Effluent, effluent everywhere

  • John Mecklin

 

Even here in the mountain valley splendor of Paonia, Colo., where the people are pleasant, the summers fine, the winters mild and the autumns spectacular, things go wrong sometimes. A few weeks back, everyone in town came home to find a piece of colored paper taped to his or her front door. The door-postings announced, in what amounted to screaming headlines, an official BOIL ORDER. It seemed as if a plague of God had rained down upon previously nearly perfect Paonia. 

If not biblically cataclysmic, the situation was serious. What Paonians had always taken as a birthright - pure mountain spring water, piped straight down from Mount Lamborn - now contained turbidity. And not just a bit of turbidity. Because of heavy rains, Paonia's water now contained as much as 25 units of turbidity - way more than a Paonian could withstand. 

So we needed to boil our drinking water. And if you want to understand the value of water, all it takes is to have a BOIL ORDER lying around the kitchen. Suddenly, water is - why, it's in everything! 

With a boil order in effect, you do not brush your teeth first thing in the morning. First thing in the morning, you boil the water with which you will brush your teeth. You do not fill up the coffee maker. You boil a big pot of water, and then decide whether you'll use it all making coffee, or maybe settle for a teabag thrown in a cupful of boiled water. You do not measure out cans of water to mix with frozen orange juice concentrate; you give the kids milk for breakfast instead, because after two or three days, you're good and sick of everything to do with the BOIL ORDER. 

So you go out and buy a couple of 5-gallon jugs of bottled water and quit boiling water. For anything. Even eggs. After a week or so, during which every restaurant in town competed as to which would have the largest sign announcing its food had been prepared entirely with bottled water, the turbidity was conquered. The order was lifted, and Paonia was back to being very nearly perfect.

But as Peter Friederici explains in this issue's cover story, "Facing the Yuck Factor," dry places across the West are facing water supply and purity problems that make a BOIL ORDER seem quaint. Some Western cities, in fact, are so close to being completely out of water that they're planning to directly recycle their own sewage treatment effluent as drinking water. 

In some sense, of course, we've been drinking effluent - recycled through lakes, rivers, oceans, clouds, rain, snow and aquifers - for all of history. And today's purification technology can turn effluent into drinking water that's cleaner than what now comes out of many big-city taps. Even so, San Diego has discovered that "toilet to tap" isn't exactly a winning political slogan. As the journalistic cliche-makers might say: Only time will tell if another explanation of direct effluent recycling will be more palatable to the voting citizenry. 

I don't imagine "Just one BOIL ORDER this year!" is going to excite the pleasant voters of Paonia, either, but we'll just have to wait and see there, too. It's kind of hard to predict how the winds of change may blow, in a town that's already very nearly perfect.

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of NewTowncarShare News, its board or staff. If you'd like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston at [email protected].

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • 1400 sf of habitable space in a custom-designed eco-home created and completed by a published L.A. architect in 1997-99. Nestled within its own 80-acre mountain...
  • The National Parks Conservation Association, the nations leading national park advocacy organization, seeks a Regional Director to lead and manage staff for the Southwest Regional...
  • available in Gothic, CO for 2019 summer season - Manager, Lead Cooks, Prep-Cooks, Dishwasher - at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL). The Dining Hall...
  • Suitable for planting hay, hemp, fruit. Excellent water rights. 1800 square foot farmhouse, outbuildings, worker housing.
  • More information: jobs.wisc.edu. Search 96076
  • Friends of the Verde River is looking for someone to join our team who has a keen investigative mind and is an excellent communicator and...
  • - Thriving Indie bookstore in Durango, CO. 1800 sf of busy retail space in a 3100 sf historic building. Long term lease or option to...
  • with home on one acre in Pocatello, ID. For information and photos visit www.blackrockforgeproperty.com.
  • The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition is seeking a technical partner to develop a land management plan for the 1.9 million-acre Bears Ears Landscape in southeastern...
  • Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.
  • on 3 acres near Moxon. 3 bd/1.5 bath, apt. Views/access to hiking, fishing, wildlife.1-207-593-6312. $165,900.
  • Senior position responsible for the development of all marketing and fundraising strategies to grow the base of philanthropic support and awareness of GSEP.
  • This newly created position with The Nature Conservancy's Colorado River Program will play a key role in the development and implementation of strategies to achieve...
  • A new generation of monkey wrenchers hits the Front Range?
  • The Wilderness Society works to protect Wildlands and inspire Americans to care for our public lands. We seek to hire a strategic, experienced leader who...
  • Organic grocery/cafe at Glacier Bay needs a vibrant leader. Love good food, community, and Alaska? Join us!
  • Collector's Item! The story of barley, the field crop. 50 years of non-fiction research. www.barleybook.com
  • near Ennis, MT. Artist designed, 1900 SF, 2BR/2BA home on 11.6 acres with creek, tree, views, privacy. 406-570-9233 or [email protected] www.arrowreal.com (Country Homes).
  • Colorado Farm to Table is looking for a full-time energetic, creative Executive Director to lead our team in Salida.
  • Join HCN and Black Sheep Adventures on an expedition through the national parks and monuments of Utah and Southwest Colorado, September 7 - 15, 2019....