Water. We take it for granted each and every day of our lives, hardly giving even a passing thought to the question, “Will I have enough water?” At times, like now as we pass through a dry spell, we might in a very offhand way wonder if we will have enough water during the upcoming summer. But even that is bound to be only the most fleeting of vision of browned lawns and dusty vehicles. Never would the thought cross our minds that we might not have enough water to continue living the lifestyles to which we have become accustomed.
in some regions of the planet
people are water poor. Take a look not so far away to the western
States. There you see water flowing mainly through legal channels of
and court cases. Demand for water has vastly exceeded renewable
and poor planning has not made for equitable distribution of existing
or for the maintenance of sustained quality over time through reuse and
recycling. The result has
been decreased quality of life and increased environmental degradation accompanying an acute shortage of water.
Now take a look across the Atlantic Ocean and into the Middle East, where the flow of legal battles as a result of poor water management has choked the system to the point of explosive rupture. The result has been outright war waged over access to water resources. War over water not to maintain the water consumptive lifestyle we currently experience, but just to maintain the basic necessities of life.
by its very nature, does not
conform to the political, cultural or other arbitrarily defined units
have adopted to guide and manage our lives. Despite this, we govern its
distribution and use according to our not so “hydrologically correct”
of town, state and nation. In doing so, we forget that water is a
resource and that its use within one arbitrarily defined unit can have
impacts, sometimes profound, upon
others—human and non-human alike.
Because water is shared among many users, those who use it must undertake its management collaboratively. This is particularly important because each and every one of us must have water. It is a limited, finite, critical resource that is essential to the maintenance of life. The key word in that phrase is life—not just people who use the water, but all life whether it be fish or bird, reptile or mammal, bacteria or plant, freshwater or marine. All are reliant upon access to a sustainable supply of high quality water.
While it is easy to consider water as limitless, it is a resource that is finite. Use too much too fast and the supply can run dry. Contaminate the source via an accidental spill or leak in an underground fuel tank for example, and an expansive supply of water becomes unusable. In the near blink of an eye we are parched, arid, desert-like. The “limitless” supply is gone, and then what do we do?
is a resource that requires
a regional approach to its management because it crosses jurisdictional
boundaries at will. Too much is at stake to leave each town, each
each board or commission, each water authority or service supplier to
their own decisions on use and allocation of the resource. Due
of the impacts of one use on others that share the resource must be
both on an individual and
Management of water however must not stop at the consideration of human need. The natural systems that we as a species are a part of require water and must be considered in the political machinations that orchestrate the management of water. If we consider water only for human need, then we manage the resource at our peril. Cleaner air and cleaner, cooler water are only two of a very, very long list of free ecosystem services and benefits that allow us to maintain our lives on this planet we call Earth.
tend to forget that all things
are tied together in a larger, more complex system that functions
through total recycling of its resources efficiently and
We as a species have yet to successfully manage ourselves as a part of
this larger interconnected system. But we must, and particularly so in
the case of water. As a starting point, we need to embrace a regional
to water use, allocation and
management. This should be done to ensure equitable use, equitable distribution and efficient reuse and recycling that ensures sustainable water quantity and quality.
Regional water management must promote sustainability of the resource for all uses as part of the larger interconnected ecosystem of which we are a part and upon which we are dependent.
Southeastern Connecticut and southwestern Rhode Island are at a critical juncture for crafting a well-thought-out management approach for sustainable water use. It can happen now in a thoughtful, unhurried way or later as a “knee-jerk” reaction to water crisis after water crisis. If all of us can begin to consider water for what it is—a shared, finite, precious resource that is critical to the maintenance of all life—then perhaps we can build the collaborative approach needed to ensure the sustainability of the resource.
The opportunity to do so is knocking loudly on our door right now. If we don't, or won't, get up from our easy chairs and answer the call we will have missed a significant opportunity to vastly improve the quality of life for ourselves and for the generations that follow us. We must begin to manage water resources as if our very lives depend upon it, because in the long run, they do.
Alan Desbonnet is an extension specialist for the Rhode Island Sea Grant Program, and is a past president and trustee of the Pawcatuck-Wood River Watershed Association.
Connecticut had the chance to escape from the clutches of
the state's parochial, inefficient and arguably
unfair ways of managing its water 35
years ago, but
blew it. The combination of a drought and an explosion of industrial growth led to the creation of the Southeastern Connecticut Water Authority. That agency was to have
been, and could have been, the foundation of a regional water system that would provide water when and where it was needed at fair prices.
the region, whose people had a chance to make or break that effort
at common sense through their representation on
the agency, squandered the opportunity.
region continued in its old ways when, as former state Sen. William B. Stanley points out in an article in this section today, the drought ended.
