Jul 4 2014
Is water a basic human right? There are literally thousands of books and
papers written attempting to answer this question. This five hundred or so
word blog cannot possibly be a silver bullet to provide an answer for the
fact that thousands of people die every day, seven days a week, all
year-long from lack of access to clean (potable) water. The air is free to
breath, so why not water?
For one thing, except for heavily industrialized parts of the world where
there are scant regulations on polluters, the air is relatively clean and
healthy. I qualified “clean and healthy” since nature pollutes itself with
dust from high winds, volcanic eruptions and odoriferous gases in places
like Yellowstone Park.
The question leading this blog is the wrong question. As Edward Friedman
says in his book, “A Failure of Nerve; Leadership in the Age of the Quick
Fix”, when the wrong question is asked, then the answers lead in the wrong
direction. What is the right question?
The right question is: Is clean water delivered to your kitchen faucet a
basic human right? I am not going to get into the weeds of who is the
decider of this question. That is for another day. Let’s focus on the
question asked in this paragraph.
Delivered into the mailbox yesterday was “The City of San Diego 2013 Annual
Drinking Water Quality Report“, a twelve page document that few will read,
and even fewer understand. It is well done and helps answer the “right
question”. A couple of pages into the report is a narrative about the
sources of our water and more importantly, the quality of that incoming
water. While it points out that water from the State Water Project is
subject to potential contaminants such as pesticides and herbicides, it also
goes into engineer-speak saying that water has “a higher organic carbon and
bromide level than the Colorado River Water.” Got that? No, apparently not,
it is not all that clear.
There are literally thousands of small, medium and large wastewater
treatment plants that dump partially treated sewage into the incoming water
upstream from our water treatment plants. In fact Las Vegas is subsidized on
their water rates because they partially treat Las Vegas sewage and then
recirculate it back into Lake Mead. That’s what they mean by “organic carbon
and bromide levels”. Yes, there is a “yuck factor” there, but it is well
disguised. All the little circles and triangles in the highlighted link are sewage plants.
When Pat Mulroy, the retired water Las Vegas water czar was asked if water
is a basic human right (paraphrasing) she said sure, get your bucket and get
all you want out of Lake Mead. Her point is cleaning up the water and
delivering it to water users is not free. There are significant costs
attached to the process. So the answer to the question asked earlier in this
blog is no, it is not a basic human right to have clean water delivered to
your kitchen faucet. Certainly, as with energy usage, there are lifeline
allowances, but clean, delivered water is not free.
As an aside, tea was extremely important to early American Colonists since
water sources were contaminated. Water needed to be boiled. What better way
to consume it than to make tea and thus the original tea party was born when
the King George taxed it to penalize the Colonists.
What about those thousands who are dying every day due to lack of clean
water? Stay tuned.
By Milt Burgess • Blog • 0 • Tags: augmentation, California Aqueduct, Colorado River, conservation, El Nino, La Nina, MWD, precipitation, purification, rainfall, residential water user, SDCWA, State Water Project, water rate hike, water Storage