the necessities of life are being sold to the highest bidder and for those who cannot afford to compete... too bad.

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