Saturday, January 3

Water Allocation

Yesterday, the Gaggle and I met at LCC and had wonderful conversation and coffee. The most important thing that we talked about was water shortages, water rights, and an inexplicable apathy that seems to be pervasive in the affluent. What I mean is that many people who have an abundance of water don’t think twice about it.

Claire researched global water shortages for a class, and she set the scene: the Colorado River supplies water to parts of seven U.S. states, and then moves into Mexico. However, by the time it gets to Mexico, the water is polluted and must be very, very processed to be made drinkable. Also, the river is nearly dry at the delta.

The specifics of this situation are not necessarily important. What is important is to ponder some overarching questions: who owns water? What is a water right? And lastly, when does it become our problem?

Is it acceptable that seven U.S. states signed a compact deciding the fate of this water, and Mexico did not?

Who gets to determined how the water is used? Do homeowners have the right to use water as they wish? Is it acceptable for Mexico to have to pay higher fees for processing, if the U.S. inhabitants polluted the water?

Is it acceptable and appropriate for people in L.A. to have huge swimming pools and take thirty-minute showers when people at the other end of the river have no drinking water?

Thoreau writes, “if [the machine of government] is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.”

If we passed a thirsty man on the street, surely we would stop and give him water. Why, then, do we feel free to abuse our water privileges while people in the world are drinking polluted water? This is not a matter of a “right,” but a matter of human decency. As far as I’m concerned, we should be foremost concerned with the basic needs of every human that we can. Only at that point can we begin to think about swimming pools.

The big question that I am grappling with is “why don’t more people care?” I mean, why have we set a cultural standard for green lawns, no matter what the time of year or part of the country? Why are we running the shower water when we’re soaping up? Why do we flush the toilet after every use at the expense of eight gallons (average) of potable water?

And why aren’t more people clamoring for change?

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