BY DONNA WESTFALL
Recently I drove down Northcrest and past some blue plastic rain barrels for sale and thought, “I’ve got to buy one of those.” Then, promptly forgot to put it on my list of things to do and completely forgot about it until reading in the news around the nation that some states have put restrictions on residents collecting rainwater, while some southwestern states have incentives for collecting rainwater. (Texas, New Mexico and Arizona).
I put the question out to about 2 dozen people about their understanding of collecting rainwater.
Well, let me tell you that it has become quite a heated discussion. Quick facts (some of which may need to be double checked); our Smith River is down to 8 feet. Normal is 24 feet. Where do we get our water? From the Smith River. Will our area run out of water? Doubtful if it’s true we’re sitting on top of a huge aquifer. But there is a concern. We have natural asbestos in the soils of the Smith River. Do we need to be concerned about drinking asbestos from our faucets?
What about companies coming into our area like a Nestlé’s? In other areas of the globe, they are sucking out so much water as to leave angry residents with slim pickings and big worries.
About 5 years ago, I met with then Mayor Irene Tynes and Councilmember Rich Enea to discuss the sewer project; and one of the subjects we tossed around was the issue of attracting businesses and creating jobs.
With the abundance of water in this area, it seemed like a natural to create a water bottling company and distributing it. When I pitched the idea, I recall Tynes said it was impractical because of the shipping/distribution costs. At that time, I didn’t think to respond, “What about all the bottled water shipped into Crescent City?”
If we were to start our own bottling company, and let’s say it’s only for our local market so it would start out small; what would happen to the city’s collection and distribution of water?
With only 8 feet of water in the Smith River, would a water bottling company be able to sustain itself in drought years to the detriment of the residents?
On Friday, January 17th, our Governor Brown just declared a State of Emergency. Speaking at a San Francisco news conference, Brown called on “all citizens” to cut back “at least 20% of their water use.”
With our water supply dwindling, would the city place restrictions on residents collecting rainwater?
Now that the city raised the water rates and councilmembers declared we will never have a water shortage, I believe it’s time to enact some legislation to protect our right to collect rainwater.
And remember to never say, “never.”