Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Water wars, Detroit style, plus a programming note

I grew up in California, where water wars between northern and southern California are so ingrained the the culture that my ex-girlfriend who grew up in Sunnyvale used to pick fights by razzing me about how people from southern California like me, who grew up in Los Angeles, were taking northern California's water. At the time she started doing this, neither one of us had lived in California for at least a decade. She had emigrated to Canada in 1983 and I had moved to Michigan in 1989. Yes, the conflict was that ingrained in us that she was acting on it years later and more than half a continent away. Fortunately, those weren't serious fights; she was just trying to get a rise out of me for fun.

You'd think that in Michigan, which lies in the middle of the largest supply of liquid surface freshwater on the face of the planet, we'd be immune to water wars. We're not. Ours, though, aren't conflicts between a rural area that has water and an urban area that needs it. Instead, it's exactly the reverse. Roll this WXYZ clip from last January.

A lot of heat but not much light, right? That's one of the reasons why I stopped watching local TV news regularly years ago. Let's see what an organization that doesn't have the profit motive has to say about the matter.

Now do you have a better grip (on the gripping hand :-) on the issues?  I hope so. They include a wide range of the concerns of this blog--environment, politics, economics, and culture, along with a fighting over control of a piece of the pie that is complicated by the collapse of the major player. While the Detroit water system isn't a cultural institution like the local libraries or the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, which has its own major problems that I might get around to discussing, it is a powerful institution in its own right. Just look at the following map. The City of Detroit is the light blue wedge in the middle of the service area, which consists of all of the green and includes parts of eight counties and at least four million people.

Impressive, isn't it? Now you see what a big and important issue this is.

One final remark on Detroit's water.  Not only is it probably the City of Detroit's most valuable tangible resource, but it is of such good quality that both the Aquafina and Daisani bottled waters sold in Michigan are nothing but filtered Detroit city water.  If you live in the Detroit water service area, then the joke's on you; you've paid for that water twice.

Now, a programming note.  Those of you who live in Metro Detroit who are available tonight and interested in capitalism and how it has contributed to our current situation might want to check out this talk by Raj Patel (PDF).  I'll be there.  I'd better be; I'm driving him back to his hotel.

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