Politics & Other Mistakes: Drinkin’ problem

7 mins read

No more local beer.

It pains me to write that, but it must be done. We’ve got to kill off Maine’s brewing industry for the greater good.

There’s more. Those people making potato vodka have to close their doors. The state’s wineries must be shut down, too. And that’s only the beginning. Because this isn’t about alcohol.


Al Diamon

It’s about water.

To counteract a looming environmental threat to our aquifers, we have to eliminate not only our native booze, but also our farms, ski areas, golf courses and paper mills. As for other businesses, unless they agree to severe restrictions, they’ll also have to call it quits.

Even these draconian measures won’t be sufficient to preserve the state’s fragile groundwater. That’s because the biggest consumer of Maine moisture is not corporations, but people. The average grubby Mainer uses about 50 gallons of water a day, mostly for personal hygiene. That comes to 65 million gallons daily, just to keep us from being stinky.

On the bright side, once we’ve limited hand washing to once a day, bathing to once a week and toilet flushing to once a month, a lot of obsessive-compulsive types will leave the state. Probably won’t be anybody left at the Christian Civic League.

Unfortunately, even the complete depopulating of Maine won’t solve the problem. The average birch tree soaks up 70 gallons of water daily. The only answer to that is complete defoliation. And while we’re at it, moose, squirrels, deer and bears will have to take a hike across the nearest border.

Otherwise, they’d only engage in unsustainable levels of consumption.

Think I’m overreacting?

If so, I’m not alone. The state is infested with loud-mouthed water wackos. Which could be a good thing. They’re probably adding a million gallons a year to our groundwater with all the spittle they spew.

I just hope none of it gets in my well.

Hydro-hysteria has reached epidemic proportions in Maine, with its latest manifestation being groups with names like Save Our H2O, Take Back The Tap and Defending Water For Life, which are urging municipalities across the state to pass moratoriums on the sale of public water to commercial enterprises. Their focus is on halting expansion by Poland Spring, because, well … er … just because.

“We should be outraged!” Jonathan Carter wrote in a Green Independent Party publication a couple of years ago. “It is our water. Nestle [the owner of Poland Spring] must be stopped from stealing it.”

Carter is a former Green gubernatorial candidate, and no enviro-fringe campaign is complete without him. In a long and mostly unsuccessful political career, he’s never been tempted to let reality alter his judgment. But on the off chance the rest of the wet brains in this movement have more sense, let’s try a few facts.

Poland Spring uses about 500 million gallons of water a year. The company doesn’t steal it. It pays for it. Maybe it doesn’t pay enough in some cases, but you can’t blame the business if the other side uses lousy negotiators.

As water consumers, Poland Spring – and all the other water bottlers in the state – rank well behind agriculture (700-800 million gallons per year), ski resorts (500-600 million) and water utilities (35 billion) in the amount they soak up. And all those users combined don’t make much of a dent in the 5 trillion gallons that dribble into our groundwater annually from the 24 trillion gallons of rainfall we receive.

Only 24 trillion? Seemed like more this year.

The don’t-drink-a-drop crowd is fond of claiming that water is Maine’s equivalent of oil, a valuable natural resource we should conserve against the day there isn’t enough to go around. But as former state geologist Walter Anderson pointed out in a column he wrote for the Maine Sunday Telegram earlier this year, “Not selling the water does not keep it in the ground for future use. This is spring water, and it is constantly discharging and running into the ocean.”

Selling it might prevent the flooding of our coastal cities.

One more point about water extraction: It’s already regulated by the state. And those regulations were jointly drafted by the water industry and leaders of H2O For ME, a group that’s run a couple of failed referendum campaigns to slap new taxes on bottled water. In newspaper interviews, H2O leader Jim Wilfong, a former legislator, once called Maine law “weak, outmoded and inadequate,” but later said the 2007 revision – which instituted a more thorough permitting process, better watershed management and set sustainability standards – was “a firm foundation of groundwater law on which to build.”

That’s “build,” as in “not tear down.”

Forcing Poland Spring to look outside the state for water sources, because the wet-behind-the-ears gang cares nothing for facts, threatens 800 good jobs at its Maine operations. If they go, it’ll hardly matter whether we close down the breweries.

Nobody will be able to afford beer, anyway.

If you can’t drown your sorrows, you can e-mail them to me at aldiamon@herniahill.net

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