Posted on | February 23, 2010 | 2 Comments
“Evil is elemental … It’s in the air, it’s in the sunshine, it’s in the water.” – So goes a line from New York Times film critic AO Scott in a “video pick” for Chinatown.*
Ah, cineastes. If they ever came out of their screening rooms, they would know that evil is elemental, it’s in the air, it’s in the sunshine, it’s in the water in real life. You don’t need to rent it.
While Scott’s paean was aimed more at Roman Polanski and less at water, it was well-timed. Evil has never been thicker in the world of Western water.
Today, over in Nevada, Governor Jim Gibbons indicated that he would help a thinly veiled attempt by Las Vegas to retroactively legalize a Great Basin water grab that dwarfs Mulholland’s exploits in the Eastern Sierra by dint of the sheer damage that it could wreak over tens of thousands of square miles. What does the future of the Pacific flyway or the last of the intact cold deserts in the world matter when tourists can enjoy chlorine-tinted replicas of Venetian canals without leaving the US? Or Californian tax refugees can find warmth and cheap homes?
Back in Washington DC, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Jim Costa are reinventing sophistry with a continued assault on the Endangered Species Act, Chinook salmon, green sturgeon and steelhead trout in an attempt to quadruple water deliveries to politically powerful entities in the Central Valley. Less remarked in the outraged editorials are a series of lawsuits designed to do the same thing by our very own Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
Yes, fellow southern Californians, our region-wide water wholesaler is suing the biologists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and US Fish and Wildlife. Screw the Pacific. Give us the water. All the while, Met’s PR campaign to us water users has been that it’s the new good guy on the block. Our future supply will come from conservation. Think about it and it’s true — conservation of the truth. It would be an interesting exercise to see which Met has spent more on: Lawyers hired to help it drain the Bay-Delta, or conservation rebates for the water wasting public.
Meanwhile, everyone’s favorite rogue, Keith Brackpool, the English-born intimate of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, is redoubling his efforts to mine the groundwater of the Cadiz basin in the Mojave Desert. Cadiz Inc’s new scheme, fronted by a lawyer who would have us believe that the pumps will be good for the environment, is to sink deep pumps into the fast-running ancient waters of the carbonate aquifer. As opposed to pumping from the alluvial fan, this plan to drill down to the carbonate aquifer would indeed produce gushers, but the ultimate impact of the pumping might be felt hundreds of miles away, making it impossible to monitor before there was area-wide collapse. But according to their endlessly imaginative legal counsel, Cadiz’s plan is a “conservation” project. To guarantee that, he points to more lawyers as environmental guardians. Texans understand the beauty of their Edwards carbonate aquifer and its celebrated Barton Springs. Southern Californians have yet to mobilize behind the Mojave in great numbers, other than to drive through it on the way to Vegas.
Water in the West is evil as a constant. None of it would be possible without us Guys on the Street. Some of us GOTSes might wonder where our water comes from given our dry surrounds. But the perennial spectacle of lawn sprinklers going during rare winter rains underscores that most of us don’t know and don’t want to know. Our not wanting to know is the ultimate evil.
Historian Abraham Hoffman opens his 1981 book “Vision or Villany” with this anecdote: “Following the release of the motion picture Chinatown in 1974, a high-ranking official in the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power attended a dinner party where he became embroiled in an argument concerning the film’s historical accuracy. “It’s all wrong,” complained the official, “it’s totally inaccurate.” The other person then asked the official to be specific. Exactly which facts were incorrect? The DWP official emphatically replied, “There was never any incest involved.”
*via LA Observed.