Well, opportunity knocks again, and for the identical reasons it did in the 1960s: Another drought scare, and another sudden spurt of development. Last time, the growth was driven by Cold War defense manufacturing here. This time, it is fueled by Indian casinos and tourism. These circumstances have prompted a second effort to build a regional system to act as steward for a sustainable water supply that will serve the needs of a growing region.
The people of southeastern Connecticut threw away the first chance due to apathy and complacency with the status quo and by leaving water issues to special interests. They cannot afford to repeat that mistake.
Some encouraging signs
The Day's forum on water, conducted last week and described elsewhere in this section, yielded sound advice and encouraging signs that the results of this effort will be better than those of the last. The advice boils down to this. Water is not a political entitlement, but a God-given resource that supports life, not just the human variety, but all kinds of life. It requires, as Alan Desbonnet of the Rhode Island Sea Grant Program pointed out, a spacious perspective.
with its 3,000 discrete water systems in a 5,000-square mile
area, largely lacks such a perspective, despite
exceptions like the South Central Regional
Authority in the New Haven Area and the Metropolitan District Commission centered around Hartford. It's true that these two regional agencies arose from different
circumstances than those in southeastern Connecticut. But the issues are no different. Each learned a lesson that has not yet sunk in here: The importance of burying personal and political differences for the common good.
The encouraging sign is that everyone showed up for a meeting whose purpose was to discuss ways to create a regional system. The various players, including antagonists, have been meeting elsewhere, and that is a hopeful sign too. But agreeing on the importance of a regional water system in principle and building one from the ground up still are quite different matters here.
The problem can be put simply: Nobody wants to give up control.
municipal water monopolies in Groton, Norwich and New London in
are reluctant to give up the command posts they
occupy. Meantime, the two supposed
voices of regionalism, the Southeastern Connecticut Water Authority and Council of Governments, are locked in a conflict over which will be in charge should the regional
system they both espouse ever bloom.
Regionalism is fighting with itself.
Leaders to the rescue
Thank goodness for the Mohegan tribe and state Sen. Melodie Peters and their leadership. Both, in their own ways, have said, “Cut out the baloney and just do it.”
The Mohegans have been uncomfortable witnesses to a water squabble in their Montville neighborhood that endangers a reliable water supply for their growing casino and resort, including a new 1,200-room hotel. Possibly the image of showers not working in the upper floors of the hotel led the tribe to offer to finance a pipe across the Thames River that would bring surplus Groton water into Montville mains.
sense of urgency has reached Hartford, where Sen. Peters brought all
the parties together and got them to agree on a
bill designed to jump start the efforts
to design a
regional water system. The legislation, which passed in the General Assembly, gives the regional water authority an immediate role, to update the 1960s regional water plan. It also makes modest reforms to the governing structure of the water authority, providing the Council of Governments with a greater voice.
region is on its way. The pipeline will connect all three municipal
systems at least physically. The plan will
identify where the water in the region is and
where it will be
needed. SCWA, which is credibly trying to reinvent itself to lead, and the Council of Governments, with its broad perspective on what the region needs and where it's going,
ought now to be partners rather than adversaries in this important work of reforming the way the water business is run in southeastern Connecticut.
And the municipal utilities have to engage in some intense self-examination as to where they can make compromises for the good of the region. Continuing to inch along through negotiated interlocal agreements that leave the status quo in place will not do the job. They must let such limited thinking go. Southeastern Connecticut must think and act as a region when it comes to water.
of the region: Don't let them blow it this time.
Closures Jump; Water Quality Among Worst In U.S.
The Hartford Courant
By JOSH KOVNER, firstname.lastname@example.org
12:00 PM EDT, June 27, 2012
Beach closings in the state jumped four-fold last year and Connecticut ranked 26th of 30 states in overall swimming-water quality, according to an environmental group's latest annual report on the nation's beach water.
In response, state officials noted the threats to water quality posed by storm run-off, aging urban infrastructure and suburban sprawl. But they said Connecticut's beaches are cleaner overall than they were 10 years ago. They said last year was something of an aberration.
The Natural Resources Defense Council said in its report, released Wednesday morning, that the torrential rains and violent churnings of Tropical Storm Irene in August helped increase beach-closing days from 143 days in 2010 to 538 last year...full story here.
The number of
days that pollution has shut down Connecticut beaches rose for the
fourth year in a row in 2006, according to a report released Tuesday by
the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The council's 17th annual beach water quality report, based on data collected by the federal Environmental Protection Agency from states and local public health departments, counted more than 25,000 closing and health advisory days at ocean, bay and Great Lakes beaches nationwide - a 28 percent increase from 2005.
