It means something different to everyone. If you’re a builder, the key issue related to water is getting through your Water Supply Assessment so you can break ground, keep your crews busy, and begin building homes or commercial property. If you’re a water agency, the relationship to water is source and supply based, securing a steady supply from the layers of wholesalers above the agency so the end users (homeowners, HOAs, businesses, the city, etc) have a supply of clean water. A surfer, sailor, and environmentalist like myself relates to water in a more visceral manner; we spend more time than the average person in and around water, and do not find sinus infections, sore throats, and gastrointestinal problems as a result of recreation time in the ocean acceptable (akin to getting sick during every trip to the gym). Environmentalists are frustrated that the Mayor’s Office continues to turn a blind eye to the dumping of more than 180 million gallons of under-treated sewage into the ocean every day, the fact that our city has spent millions of dollars on 301h waivers from the Environmental Protection Agency to continue doing so, and refuses to take a serious look at purifying that water.
For the Colorado River guide, or the Northern California citizen and farmer, they have their own opinion of a city that continues to encourage rapid growth and does not look to solutions to minimize the amount of water it wastes. They do not understand how we can happily buy 486 million gallons of water a day from water sources that contain hundreds of millions of gallons per day of treated sewage, and industrial and agricultural runoff, to turn around and dump close to 200 million gallons of that as wastewater off of the coast without purifying and reusing that water. They do not understand how we would first turn to sucking water out of the ocean to create drinking water before we would purify our waste water for re-consumption and reuse as our neighbors in Orange County, in Scottsdale, Ariz., El Paso, Texas, and Fairfax, Va. do.
So what are we going to do about it? There are a number of issues at hand, all interrelated. We need to encourage conservation at home, in business and on the city level. This doesn’t mean “20 gallon challenges” or asking the homeowner to bear the burden of conservation. It means we need to change certain laws and standards. High water consumers must not be allowed to continue to share their cost of overuse with neighbors who conserve, as the current HOA structure allows. The family who uses twice the amount of water as their neighbor should have to pay twice as much as their neighbor, not the same rate. Building codes need to be updated to require grey water systems in all new homes and buildings to clean and reuse waste water, and proper regulations and incentives need to be put into place to require all property owners to install grey water systems in their existing homes and buildings. Commercial property owners must be given the mandate and incentives to do the same. The Mayor’s Office needs to do far more than rely on numbers that ignore the concept of waste water. His assertion that we should not purify our wastewater is based on the assumption that after you drink a glass of water you will never urinate it out; as if there is no drain or outgoing plumbing.
Rather than pursue another costly 301h waiver (which allows us to keep dumping under-treated sewage and wastewater into the ocean and making ocean enthusiasts sick), our hard-earned tax money would be far better spent upgrading our North County and South Bay water reclamation plants so that they can purify waste water. If we maintain the status quo, there is a good chance that in 2025-2030 we will either be forced out of San Diego by high costs, or our beautiful tourist-and business- attracting coastline will be littered with desalination plants and dead marine life from their intake pipes and briny solution dumped back into the surf zone.