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Glut of water even as water costs us more

Jeff Ackerman, Publisher
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

As another year sets in the west, I’m left with water on the brain.

Lots and lots of water.

It started raining the day the Nevada Irrigation District directors raised water rates by a 4 to 1 vote. It seems it hasn’t stopped raining since.



The only NID director to vote against the rate hike said the increase had nothing to do with the cost of delivering water. She didn’t say what it did have to do with. I assume it’s an automatic year-end reflex, designed to put some aside for a rainy day, which makes no sense at all when you’re in the water business. Rainy days are good. The more the better.

Everything goes up 5 percent at the first of every year. Everything but wages, the odds for peace and, lately, stocks.




Government always explains the hikes in baby terms, hoping we’re all too hung over to use a calculator. “It will only cost the average household the price of a can of beans a week,” they boast, forgetting that the beans went up 20 percent last week.

They said the same thing about a freeway bypass in Nevada when they talked citizens into paying a nickel more at the gas pumps to pay for it.

“Over the course of a month, it will only cost the average motorist the price of a can of tuna!” city fathers proclaimed. Six years later, the bypass still isn’t open and motorists are asking for their tuna back.

Unfortunately, government never gives tuna back.

It does bother me that they never raise rates or taxes before Election Day. I have yet to hear a candidate promise to raise taxes or water rates if elected. I suppose some have tried, but they never seem to get elected.

“Vote for me and I’ll raise your rates 5 percent!” It’s much safer to fib, since voters seem to have short memories and have been known to keep fibbers in office.

Take our governor, for example. Please. He managed to get re-elected after leading California from a $9 billion surplus to a predicted $35 billion deficit. But during his campaign stumping, I didn’t hear a word from him about raising taxes or letting inmates out of prison early if elected.

He probably will try to push his luck and raise income taxes during his new term, though. That will allow his government to continue to live beyond its means.

Failing that, he’ll look to balance the budget with fee hikes and taxes on “luxury” items such as tobacco, liquor and baby formula. After four years, the deficit will be $100 billion and Californians will be too dazed to comprehend so many zeros attached to one numerical sequence.

But it will soon cost us more to register our vehicles than our vehicles are worth. And the price of cigarettes will finally exceed the price of marijuana, causing many to rethink their smoke of choice.

The water hike is designed, I suppose, to get us to use less of it. Whereas the liquor and cigarette tax increases are depending on us using more, so we can trim the $35 billion deficit to a much more manageable $33 billion.

They say our water rates won’t go up too much, provided we use less than 200 cubic feet of it per month.

I have no idea what 200 cubic feet of water looks like, but I think I had at least 800 cubic feet pouring into my garage a week ago when the culvert out front overflowed. It was raining sideways at the time. I think I saw an entire decorative reindeer flow past on its way to a premature drowning. The holiday lights trailed behind, like an electronic tail unable to grab a life preserver. It was followed closely by a plastic Santa that seemed to be flagging me down with one waving, black-gloved hand.

To compound matters, my water-heater pilot light keeps blowing out. Now that I finally have more water than I know what to do with, I can’t take a shower. The plumber, contractor and gas company guy have been fighting over my water heater for three months now.

“It’s the wind coming down through the top of the tank,” says the plumber.

“No it’s not,” says the contractor. “It’s the thermal coupler on the tank.”

“I don’t think so,” says the propane guy. “I think it’s the flume. What you need is a new restricter plate.”

I’ve gotten quite good at lighting the water heater without blowing my face off, and we’re hoping it stays that way until they find the true source of my water tank woes.

In the meantime, I’ve started my own reservoir. Maybe I can corral enough of this water before the rate hike is official.

“Where’d you get all that water?” some water official will eventually demand.

“From my garage,” I’ll respond. “It came into my garage voluntarily when it was 5 percent cheaper.”

“Before New Year’s Day?” he’ll ask.

“Yep,” I’ll stand firm. “I think it was a week before Christmas.”

“Okay,” he’ll surrender. “I’ll let it go this time, but next year keep your garage door closed.”

Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. His column appears every Tuesday.


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