Unclassified Info: Water politics gets personal

A funny thing happened to me the other day as I was driving down one of the streets in my neighborhood. I spied a neighbor hosing down her gutter and thought I'd provide some commentary regarding her activity.

I figured it was my duty, and might even be my right, for a number of reasons.

First, I have chided Rick Caruso and the Americana at Brand in print for the practice of hosing down sidewalks during a time when our state is suffering from a water shortage. It seemed hypocritical to pick on a successful real estate developer and his corporate interests and refrain from exhibiting the same disdain for a neighbor — even if she was a senior.

Second, I had my daughter in the car and wanted her to see that I am at least consistent in my criticism of people who waste water. If the gutter had contained some sort of biological hazard, I would have refrained from making any verbal judgment.

As it was, the woman was merely looking to wash a few leaves to the front of the house next door — another pet peeve. Gardeners also do this with their blowers, and I assume the same leaves have been transferred back and forth for weeks on end when the problem could just as easily be remedied with a broom, dust pan and trash can.

Third, with water and electricity rates on the rise, I thought I might just be doing this woman a small favor by enlightening her as to the negative effects that hosing down her gutter could have on her own finances.

It could be her practice was nothing more than a habit of convenience, and all she needed was to hear a friendly voice remind her that we should all be conserving resources together, and that doing so could save her a few coins.

“There's a water shortage, and you might want to think about sweeping your gutter,” I said in a tone that was factual and polite, if my recollection serves me.

The woman turned her attention from the hose to my car with a sour look and said nothing. I figured she was in no mood to hear anything from the likes of me, so I drove off.

And that's when the funny thing happened.

“Hey Dad, that woman just tried to squirt our car,” my daughter informed me.

Sure enough. As I glanced in the rear-view mirror, I could see the woman had found an alternate use for her garden hose. It was now a tool to provide her rebuttal.

I don't know whether I was asking for it. I didn't think stating a fact about our finite supply of water could draw such equal disdain on the part of my neighbor. But it did.

Or perhaps it wasn't disgust at my unsolicited advice at all. Maybe she was just being diligent about wanting to make our Rossmoyne district feel historic by living with the exact same notions about resources as most people did in the early 1900s, when the neighborhood was formed.

Either way, I slowed my car down and was preparing to go back and ask why she had decided to turn the hose on me when my daughter advised me to just move on.

“It's not worth it, Dad. She doesn't get it, and going back isn't going to do anything.”

A sliver of me wanted to prove that we could convince our neighbor that her habit of hosing down the gutter was wrong. But the bigger part of me knew my daughter was right.

Utility companies, cities, states, celebrities and advocacy groups have taken to all forms of media in an effort to enlighten people about the importance of conserving our natural resources. The messages have hit us all in the face for decades, and yet people still refuse to do their part.

I suppose wasting water is one's right as a free citizen. Being irritated by it is mine.

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GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is currently working on his second novel and the second half of his life. Gary may be reached at gh@garyhuerta.com.

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