Lack of Clean Drinking Water

“Water, taken in moderation, cannot hurt anybody” – Mark Twain

Maybe the radical ecologists and environmentalists were right. The battle for the earth’s limited resources is intensifying, and we find ourselves running low on the simplest of necessities, like clean drinking water.

I’m not talking about sub-Saharan Africa. No, the crisis has reached our shores right here in America. The city of Portland just found itself 8 million gallons short of drinking water. That’s not to say that people went without, the city just found itself with 8 million fewer gallons than expected.

“Why is that?” you ask. It turns out that security cameras caught a young man urinating in the reservoir. So, the city flushed the whole thing (story here).

Overreaction? Depends on who you are. If you’re a rational human being, then I suppose it is. If you’re a Portland resident, then I suppose the answer is still “yes”. Urine is sterile. Furthermore, the reservoir is drained twice a year for cleaning, and crews find “animal carcasses, paint cans, construction material, fireworks debris and even the plastic bags people use to scoop up after their dogs.” (Is this worse than pee? YEP.)

But, if you’re a city bureaucrat who doesn’t want to have to field calls from grossed-out residents, then it’s perfectly reasonable. That’s David Shaff’s reasoning. He’s the head of the city’s water administration, and noted “Nobody wants to drink pee, and I don’t want to deal with the 100 people who would be unhappy that I’m serving them pee in their water.” That’s right, he doesn’t want to deal with the people.

The water is apparently “worth” $28,000. If we take Shaff’s “100 person” estimate at face value, he’s willing to spend $280 a person to avoid a difficult phone call that would last all of about 2 minutes while he explains that there are absolutely no health concerns. That’s a pretty steep price tag for convenience. But why not? It’s not his money – it’s the people’s. Bureaucrats are unshy about spending other people’s money to make their lives easier.

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