Learning about water's power

What do California, the Incas of Peru, the Chinese emperors and the Egyptian pharaohs have in common?

The answer? "Hydraulic societies," where social, political and economic order is based on large-scale distribution of water in arid environments.

This, according to Hank Panian, has historically made water a source of power and control in those societies that, consequently, were authoritarian and highly centralized, with "huge bureaucratic establishments."

Such was one tidbit of information that the former Orange Coast College history professor offered to attendees of Wednesday night's Water Issues Study Group session from the Mesa Water District.

Panian, who served on the district's board for 21 years, called Mesa Water "the guardian of the water that we drink." It and other independent districts are a solution to that overarching centralization of earlier societies because the districts are subject to the scrutiny and the control of the public.

"I was on the board long enough to learn how heavy a hand the public can wield when they don't like what you're doing," Panian said with a laugh. "But that's an important part of the process."

Stacy Taylor, communications manager for the district, also gave a brief presentation highlighting some of the district's accomplishments, including providing 100% locally sourced water that is also clean, safe and reliable. Its service area consists of most of Costa Mesa, parts of Newport Beach and some unincorporated county areas, including John Wayne Airport.

Taylor also said the Mesa Water Reliability Facility, formerly known as the Colored Water Treatment Facility, will have its official grand opening next month in an invitation-only event. The renovated facility uses less energy, is quieter for neighbors, expands the daily production capacity by 50% and prevents the need for costly imported water from Northern California and the Colorado River.

The free, public WISG program is in its 27th consecutive year. The series began Wednesday and will continue on the third Wednesday of each month through May. Most sessions are at Mesa Water's headquarters, 1965 Placentia Ave., Costa Mesa.

Participants, who must make reservations to attend, will learn about critical water issues, water history and future water plans, Taylor said.

To RSVP for a WISG session, call (949) 631-1201, visit http://www.mesawater.org/wisg or email event@mesawater.org.


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