Sunday, December 28, 2014

Bob Dunning: Psst, you didn’t hear it from us, but …


From page A2 | May 19, 2013 |

Yes, all you water lovers, that May 1 deadline for the beginning of our brave new water rates came and went faster than you can say “fluoride.” Indeed, the cactification of Davis has begun in earnest.

Nurseries far and wide are hoping to cash in on the water conservation craze by pushing the buzz phrase of the month: “drought tolerant.”

Soon we will wake up to cacti sprouting where the lilacs used to bloom. Mum’s the word is you like mums, but be sure to get the ones that bloom after Nov. 1 when water rates plunge.

No more water balloon fights on the last day of school. No more running through the sprinklers in your bare feet. No more hosing down the driveway.

If you want to wash the car, park it on your last remaining patch of grass so that the sudsy runoff at least waters the lawn. Or wait until your neighbor washes his car in the driveway and pump his runoff out of the gutter onto your petunias.

It’s a time for creativity. It’s a time for innovation. It’s a time for the creative juices that abound in Davis to begin flowing. If anyone can solve this problem, we can.

This is where my friend Grant comes in, writing to say he wants to “share with you my plan for dealing with the water rate increases.”

There you go. Yet another Davisite performing his civic duty by sharing water secrets that, if employed by everyone, will ultimately cause our water rates to skyrocket even more. Yes, this $113 million project is a fixed cost that must be paid even if none of us uses a single drop of water. It’s a heavy debt hanging on our shoulders that will not be lightened simply by using less water.

“As you undoubtedly know,” Grant begins knowingly, “the key to subverting this evil scheme is to severely decrease your water use from May to October.” Ah yes, the city-defined endless summer that runs from May Day through Halloween, when the city will ultimately charge six times as much for water.

“While I have no problem changing the daily shower routine or peeing into a fluorescent-colored toilet, I’m not sure the rest of my family is ready to follow my lead on this.”

Grant, let me stop you right there. You can’t say “peeing” in a family newspaper. Davis children are so precocious that some of them actually read the paper front to back.

“In keeping with the spirit of our city, we held a family vote, but I told them we were only voting to agree that something needed to be done to reduce our water use and conveniently left out the details of how they were going to pay for their votes. As luck would have it, the ‘yea’ votes came in at 50 percent, which is 0.50 as a decimal, and everyone knows that you round that up to 1, so the plan was effective on May 1.”

I’ll use that the next time we’re voting on whether to go to Disneyland or Fairytale Town.

“The plan starts with my official Water Use Request Form, with which each member of the family must submit a request for the next day’s water use. The person desiring the water must indicate the purpose for the water, the amount of water requested, and how he/she expects to reimburse the household for the cost of the water. All requests will be processed in the evening, and approval/denial notices will be delivered in the morning.

“Exempt from the Water Use Request policy will be toilet use, although the standard water conservation policy of ‘if it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down,’ will be upgraded to ‘if it’s yellow, let it mellow until you can’t stand the smello,’ and ‘if it’s brown, let it drown until you can’t see that far down.’ “

Second warning, Grant. Family newspaper. I hear kids giggling in the background even as we speak. Three strikes and you’re out.

As sound as his plan is, Grant still fears that those Davisites who can afford to leave town for extended periods in the summer will be able to conserve more than he can, so he has an alternative for when the days get truly desperate.

“If you’ve ever been to Central Park on a Wednesday morning, you may have noticed someone hosing down the concrete in preparation for the Farmers’ Market. The faucet for the hose is conveniently located by the playground, freely available for anyone to use. I figure I can get some water jugs, fill up the back of my truck and use it to water my lawn, fill the bathtub, wash the dishes, etc., all on the city’s dime.”

I bow down to your wisdom, my friend. But you’ll have to beat me to the faucet. Or maybe we can work out a schedule so our jugs don’t bump into each other.

“I could just turn off the water to my house and rely on the water I collect. At least the ‘Consumption-Based’ part of my water bill would be minimized.”

As much as I’d like to nominate you for Citizen of the Year, I think it’s best we keep your plan to ourselves for now. Since it’s your idea, I’ll let you try it out first.

And when that hidden Central Park security camera catches you pilfering the city’s liquid gold, I’ll be the first one on the courthouse steps to bail you out.

It’s the least I can do to repay such brilliance.

— Reach Bob Dunning at






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