Opinion » Shredder

The new normal?

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So this man’s not feeling well, so he goes to his doctor, who looks him over and then prescribes him a course of pills.

“When you get home, immediately take the red one with a big glass of water. After lunch, take the yellow one with another glass of water. Then around 4 p.m., take the green one with plenty of water. After dinner, take the blue pill with a glass of water, and right before bed, take the orange pill with a glass of water.”

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“Good lord,” the man exclaimed. “What in the world is wrong with me, doc?”

“You’re dehydrated,” replied the doctor.

I’m not sure if you’re aware, but SLO County’s experiencing a severe drought. Lawns are brown … er, I mean “gold.” Trees are dying slow deaths. Laguna Lake has turned into a meadow. It’s not good, and if you’re part of the crowd who thinks the forecasted El Niño will save us, you’re nuts. Scientists say we’ll need several years of above average rainfall to get back to any semblance of normal. 

The state’s forced communities to cut water use, and most have, but conservation means less revenue for water districts, who in order to cover fixed costs such as infrastructure maintenance and debt repayment have had to charge water users more.

“Good job conserving! Sorry we have to charge you more for water now!”

That, of course, makes people surly. It’s especially tough on those on a fixed income. Readers Digest subscriptions and Depends™ aren’t cheap, people!

Here in SLO Town, most residents have already swapped out their toilets for low-flow years ago, and more SLOhemians are installing gray water systems and xeriscaping their yards. Cal Poly dudes have even been doing their part: “If it’s yellow, let it mellow, bro. If it’s brown, flush it down.”

Basically, there’s not much more that conservation-minded SLO Town residents can do. I’m already watering my houseplant with the dog water dregs before refilling Fido’s bowl. Dog drool is murder on my fichus, but I’m a team player. There’s also a 5-gallon bucket in my shower, which I barely use anyway because I’m something of a Francophile. I like to let my pheromones bloom, so to speak.

Meanwhile to the north and south, it seems some people don’t want to do their part. In Santa Margarita, for instance, citizens rejected a proposed water rate hike by gathering petition signatures (probably mostly scrawled X’s … “Thar’s my mark. Now go give them revenuers hell! Yee-haw!”). Of course, you can’t fight the “gubment,” and now Santa Margarita is facing an even bigger rate hike, which they plan to protest before the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 15 because the first rejection worked out so well.

“OK, Santa Margarita, if you don’t like that rate hike, try this even bigger one!”

And don’t even get me started about the Paso Robles area. Between vineyards and all those McMansions, they seem to think water falls free from the sky. Things are bone-dry down in Nipomo too, but luckily we have our hardworking team of “collegial” supervisors hard at work on a solution to save us from ourselves.

Groundwater basins in both Paso and Nipomo are beyond stressed, and unfortunately, well users continue to pump at unsustainable rates. They’re now using the dregs, what’s being called “ancient water,” which if they were smart they’d pump into wee bottles and re-label “ancient artisanal water” and sell it to yuppies. 

At the last meeting on Oct. 27, the five supervisors bickered like children over what to do, and predictably, 4th District Supervisor Lynn Compton and 5th District Supervisor Debbie Arnold were more interested in protecting property owners’ rights than in creating usage rules that might actually mitigate the crisis.

As far as Compton is concerned, this isn’t even a shared problem. While she’s technically correct that not all wells draw from the exact same water table, that doesn’t mean well users can drill deeper and keep sucking more water out of the aquifer until nothing but dust comes out. Everyone has neighbors, and neighbors should be considerate of one another and learn to share the burden of conservation.

Meanwhile, Arnold put out a press release acting as sort of a dissenting opinion of the three sane supervisors’ vote to approve a plan to require conservation. Here’s my response: “Dear Debbie, you’re part of a democracy. You voted on a plan. Your side lost. Thanks for the press release, but it’s meaningless.”

All these water woes seem to bring out the worst in people, and if things continue as they have, even California may not be immune to further conflict.

Around the world, 780 million people don’t have access to safe drinking water, according to the United Nations. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development predicts that by 2030, 47 percent of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas.

Will California be one of them? If we can’t learn to work together and conserve even more, the answer will undoubtedly be yes.

The Shredder is all wet, or at least he’d like to be. Send ideas and comments to shredder@newtimesslo.com.

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