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As a native San Diegan who returned home after college, there’s an image that always pops into my head as I go about my daily business of doing media relations and producing publications for Biocom, the Southern California life science association.
I’m sure anyone who was in San Diego in the early 1990s can remember the dripping faucet series of commercials aimed at getting citizens to conserve water. These stark, almost black-and-white commercials consisted of a slowly dripping faucet, with each drop echoing thunderously, urging people to do their part to conserve water by checking leaks and not letting the tap run. Clearly, these commercials did their job with me, as pretty much every time I brush my teeth I find myself thinking about these ads. (If anyone has found them on YouTube, I’d love to see a link.)
Water, of course, is a major topic on the pages of voiceofsandiego.org recently, and living in a city that imports 90 percent of its water and is in the midst of a major drought (and rationing like was threatened in the early 1990s), it isn’t something that is going to go away.
And with something as contested as water rights, there have been some major pieces of both journalism and art that have looked at this issue from all sides and left a major impression on me that I wanted to draw some attention to.
There have been some excellent bloggers who have addressed this issue here on the pages of Café San Diego, including this look at our neighbors to the north in Orange County who recently opened up a massive groundwater replenishment water recycling facility, and this look at the process of indirect potable reuse.
The New York Times Magazine ran a recent story with the tough-to-swallow title of “A Tall, Cool Drink of … Sewage?” taking a look at the half-a-billion dollar Orange County Groundwater Replenishment System and coming to the conclusion that “no naturally occurring water on earth is absolutely pure. And most everything that’s in Orange County’s reclaimed water is in most cities’ drinking water anyway.” Coincidentally, Elizabeth Royte, the author of the piece, recently wrote a book about bottled water, called Bottlemania, a subject of another eye-opening New York Times magazine story on waste associated with those ubiquitous plastic bottles of water.
There are two granddaddy pieces of art in the water wars of California, Roman Polanski’s 1974 neo-noir film Chinatown, complete with Jack Nicholson as gumshoe detective, Faye Dunaway as the femme-fatale and John Huston as the twisted magnate. The other is Cadillac Desert, Mark Reisner’s entertaining and authoritative history on all the water politics of California, which took several years to research and write, and was eventually made into an excellent PBS documentary. If you’ve ever driven up the 395 to Mammoth and wondered why, 300 miles north of Los Angeles, the chain-link fences and land behind them are noted as property of the Los Angeles District of Water and Power, you’d be hard pressed to find a more entertaining, or interesting, answer to that question.