I just spent a fruitful half hour looking at Snobville's annual water and sewer report, and a larger geological study of the aquifer from which Snobville draws its water by way of local wells.
"Why bother, Anne?" you ask.
Well, it's like this. The devil ducks have descended on Snobville.
Snobville currently has local control of its water supply. But the small city council has decided that, despite reporting the water and sewer in Snobville to be good every year since 1980, we suddenly need a Big Brother Devil Duck to run our water for us.
That Devil Duck is a publicly traded corporation known as New Jersey American Water.
New Jersey American Water really wants Snobville to sell out.
Of course, this is a matter for voters to decide. The referendum will be on our ballot next week.
Our city council has threatened much higher water bills if we don't sell out to Devil Duck. Through a six-month campaign of glossy brochures, door-to-door canvassing, swag giveaways, and "meet and greets," Devil Duck has told us all the wonderful things they'll do for us if they own our water. The first and most important thing they'll do is fix our "failing" sewer system. And they promise not to raise rates for the first three years.
Readers, you're smart people. What do you think Devil Duck really wants?
Snobville is one of the oldest boroughs in this county, and its wells sink deep into a three-tier aquifer. The upper tiers of the aquifer are at risk from saltwater incursions. Not so much Snobville's level.
And then there's the average income of a Snobville resident. It's high. (Sadly, this author is way below average.)
At the recent Snobville Fall Festival, Devil Duck Water, Inc. had a huge booth, prominently placed, where every kid was given a cute rubber ducky and every adult a backpack, pens, brochures, and other goodies. There were earnest employees there to speak to concerned citizens. They had an answer for everything, let me tell you.
But because Mr. J snarkily introduced me as an "expert" on water, I did not speak up as Mr. J engaged in discussion with Devil Duck. Why bother? I had already decided that no company with honest intentions would spend so much money up front to court voters. Other New Jersey American Water customers paid for all the swag doled out in Snobville. Gosh, that's enough right there for this suspicious Pagan.
Wait. There's more.
As part of their "display," the good folks from Devil Duck had an old section of pipe with mineral buildup in it. The thing looked icky, and sure enough, people were walking by and viewing it with dismay. Alongside the icky one was a "new," Devil Duck-treated pipe with some kind of icy-looking polymer in it that just glowed in perfection.
There's nothing icky about those old pipes. The buildup restricts water flow and puts a little rust in the water. That's it.
The Devil Duck representative pointed out the difference in pipes to me and Mr. J. That's when I said, "So, what's wrong with this one, other than that it will keep my house pipes from blowing out?" And that's when Mr. J (uncharacteristically I quickly add) discounted my knowledge of water pipes by snarking that I was an "expert."
Water is a finite resource, just like everything else. Water rights will be more valuable than oil rights by the end of this century. I am dead certain that Snobville's residents are going to clutch their new American Water swag as they sign away the village's local control of its most precious commodity. But as for me and my house, we will never vote away our water rights.
You know how long I've understood the value of water? Ever since I was a kid in Appalachia, and my granddad and I had to drive to the public spring to fill jugs when our seasonal spring went dry in July. I remember Granddad looking at the burbling perfection of that public spring and saying, "The man who has this on his property has something."