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Water future safe in state’s hands? I trust my Mom

Another View
By: Tony Hazarian, Auburn Journal publisher
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Now that it appears the Legislature has a handle on the state’s future water needs, it’s time for all of us to suck it up. We’re talkin’ water conservation, folks. And not just fixing leaky faucets or taking five-minute showers, but life-changing conservation measures that will make us view water as the liquid gold it is. As Californians in good standing, we’re all being asked to save 20 percent – which really isn’t more than what we’re asking businesses for these days, right? When was the last time “10 percent off” lured you into the grocery store or a local restaurant? And we’re being asked to do this in conjunction with spending $9.99 billion – or more – on bonds to build dams and a canal around the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. I can just see state Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, sitting around the table, late at night, with his lawmaking buddies: “The real cost is probably between $10 billion and $15 billion for what we want to do, but taxpayers aren’t going to go for that,” I imagine Steinberg saying. “You know, with all the furloughs and that 10 percent income tax advance we just hit them with, they’re not really happy right now,” he says. “Then what are we going to do? We need that water!” his Bay Area and Southern California allies reply. “We’ve drained the Colorado River, and Hetch Hetchy might be next. No way we can let our pools and avocado orchards dry up.” “OK, I got it,” Steinberg says. “Gasoline.” “Gasoline? No, D, we’re talking water, not transportation. We can’t drink or swim in gas!” his cronies say, twisting in their pinstripe suits. “Gasoline pricing,” Steinberg says. “Whatever we price the bonds at, we end the figure in ‘point 99,’ just like gas station signs. It will sound like a flat-out bargain.” “Brilliant!” his peers say, mimicking those beer commercial dudes. But that’s just our hard-earned money going down the drain, right? What really matters is that we all pitch in to save water. All of the water we have on this planet is all we’ll ever get, so we better save every drop we can. That’s what I was told by my Mom when I was a teenager, growing up in San Jose. In 1976 and 1977, Northern California endured one of the worst state droughts on record, and my post Depression-era Mom was on the prowl in our suburban tract home. In the kitchen, dishes were hand washed and rinsed in the same basin. Any water that ran waiting to be warmed was caught in a bowl and taken outside to nourish the parched plants. In the bathroom, low-flow showerheads were installed and “military” showers were the rule. If you weren’t rinsing, water wasn’t flowing. Warming water was caught in buckets and used to flush the nearby toilets, which had a couple of bricks in the tank to reduce water use. The washing machine ran only for a full load, and unless our clothes were grass-stained or “stunk to high heaven,” as my Mom would say, we were expected to wear them a second or third time. Outside, the lawns went from green to gold to light brown, just like the oak-studded hillsides. The yard got watered sparingly, and when a car needed cleaning it was washed on the front lawn. I’m sure there were other tricks my Mom employed that we never knew of. Truth was, we didn’t know any better than to conserve water. And we didn’t feel like we were missing out on anything. (For modern-day conservation techniques, go to the Placer County Water Agency Web site at pcwa.net) Today, asking my own teenagers to take a 15-minute shower sounds like an imposition. And when I see a handful of clothes in the washer, I scream silently. So maybe Steinberg and the Legislature are just giving us all a dose of tough love. Maybe we should be thanking them for the opportunity to spend another $10 billion we don’t have and accelerate the fall colors in our yards. Maybe? Maybe? I can think of cheaper ways. I’ll just call my Mom.