Opinion

Growth management idea won’t hold water

The latest study of water supplies in Kitsap County may give suburban sprawl the boost it has needed to get over the barriers erected by the Growth Management Act.

Daniel Boone reportedly believed it was time to move when the neighborhood became so crowded that he could see the smoke from a neighbor’s chimney, but not many of us can emulate Boone in today’s more crowded world.

Nevertheless, the yearning to live where at least one side of your property offers a view of something other than a neighbor’s house is a desire that is shared by at least half the people who move to Kitsap County.

Unfortunately, this desire has been categorized by many in the chattering class as sinful, and the resulting residential developments have been treated as anathema.

But then along comes this study that indicates there may be significant problems associated with concentrating larger numbers of people in the so-called urban growth areas.

When the water used by those city folks is pumped out of the ground in one place, sent through their indoor plumbing, and then down the sewer line to a treatment plant, it ends up in Puget Sound rather than back in the ground from which it came.

There will come a time when the rain falling on Kitsap County cannot soak into the ground fast enough to keep up with the water demands of people living in urban growth areas.

According to the latest study done at the request of the Kitsap Peninsula Watershed Planning Unit, that time may not be far into the future.

It’s not as though we will soon find that the kitchen faucet produces nothing but a gurgle when turned on, but something may have to give in the plans being concocted to implement the Growth Management Act.

Those plans supposedly look years into the future in an effort to avoid being surprised by a crisis that might have been avoided.

Many people will surely be tempted to argue for the usual solutions that involve telling some landowners to leave their land in its natural state whether they want to or not.

They’ll argue that driveways and roofs create barriers to rainwater that might otherwise soak into the ground and recharge the aquifers, so they must be prohibited.

In other words, the privately owned land of some people would be preserved as though it were a publicly owned watershed used to provide water to city folks. But of course it wouldn’t be publicly owned, because that would require the city folks to buy it.

They certainly don’t want to buy that land, since they have things they want to do with their money, and those things don’t include compensating anyone for taking private property for public use.

It might be amusing to meet these typical arguments with an asymmetrical response rather than head-on.

The water supply problem should be laid at the doorstep of the people who suck the water out of the ground and spit it into the ocean — that is, the city folks.

When they desire to increase the population density in their urban growth areas, they should be charged with the responsibility to mitigate the environmental impacts of their actions.

At the top of the list of alternatives for mitigating the detrimental effect of their urban development ought to be the

requirement to build a few single-family residences, each situated on one or two acres of land out where most people want to live.

To mitigate the impact of urban development, these single-family homes must, of course, use septic systems which return the water used by their inhabitants to the ground. A one-to-one ratio of newly built family residences in the urban growth areas and in the woods ought to be about right.

Such a mitigation effort would satisfy the demand for low-cost housing, since it would be paid for entirely by the people who want to live in urban growth areas.

If the growth managers claim that it isn’t right to take the money of some to pay for the housing of others, just tell them it’s for the public good - and they shouldn’t be such sticks-in-the-mud about their own property rights.

Septic systems need regular maintenance and even occasional repair or replacement, so payment of these costs must be guaranteed by the posting of a suitable bond by the city folks who created the need for them in the first place.

Next on the list of alternatives could be a requirement to stop spitting water into the ocean and instead return it to the ground from which it came.

Call it “recycling.’ Not only do the advocates of “sustainable growth” love that word, it wouldn’t be necessary to get them to think in new terms when it is time to impose a recycling fee to pay the cost of the pipelines and pumps needed to send that water back to the ground.

They will need some place to put the recycled water, so it’s appropriate to have them construct some fine public parks with ponds, fountains and year-round irrigation systems to keep the greenery green.

Leaving land in its natural state won’t do, since we need some beautiful landscaping to soak up all that water.

This water supply analysis has presented a fine opportunity to provide low-cost housing and beautiful public parks.

We just need someone who can present these arguments with a straight face.

Robert Meadows is a Port Orchard resident.

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