"It's still clear that our water isn't as clean as it should be and that we have a long way to go," said Chris Cryder, a spokesman for Save the Sound, a program of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment. Cryder's organization helped distribute the report in collaboration with the NRDC Tuesday.
Connecticut closed beaches or issued
pollution advisories 224 times in 2006, a 12 percent increase from 2005
and a 100 percent increase since 2002, according to the report.
Forty of the 67 beaches in Connecticut regularly monitored for contaminants were affected by either a closing or a warning to swimmers, according to EPA figures. Local health officials generally test weekly for contaminants between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
The EPA does not yet have a count of closings for the current season. However, health officials now routinely close beaches for a day or two in some communities after a heavy rain, because of the threat from storm water runoff and overflowing sewage systems.
The NRDC report identified 92 high-risk beaches in 19 states that violated public health standards at least 25 percent of the time. Just one beach in Connecticut hit that benchmark in 2006: Kiddie's Beach in Waterford.
Other beaches that most often failed to meet state standards for bacteria included Esposito Beach and the town beach in Clinton; Greenwich Point, Byram, Short and Island beaches in Greenwich; Jacobs Beach in Guilford; Green Harbor Beach and Ocean Beach Park in New London; Waterford Town Beach and Clark Avenue Beach in Branford.
The main culprit here and around the country is storm water runoff and sewage. Heavy rains during 2006 triggered many of the closings, the report said. Other causes included discharges from boats and animal wastes.
Cryder said the report underscores the need for Connecticut to fix its sewer and drainage systems.
In some cases, rain washes contaminants directly into rivers and streams that feed the Sound. But some systems tie the runoff into sewage treatment plants, which are then overwhelmed and spew untreated sewage directly into the watershed.
Since 2002, the state has cut back funding for a longstanding effort under the federal Clean Water Act to clean up Long Island Sound by upgrading the plants and fixing the storm water drainage systems.
Last year the legislature failed to put any money into the program. Lawmakers this year set aside $110 million, but Cryder noted that the money has yet to be bonded and awaits a special session of the legislature.
Closings have happened twice this summer in Clinton, where the town beach has a history of problems.
"There's a definite association with rainfall," said Mary Jane Engle, director of the newly formed regional health district that includes Clinton, Old Saybrook and Deep River. The closures typically last a couple of days, until tests show the water has cleared.
Like a pebble dropped in a tidal pool, the ripples from the so-called Greenwich-beach decision have spread across the state.
In 1995, Stamford resident Brenden Leydon sued the town of Greenwich after he was denied access to the municipal beach while jogging. Last summer, the state Supreme Court gave its final answer — Greenwich could not prohibit Leydon from entering the park because it is a public forum.
That sent municipalities across the state scrambling to figure out how to allow public access to their residents-only beaches.
Today, to kick off the summer season, we offer a guide to the region's not-so-private-beaches.
Waterford Town Beach
Address: Niles Hill Road, next to the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center
How you get there: Take Bank Street in New London to Ocean Avenue. Follow Ocean Avenue to the stoplight at Niles Hill Road. Go right on Niles Hill and bear left at small traffic island toward Eugene O'Neill Theater. Go straight. Drive into the O'Neill driveway. The beach entrance is immediately on the right.
Where you park: Parking is available at the beach. On-street parking is not allowed.
How much does it cost: Out-of-towners pay $10 per vehicle weekdays and $20 on holidays and weekends. Residents pay $2 per vehicle weekdays and $5 weekends. Walkers/bikers pay $1 for residents and $5 for nonresidents. Residents 60 and over free.
Amenities: Bathrooms and changing facilities.
What makes this beach great: Views of Harkness Memorial State Park and Ocean Beach Park, this beach is sandy and tranquil. It is small enough to feel far from the madding crowd yet lengthy and wide enough to spread out and enjoy.
Eastern Point Beach
Address: 1 Beach Pond Road, Groton City
How you get there: Take I- 95 to Exit 87 to Clarence B. Sharp Highway (Route 349). Right onto Rainville Avenue, which becomes Chester Street. Left onto Eastern Point Road. Right onto Beach Pond Road and follow the road to the Eastern Point Beach gate.
Where you park: A 234-space parking lot onsite.
Cost: Season parking pass for residents and city taxpayers is $15 for 62 and older, $30 for all others. Nonresident pass is $40 for seniors and $55 for others. Weekday daily parking pass is $10, regardless of residency. Weekend and holiday daily parking pass is $20, regardless of residency. Walkers/bikers are free, regardless of residency.
