May 27 2014
Two billion dollars to fix potholes in San Diego streets, but nothing for
water? I looked in vain for any mention of water in the UT San Diego article
by David Garrick today (5/27/2014). The water systems in this city are not
part of the infrastructure? Who would know? Perhaps a look at the definition
of the word will help:
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines infrastructure as: The system of
public works of a country, state, or region. Pretty simple. Public works
include water and sewer systems, and roads and bridges.
There is little doubt the potholes need filling, but the drought continues
unabated, Northern California continues to avoid sending their water south,
and this city’s allocation from the ever-diminishing, over-drafted Colorado
River dries up, few will care whether the potholes are filled or not.
Despite the filing of the County Grand Jury’s Report on May 10 that has yet
to claim even one column inch in the UT, and the whining headline at the top
of the first page of today’s paper, all interest seems to be on spending two
billion on everything except water.
Councilmember Sheri Lightner understands that filling potholes is a want,
and water is a need. Paved streets, pothole-free look great, but if the
water is gone, so will the people who drive on those street be gone. Why is
this a hard concept to get into the political brain?
Filled potholes garner a lot more votes. Even the smell of raising water
rates so San Diego can fund water projects is antithetical to the
politicians. So everything is a political calculus, despite the continuous
hand-wringing and blather coming out of the mouths of the City Council
(Sheri Lightner exempted).
For the past thirty years through many mayors and councilmembers the mantra
is, “toss the EPA and the citizens of San Diego an occasional bone on water
issues to keep the unwashed (couldn’t help myself) masses at bay, while we
work on getting the most lucrative pension possible for ourselves. Too
critical? Check the history of the “Pension Crisis”.
So the Associated Press does a story about the intractability of the senior
water rights holders in Northern California where fewer than five thousand
people and corporations literally consume trillions of acre-feet of water
that costs them virtually nothing to grow rice shipped to China. Does this
move the ball anywhere for San Diego? Absolutely not, but as a friend of
mine was fond of saying, “it’s interesting, but not fascinating. Because
nothing short of nationalizing the water sources in California will change
how those five thousand senior water rights holders will use their water.
Meanwhile the citizens of San Diego are bullied and beat into submission to
take shorter showers and refrain from washing cars in the street, and of
course, use a bucket to catch the shower water as it reaches bathing
temperature, while trillions of acre-feet are spread across the rice paddies
in the Delta.
About the time I began researching water data to write “Water Shock, The Day
Southern California Went Dry”, the City Council passed the ordinance that
prohibited potable recycling. I don’t recall ever seeing that ordinance
until very recently. That ordinance directed city workers to refrain from
even writing or talking about recycling wastewater.
The most significant event in recent history has been the formation of the
Water Policy Implementation Task Force put together by Councilmember Sheri
Lightner. Their report recommended highly that potable recycling be a
significant part of the city’s water policy. They reported to the City
council in 2013, but nothing has been done to date. Unfortunately for the
City’s taxpayers the Water Purification Pilot Plant continues to dump its
water into the purple pipe irrigation system, spending over three quarters
of a million dollars a year in the process. What a boondoggle and waste of
taxpayer’s money. The County Grand Jury recommended shutting it down
So while Councilmember Mark Kersey and his “Infrastructure Committee” goes
blithely forward attempting to spend two billion dollars filling politically
expedient potholes, the city sits at the mercy of water obtained hundreds of
miles away subject to natural disasters and capricious courts, with County
reservoirs being drained as the drought continues. It’s hard to miss the
water elephant in the room unless of course you are suffering from political