When the merits of “sustainable” growth are mentioned, the factor most often mentioned is more revenue for the local treasury.
Omitted from developers’ and politicians’ claims are such pesky details as more roads to maintain, more schools to build, and more police, fire and emergency medical services to provide.
Later, we discover the boundaries of town have expanded into the watershed, replacing the forest that once filtered falling rainwater with impervious roofs, roads and driveways that increase the local temperatures and send valuable rainwater downstream – funneled through treatment plants built to replace the forest that was removed to make room for the roofs and roads.
Once the houses are built and the developers have left town, we discover the increased revenues become increased tax bills for the new treatment facilities, and new pumps and pipes to transport the life-giving liquid from distant sources.
About two weeks ago I drove the full length of Herr’s Ridge Road, ending at a place near Fairfield Road, nearly at the top of the ridge, behind and above several streets lined with rows of almost-new residences. Memory served stories of some of the new homeowners discovering they had no water.
The Surprise was the uphill side of the slope, where developers are installing pavement and facilities for more than 100 new revenue-producing homes. A little checking revealed a huge water tower planned to hold a half-million gallons of water to serve those homes.
The tower will grow well above the trees that currently define the ridge, and the cost of keeping it pumped full of water will surely come from the increased revenues that eventually will need a new water source. Thus the new homes are needed to provide the revenue to build the water tower that will be required to supply water for the new homes that are providing the revenue to pay for it.
Did I mention the engineering marvel will poke well above the tree line, which dug up a memory of another tower that was demolished during a Fourth of July celebration a few years ago? It was old and falling apart and many people had for years complained of the eyesore it presented on the historic fields, woodlands and centuries-old homes.
But what really took it down was a plan to build a new, revenue-producing, visitor center. Some residents say the new water tower also will be an eyesore, visible for miles above the trees.
Elsewhere in the news, the Colorado River is at historic low levels, as are other water sources in the heat-plagued western U.S. and Canada. Large populations of residents in California, Texas and Nevada are close to, or have already arrived at, being told to cut back on water use.
The largest wildfire in the U.S. is burning hotly in Oregon. To its north, in British Columbia, temperatures are reaching double what is normally experienced, wildfires have consumed at least one town, and smoke is casting a filter over southcentral Pennsylvania that dims the sun and turns the moon an interesting shade of orange.
In spite of some ground-wetting the few past weeks, rainfall for 2021 in my home county is 4.3 inches below normal. Area creeks are way lower than they should be this time of year.
Growth may be good for sustaining builders, but water will have the final word. Those promised revenues sound good in the promotion pitch, but we probably should not count on a tax decrease. Indications are becoming stronger that when those new residents show up with all that money, they should bring water.
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