Amenities: The Zbierski House, which can be rented for public use, and Tyler House, which includes locker rooms for changing, showers concession stand, and a nurses' station.
What makes this beach great: This 9.4-acre, family-friendly beach is right at the mouth of the Thames River. It offers picturesque views of Long Island and Fishers Island sounds. The confined beach property and the presence of lifeguards gives parents a sense of security for their children.
Groton Long Point Beach
Address: East Shore Avenue, South Shore Avenue, West Shore Avenue, Groton Long Point
How you get there: Take I-95 to Exit 88. South on North Road (Route 117) to Fort Hill Road (Route 1). Left onto Fort Hill Road. At the top of the hill, veer right heading to Groton Long Point Road (Route 215). Follow Groton Long Point Road to the entrance of the Groton Long Point Association. Left onto Shore Avenue, which becomes East Shore Avenue, then South Shore Avenue, and then West Shore Avenue as the road travels along the shoreline of the peninsula.
Where you park: You don't. There is no long-term parking within the borough. There's limited 15-minute parking in front of the Casino. The closest long-term public parking lot is about a mile away near Groton Town's Esker Point Beach on Groton Long Point Road just before the Groton Long Point Association entrance.
What makes this beach great: The quaint beach, located far from industrialized areas, offers lots of pristine sand bordered by a quiet residential neighborhood.
McCook Point Park
Address: McCook Place, East Lyme
How you get there: From I-95 take Route 161 exit. Route 161 south to Pattagansett Road. Follow to East Main Street. Turn left. Go right on Columbus.
Where you park: Parking is available at the beach, across the street and in municipal parking lots less than a half-mile away (closer to Hole-in-the-Wall Beach, which adjoins McCook Beach, and which also has it own parking lot).
How much does it cost: Seasonal or day passes are available at the Parks and Recreation Department on Society Road from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays. Residents pay $25 for a season vehicle pass that includes parking at either McCook Park or at Hole-in-the-Wall Beach. Nonresidents pay $60 for the same deal. Senior residents pay $10 for a vehicle pass. Nonresident seniors pay $60. A resident vehicle day pass is $5. Nonresidents pay $15. Nonresident seasonal walk-in pass is $15. Residents walk-in pass is $5. Walk-in passes admit the holder and up to four guests. The fee schedule is in effect weekends only from Memorial Day weekend until the first day of the school district's summer vacation. After that, fees are in effect daily through Labor Day weekend. Information is available at www.eltownhall.com
Amenities: Public restrooms.
What makes this beach great: McCook Point, which juts out into Long Island Sound, is the culmination of more than three-quarters of a mile of beach that begins at the drawbridge on the edge of town. It rests at the base of a slope that is part of McCook Park, with a cookout area playgrounds and open spaces. The beach is a superb setting for a summer stroll, a laid-back escape or a day with the kids.
Hains Park Beach
Address: Hains Park, Route 1, the Laysville section of Old Lyme
How you get there: From I- 95 South: Exit 70, right onto Route 1, follow signs for Rogers Lake. From I-95 North: Exit 70, left onto Route 156. At second light, right onto Route 1, follow through several lights until road ends. Left at stoplight, still following Route 1. Follow signs for Rogers Lake.
Where you park: Small parking lot near beach.
Cost: Daily parking fee of $8 weekdays and $10 weekends and holidays. Residents can purchase a seasonal pass. No charge for walk-ins or bicycles. Parking attendants on weekends only beginning May 25, seven days from June 15 on.
Amenities: Lifeguards June 15-Sept. 2, bathroom, playground.
What makes this beach great: Since it's such a small beach, it tends to be pretty quiet. Freshwater swimming.
Address: Old Shore Road, Old Lyme (off Route 156)
How you get there: From I-95 South: Exit 70, left onto Route 1/Lyme St. Follow to Route 156 and look for Old Shore Road on your right. From I-95 North: Exit 70, stay right on the exit ramp and turn right onto Route 156. Look for Old Shore Road.
Where you park: There's a small parking lot near the beach.
Cost: Daily parking fee of $8 weekdays and $10 weekends and holidays. Residents can purchase a seasonal pass. No charge for walk-ins or bicycles. Parking attendants on weekends only beginning May 25, seven days from June 15 on.
Amenities: Lifeguards from June 15-Sept. 2, restrooms, outdoor shower, small pavilion.
What makes this beach great: This is a very small beach that has traditionally not gotten very crowded due to the limited amount of parking.
