A way to liquidate our water shortage

Comment

June 25, 2000|By Mike Burns

THE TASTE is exquisite, smooth to the palate, with the proper balance and nose. No disturbing aftertaste impairs the direct and pleasing qualities of this beverage. Eminently drinkable now, without further aging.

Now if only we could get enough to satisfy our tanning turf and quench the thirst of our parched pansies.

That is the dilemma of the troubled water supply of Freedom District, a.k.a. South Carroll. Three years of summer water restrictions, going on four. No immediate solution to expand supplies of the limited resource, which is ever a rallying point against further development in that most-populous sector of the county.

And yet the surprisingly satisfying product of the Freedom water treatment plant was the Chesapeake region award winner in this month's tasting contest sponsored by the American Water Works Association.

This honored H2O, the liquid sustenance of some 21,000 South Carroll customers, traces its beginnings to the Liberty Reservoir, a basin holding 45 billion gallons of surface water.

That capacious cache is owned by Baltimore City, whose rulers have told the audacious supplicants from Carroll that they can have no more water. At least not unless the county signs over to the wise city fathers every vestige of sovereign control over lands within the reservoir's ample watershed.

Having been duped in decades past by these city slickers, selling Carroll claims on Liberty Reservoir water for a virtual mess of pottage, this county's officials are now trying to bargain tough.

Meanwhile, the growing populace of South Carroll is facing an increasing water shortage, while the shrinking population of Charm City is otherwise unconcerned.

What to do?

The obvious solution lies in the estimable quality of the polished product of the Freedom District water treatment plant.

Bottle it and sell it.

The bottled water industry is booming, or rather, gushing. Waters far less distinguished than our local eau d'Freedom are selling at premium prices. Stores can barely slake the thirst of consumers for overpriced, undersized containers of water that have only the remotest connection to the "spring" or "fountain" on their labels.

People buy these waters because they taste good or, conversely, because these waters have no bad taste. And that makes a strong case for the potential appeal of South Carroll's finest. That is, if we could get it bottled and into the case.

In marketing this local aqua pura, however, it would be advisable to avoid claiming that it is "bottled at the source." Wouldn't want to encourage demands from the city for a cut of these liquid assets.

With the profits from this bottling venture, South Carroll would have ample funds to acquire other sources of water for washing the car and running the sprinklers. Showers and baths could again become leisurely affairs in summer.

But the source of this newfound wealth would have to be carefully protected, diverted from such wasteful activities as washing and laundering and flushing.

Certainly, South Carroll residents would be allowed a daily ration of the local elixir for drinking and cooking. A cup or two for brushing teeth.

Whether household pets would be allowed to drink the waters might have to be put to referendum, replacing the obviously less urgent question of whether the area should incorporate.(Of course, the geyser of good fortune might make incorporation a lot more appealing to the Freedom citizens, anxious to bottle up their bottling rights.)

With only 3 million gallons a day to be drawn from Liberty Reservoir, and a certain expected amount of seepage and spillage, the beneficiaries of the Freedom treatment plant alchemy would have to be careful of their treasure.

They might have to establish a special private protection district, hire their own resident troopers. Property values would increase, as would property taxes, so the county would share in the bounty.

The problem, as mentioned above, is where South Carroll could find the water to replace the stuff it was so busy bottling and selling around the world.

We've heard how the county has plans to tap some 3 million gallons a day from Piney Run Lake, if only it could come up with the money. Wells are being readied to tap underground reserves at Fairhaven Retirement Community, if only the state would hand over the necessary environmental permits.

And there's the option of taking more water from Liberty Reservoir, if only the city would budge.

But if Freedom bottled water becomes the next Perrier, the county would have enough money to buy the entire Liberty Reservoir from Baltimore, which is always looking for outside funds.

That would solve all of Carroll's water problems. And assure that there would always be enough to keep the Freedom bottling plant from running dry.

Mike Burns writes editorials for The Sun from Carroll County.

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