As long as I have been solving water problems there has been one, consistent danger to our drinking water. It isn’t chromium. lead, fracking, drilling, or any such threat. The biggest threat to water is that leaders and citizens remain oblivious to science, oblivious to nature, and only car about water when a crisis happens.
For decades man has known that rain in California comes in big does, with a lot of time elapsing in between. So, does a goober like Jerry Brown begin a program to invest in larger reservoirs to match the constantly increasing demand? Does he begin to bring major pipelines to the wild, where damaging fires often ravage our beautiful resources? Of course not, that would be too forward thinking and it would eliminate the drama and apocalypse situations that politicians love to rise up and pretend to be super heroes.
Here in Memphis, our utility, which provides perhaps the best quality drinking water in the US, at the second lowest rate was denied their request for a modest rate increase. The increase intended for infrastructure improvements on an aging system. The debate over this issue has been historically mean and vicious with the African American community and leaders accusing the utility president of being racist, Satan, and basically out to get poor people.
But here is the creeping reality. The Memphis Sand Aquifer is degrading in quality. All aquifers are degrading in quality. In fact, all our water sources are degrading in quality. This is hard science and there is nothing man can do to reverse this situation. By nature of our industrial existence, the byproducts of our metabolism, and work, have been polluting the earth for over 100 years. Many of the contaminants are only beginning to show up in our water supplies now.
Even if we could shut down our pollution 100%, our water supplies will continue to degrade. And, because our wastes go to landfills and storm-water, only the uneducated buy into “save our water” crusades.
The reality is that we can make perfectly clean drinking water from raw sewage or nasty industrial waste, even from radioactive waste. So you see, if we updated our 50 year-old and older water treatment facilities, we would be ready for the contaminants that are headed our way. Sadly, when politics panders to the loudest voices; when leadership is not able to distinguish between good investment and bad investment; when all we care about is our pocketbook in the here-an-now, we stand in line for future water horror. We in fact become the destroyers of tomorrow’s generation.