I’m not going to mention any names, but there’s a town in San Diego County that just did an incredibly stupid thing. Towns do stupid things all the time, of course, but for sheer obliviousness this one really stands out. Some time back a developer with a plan for developing a blighted property in the middle of this town began construction on his community-friendly, mixed-use, LEED-blessed, low carb, high fiber building.
Part of the plan was an underground parking garage that would keep quite a few cars off the street. After he had excavated about 30 feet down he hit ground water. Turns out there’s a perched water table under most of the town and under much of the neighboring town as well. It’s been there forever and has caused problems all over the area ever since people began building things there. Water leaks out of the cliffs and causes them to collapse. Water undermines buildings. Water fills basements. Water deteriorates pavement.
Still, the water, for all the problems it creates, is fresh and clean, as testing proved when the developer first hatched his Bright Idea.
The Bright Idea was to incorporate a cistern into the building and start using the water for flushing toilets, watering the landscaping, and other uses. He figured everybody would win with this approach: he’d have a ready supply of fresh, local, wholesome water for his needs, two communities would have a long-standing problem mitigated at no cost to the taxpayers, and neighboring property owners wouldn’t have to worry about their buildings collapsing into sinkholes. Oh, and the area is under a Level Two Drought Alert with up to 20 percent mandatory conservation, so it’s not like they can’t use the water.
Mr. Developer went to the City with his Bright Idea and they wiped the smile off his face in a hurry. “Sorry,” they said, “there’s no place on our forms for that kind of thing. You’re going to have to forget it. Oh, and you had better figure out someplace to get rid of all that water you’re going to have to pump out of your parking garage.” Long story short, he sucked over 26 acre feet of water out of the ground and spilled it, with the blessing of the City, onto a local beach. He’s still pumping and dumping water today, and will be for the life of the building. In the midst of a drought, with water in short supply, in a community that gets a little over 10 inches of rain in an average year and has had recent annual rainfall as low as under 3 inches, in a community that is suffering with no end in sight, the authorities chose to insist on throwing away water. No doubt there are other city officials in the same building who are working day and night to encourage citizens to conserve water. Go figure.