Opinion by Donna Landerman, Save Our Water Steering Committee
Most of the state is now in a severe drought after only one year of decreased snow pack, diminished rainfall, and higher temperatures. Given that climate change is only progressing, and that a multi-year drought such as the one which affected California is possible, planning for CT’s water future is more important now than ever. That’s why several crucial current water issues need to be brought to the public’s attention.
Multi-national corporation Tilcon wants to destroy Class I watersheds in New Britain to expand their mining business. Class 1 and II watersheds are protected in CT because of their essential job of filtering and storing water. In return, 40 years from now, the city might get a reservoir it probably doesn’t need. Niagara Bottling, a multinational corporation based in CA, received a sweetheart deal from the MDC to take almost 2 million gallons of water/day at a price lower than anyone else pays. In addition, they negotiated a sizeable reduction in their Clean Water Project charges, which fund infrastructure to keep the CT River and Long Island Sound clean. State residents fund the Clean Water Project through Drinking Water bonds and MDC ratepayers pay a hefty surcharge on their water bills. But Niagara Bottling arranged with the MDC to avoid paying its share. All these discounts were done between Niagara Bottling and the MDC largely hidden from the public. If the first two Niagara bottling lines open late this year in Bloomfield, millions of plastic water bottles with MDC water will be heading out of state for private profit. As it stands today, no CT agency has the authority to prevent more bottling companies from moving in and extracting our water.
Meanwhile, the state Water Planning Council (WPC) is working to create a comprehensive statewide water plan. Before the plan is completed, corporate interests are jumping to profit from our most critical public trust resource before the rules are set, and water utilities are rushing to divvy up control of the state’s drinking water supplies, with slight attention to environmental concerns. For example, stream flow regulations, necessary to protect the state’s water supply and environment, are being shunted to the end of the highly rushed planning process, jeopardizing their adequate consideration. In an end run around the Department of Public Health (DPH) and environmental groups, the MDC got its most recent (2008) water supply plan classified by Homeland Security as protected information. All its planning data are now off limits to the public. a level of secrecy that appears to be unprecedented. The public is left in the dark, expected to trust the MDC to plan our water future, with no transparency.
CT’s citizens are well advised to pay attention to their public trust waters. Giving discounts to high volume water use subverts conservation efforts. A wise, forward -looking policy will reward conservation and provide basic water supply for a typical household at a minimum reasonable price. A permitting process for new large water users, regardless of prior grandfathered exceptions, is needed to insure careful, informed and transparent decision making regarding water use and allocation. Prohibiting industrial discounts on Clean Water Project charges would ensure all users are contributing to vital infrastructure. The state’s long-standing prohibition against disturbing class I watershed should not be abandoned for the sake of corporate profit. Water will be the new oil of the 21st century. It’s up to us to protect it.
Save Our Water CT
Citizen advocates acting to protect and conserve Connecticut's public trust waters.