Kalyana Algrabeli, a longtime Nevada County resident, just returned from a trip down the United States’ West Coast — on bicycle. It was a journey she called “Water is More Precious Than Gold.”
Algrabeli was born and raised in Long Island, N.Y., but has lived in Nevada County since 2008. Passionate about the Yuba River, water rights and the possible ramifications of the reopening of a North San Juan mine, Maitri set out to tour the West Coast in search of water and others who are just as passionate about protecting it.
Algrabeli’s journey began June 4, fittingly in the San Juan Islands, off the coast of Seattle. Immediately, she was made aware of water issues plaguing other communities. In the San Juan Islands, locals there are dealing with the creation of a Mega Coal Export Terminal in Whatcom County. In a blog post, Algrabeli noted. “(The terminal) would send tankers three football fields and longer cruising through the San Juan Islands and other pristine waterways, transporting coal from Montana and beyond (which has made a sooty journey on freight trains to get there) and transporting it to China.”
Local folks in the San Juan Island community have very much the same concerns as folks in our local community of North San Juan, she said. Will access to safe and clean water be lost because businesses with a record of pollution have the right of way?
Algrabeli experienced similar concerns from other communities. In her more than 2,000-mile adventure, she visited many water-rich communities in Washington and Oregon and rode her way through Port Angeles, Astoria, Arcata, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and San Diego, to name a few highlights. Algrabeli hit the Mexican border July 30, completing her travels and her search for water.
Algrabeli’s journey of intense physical action and community connectivity speaks to the nature of water and what it means. Three quarters of the earth is covered in water, and all of the earth’s water is ultimately connected. In the book “Taking on Water,” author Wendy Pabich notes, “Only 2.5 percent of all water of the planet is fresh, with most of that locked in ice or inaccessible as groundwater, leaving about 1 percent of all water on earth available for human use.”
She goes on to note how vulnerable that water resource is by pointing out that “(water) is very easy to pollute — improper disposal of the used oil from just one oil change can contaminate a million gallons of water.”
Just a small infraction of water pollution can have an egregious effect on a community’s water supply.
Algrabeli witnessed the scarcity of precious, clean water while on her journey. She notes, “As far north as Mendocino, towns were on Stage 2 water alert and not allowing people to fill more than one 5-gallon jug at the health food store at a time. In Monterey County, in the town of Gorda, there was literally no potable water in the entire town; everything people drank was trucked in.”
Algrabeli recalls with alarm, “As I descended the coast, I could feel the degradation of water quality as I went, picturing the water’s long journey. My trip culminated with the very first use of my lifestraw, an emergency water filter, on San Diego tap water because it was that bad, and there were no other alternatives. It was a surreal glimpse into the future of urban water scarcity.”
Algrabeli sums up her trip with succinct passion in her travel notes: “There is a very real cause-and-effect chain that is responsive in our universe. On the road, in constant motion, without the habit, pattern or attachments to our everyday lives — each decision we make, from where to eat, how long to stop at a stop sign, when we pick up the phone, to which side street we turn on, it all leads directly to a result. Sometimes we find something we weren’t expecting.”