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The Politics of Water or Goodbye to Street Showers

When I was growing up in Brooklyn, the dog days of summer were marked by the delighted squeals of children, and sometimes their parents, cooling off under the shooting geysers of city water freed from neighborhood fire hydrants. Someone had managed to dismantle city property, sending streams of public water shooting skyward before falling back to the steamy streets to soak and refresh the sweltering kids. It wasn'tlegal, of course - but, boy, was it fun! The fire, police and water departments never pursued the offenders. Instead, city workers, with good humor, reassembled the fire plugs, watched the wasted water flow down the streets and then into the storm drains. There was no angst over wasted water at that time and in that place.

Those times are certainly gone (if they ever existed) in San Diego. Children dancing around lawn sprinklers and other playful uses of water are at end. Water is serious business with predictions of a "looming crisis" compounded by rate hikes and warnings to consumers to conserve water.

The looming crisis is the result of a confluence of factors ranging from a strange little fish called the Delta smelt, to the drought, to shrinking Colorado River supplies, to global warming. KPBS TV will take on these issues with "Tapped Out: San Diego's Water Future," the evening of October 18th.


But let's consider now whether the city of San Diego is handling the impending water shortage in a politically astute fashion. After all, the word politics is based on the Greek polites or citizen , and politics is the art or science of government. And whether city government imposed the water and sewer increase artfully, scientifically, or even intelligibly is questionable.

Take time to examine your latest bill from the water and sewer department and see if you understand what the increases are all about. Look at the last mailer and see if that makes it all any clearer. Check out the part that asks you to "conserve water by taking the 20 gallon challenge" and see if you can figure out how many gallons you now use and what percentage of your current usage you would have to cut to hit that 20 gallon goal. Finally, check out the water department's Web site and see if that helps you conserve water. &

If all else fails, you can voice your frustration or register your protest before the City Council at a public hearing, & at 2 p.m. on October 8th. Sounds good. & But what's the political sense behind scheduling the Council's consideration of water and sewer rate changes for a & Monday afternoon when most working San Diegans are on the job? & Why not an evening meeting?

Yes, our water situation is changing fast in both availability and cost. & This is the time when responsible politicians provide their constituents with the tools they need to prepare and cope.