Thursday, July 19, 2007

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink

Some people who know the issue better than I have suggested that the wars of the future will be fought over water, and not over oil. In fact, just this week it was reported that the Darfur conflict may be solved because of the discovery of a gigantic aquifer. Though more recent reports indicate that aquifer has disappeared.

And with an editorial about the issues of water in the American Southwest brought to the fore as recently as this morning in a Hartford Courant editorial, it gives one pause for thought about the hometown doing a longterm water deal with a private company.

Fortunately, this is not the kind of deal where the town is selling public water rights to a company who will market the water.

However, Middletown is about to enter into an agreement with a power company which will allow the power company to tap a public aquifer for water needed as coolant. In return, the town will retain ownership of one of the wells drilled, and will receive a lease on the other well. The town, apparently, will also retain rights to sell the water to the power company, and to use excess water for its own purposes.

The reports in the morning papers are not completely clear on the terms of the deal. The deal itself will be discussed at a special Common Council meeting Monday July 23, at 6:30 pm in Council Chambers. I called City Hall this morning to try to get clarification of what seem like conflicting details as reported in the Courant (the article is headlined, Deal Would Give City New Water Source, but might be more accurately titled, Deal Would Give Energy Plant New Water Source), but haven't heard back yet. It's raised a lot of questions in my mind, among which are the following:

- How much water total does the energy plant need for cooling?
- How much will come from the Connecticut River?
- How much will be pumped from the aquifer?
- After it's used for cooling, where will the water be discharged?
- Of the aquifer water, how much excess will be pumped every day, and how will the city, practically, be able to use it? (Where will it be stored? Who will it be sold to?)
- Why will the city only own one pump? Why not own both? What's the advantage of a lease to both parties?
- At what rate will the energy plant be charged for water? Is this different than all other users of water?
- Why would aquifer water be used as a coolant when the plant is adjacent to a river?
- How will use of the aquifer affect town pumps which presumably tap the same source?
- Will the energy plant be allowed to sell excess water? Under what conditions?
- What will the city gain in free facilities (pumping station), and in taxes (doesn't the energy plant have a very generous tax abatement plan?)

I'm sure a lot of these questions have been considered, and answered. I'm sure there are also questions I haven't considered.

Of course, this doesn't even begin to consider the degradation of the Maromas section of town.

We live in an area blessed by temperate weather, and infrequent drought. I think we need to be mindful of the proven notion that the climate is changing, and what we've taken for granted will not always be so.

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