We All Need Water

Regardless of where you live or how much money you have, we all depend on the same vital resources.

Does Tom Selleck deserve more water than you? Are his avocados more deserving of this precious resource than your houseplants? Or your kids?

Mr. Selleck must have thought so. The Calleguas Municipal Water District in Ventura County, California, filed a lawsuit against him on June 30 for allegedly repeatedly having a tanker truck fill up at a public hydrant and deliver the water to his ranch.

The area in Ventura County where Selleck’s ranch is located is under mandatory cutbacks as high as 36 percent from 2013. According to local news reports, the district claims it sent Selleck cease-and-desist letters aimed at halting the unlawful water deliveries, but the truck was spotted as recently as March filling up at the hydrant and delivering water to the ranch.

If you’re not from the American West, if can be difficult to understand the battles that are fought over water rights. People don’t typically have to worry about an adequate supply of water in states like Wisconsin and Vermont. Farmers get what they need, and so does everyone else — from city residents to industrial plants. Anyone who buys land can drill a well, simple as that.

It’s a different story for those living in places like Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, and especially, California. The fight for water is turning ugly. Americans are used to getting all the water – and anything else – they want, but eventually and inevitably, some resources simply run dry.

In Rancho Santa Fe, a wealthy community in Southern California, water use has risen substantially since the new restrictions went into effect. The community has given a collective, well-hydrated middle finger to everyone else in the state.

In a Washington Post story detailing the battle, local resident Steve Yuhas is quoted as saying, “We pay significant property taxes based on where we live. And, no, we’re not all equal when it comes to water.” Yuhas took to social media to proclaim people “should not be forced to live on property with brown lawns, golf on brown courses or apologize for wanting their gardens to be beautiful.” Forced to live on property with brown lawns? Are you kidding me?

Aside from how disgusting that sounds in terms of wealth and entitlement, it points to a much bigger issue: the fair use and distribution of a resource we all need to survive. Water equals life, and a billionaire doesn’t have any more right to life than you or me.

North of Rancho Santa Fe, in Mountain House, California, the local water utility recently inked a deal that guarantees a modest supply of water through the end of 2015. Yes, 2015. This community could completely cease to exist because the water supply has run dry, while Mr. Yuhas does his damnedest to stay out of his own brown grass hell and Magnum P.I. steals water by the truckload (allegedly) for his precious avocados. I love avocados, especially with a dash of salt and squeeze of lime, but how does a small green fruit become more important than an entire state and all its people?

No one values water until they don’t have enough. The number of people in that camp is growing rapidly. Maybe this is an opportunity for water utilities across the country to redefine the value of water, the value of their work and the importance of conservation.

If not, the wet will get wetter while the dry turn to dust.

Let’s find a better way.

Enjoy this month’s issue.


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