Diane Collins and Kym Schoonmaker sat next to each other on lawn chairs Sunday afternoon in the middle of Eastern Point Beach in Groton, but the two friends were far apart on the topic of lifting the restricted access on municipal beaches.
Collins, a Groton City resident, at first blush didn't like the thought of city residents having to compete with out-of-towners for space in the sand and parking lot at the 9.4-acre, family-friendly beach on the Thames River. She's concerned that residents, who pay taxes for the upkeep and administration of the city beach, may find themselves out of luck and space on a hot summer day.
Schoonmaker, of Waterford, on the other hand, thought it was appropriate that everyone get the chance to get to beaches along Connecticut's shoreline. The water, she said, belongs to everyone.
Collins and Schoonmaker represented the split opinions many residents and nonresidents had as they spent their Sunday at municipally owned beaches in the region. With sunny temperatures creeping past the 60-degree mark, many people donned their bathing suits, pulled out their blankets and headed to the beaches Sunday.
And unlike previous years, municipally owned beaches have to open their gates to nonresidents to comply with a state Supreme Court decision handed down last fall. The court said it was unconstitutional for town- and city-owned beaches to restrict access only to residents, finding such exclusivity as a First Amendment violation.
court case found that all citizens
have a right to go to a public beach or park and talk and meet with
they like. Nonresident restrictions violate those rights and the
constitutional mandate that “every citizen may freely speak” and that
have a right, in a
peaceable manner, to assemble for their common good ...”
Many beach-goers and beach officials said it is too early in the season to determine what the impact of that court ruling would be on beaches in the region. On this moderately warm Sunday, the parking lots at beaches weren't filled and there was an abundance of open sand.
In Groton, where the Eastern Point Beach opened for the season Saturday, most beach-goers were city residents. Within a four-hour period Sunday, the gatekeeper saw 161 residents and only 63 out-of-towners.
On the two weekends prior to Saturday's season start –– Memorial Day weekend and the first weekend of this month –– Groton city saw 1,885 people enter its beach. Of that total, 844 residents and 387 out-of-towners parked at the beach, Director of Recreation William E. Sanford III said Thursday.
But those numbers could be skewed because 654 people walked into the beach and weren't asked where they lived. Groton doesn't charge people who walk in or ride their bicycles.
“We're taking a wait-and-see attitude,” said Brian Beckius, the lifeguard supervisor at Eastern Point Sunday. He has to monitor the 234-space parking lot to determine when beach access would be restricted to residents only.
In an attempt to make sure city residents would be able to get to the beach, Groton leaders stipulated that if the lot is 80 percent full, then the remaining 40 spots would be left to city residents and taxpayers.
At the beaches on Sunday, the concerns were about the fairness of financing the operations of municipal beaches. Groton city residents were worried that if there's increased attendance because of the court decision, then there would be a drain on the city services they support with their taxes.
“I was always of the opinion that the shoreline belonged to everybody, but I feel that the financial burden of financing these beaches are falling on a small group of people,” said Groton City resident Judy Burgess, who sat in a semi-circle with her party of four far from the beach crowd.
Burgess found that the different rates charged between residents and nonresidents at Eastern Point weren't enough to equalize the burden between the two groups. She also believes that senior citizens should be admitted for free, as at Waterford's town beach.
In Groton, those who don't live in the city have to pay $25 more than city residents for a season's parking pass. Season parking pass for residents and city residents is $15 for 62 and older, $30 for others. Nonresident pass is $40 for seniors and $55 for others. The same daily parking fee is charged for both groups, $10 on weekdays and $20 on weekends and holidays.
Groton leaders didn't want to charge excessive fees that would prohibit access, thereby violating the spirit of the Supreme Court's decision.
Ellen and Salvador DeLeon of Norwich said they would gladly pay $100 to visit the beach in Waterford. Ellen Sanford bought the couple's out-of-town passes as soon as she heard it was available for purchase at Town Hall.
The DeLeons figured Waterford's rates were almost the same as busy Ocean Beach Park in New London, and they considered the spot to be more peaceful. “We love it. It's a beautiful place,” Salvador DeLeon said, noting that he came to the beach to relax and enjoy the view.
In Waterford, where the beach officially opens next Saturday, out-of-towners pay $10 per vehicle on weekdays and $20 on holidays and weekends. Residents pay $2 per vehicle on weekdays and $5 on weekends.
Both sides of the debate did agree Sunday that anyone who takes advantage of the sand privileges must treat municipal beaches with respect, refraining from littering and the like.
“Groton residents have a lot of respect for this beach. They take care of it. I hope the general public respects it as much. If they respect it equally, then I guess we can share it,” Collins said.