Monday, March 30, 2009

FLOW the film

I took the time on Sunday afternoon to attend the Ventura Film Fest showing of FLOW.

The film takes a worldwide look at impacts to local communities when rivers are dammed and water is privatized. When faced with the reality of losing their water supply, people are given no choice but to fight for survival. It's not a pretty picture. And although this seems like a 3rd world issue, the film includes issues right here in America.

Interestingly, the City of Ventura sponsored the film, hosting a Q&A with the city's water manager after the showing. Although the topic is complex, the audience asked some pertinent questions. And the answers were telling.

For instance:

Q1 - What is the city doing to adapt to climate change and ensure a sustainable water supply in the future?

A - Drilling new wells. Perhaps hooking up with Oxnard. And using some reclaimed water. (paraphrased)

Q2 - What is the city doing to address the urban runoff problem?

A - The new stormwater permit will require some new programs, but we've been able to make sure the requirements will not cost the ratepayer too much. (paraphrased)

Why are these answers significant? It is clear that future realities have not yet hit home.

What would we hope the answers be?

A1 - 'The city is planning to phase out all ocean and estuary discharge of wastewater, because we know 'wasted water' also impacts the coast and ocean that are so important to our local economy. We are also working toward incentives for greywater systems citywide, because we know that we can reduce our wastewater by up to 50% while effectively doubling our water supply.'

A2 - 'The city is working on a 'green infrastructure' plan to integrate our stormwater systems with parks, schools, bikeways, tree planting, rainwater harvesting, parking lots, medians, urban creeks, and green streets, to ensure that in the future the majority of our rainwater and day-to-day urban runoff is captured within the landscape. This will reduce our water demand while recharging aquifers and protecting and restoring our rivers and beaches.'

Wastewater modernization is still a long way off. Surfrider has commented formally on water/wastewater before.

Pieces of the stormwater solution are starting to happen in Ventura. Last summer the City of Ventura formalized a 'green streets' program. If planning was in place, these types of projects could become part of the "green revolution," an economic stimulus that would employ hundreds of local people, while creating a secure future.

State and Federal grants are becoming available for implementation of these strategies. But Ventura needs grants to do the planning, before these opportunities are lost.

Ironically, I walked around back after the film. It seems the renovation of the historic Elks Lodge is not quite complete - water was leaking from the building, flowing through the parking lot, on its way to the ocean.

We still have a long way to go.