Saturday, June 23, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 16

Santa Maria Sun / Canary

The following article was posted on November 12th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 36 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 36

One hydrogen, two oxygens, lots of headaches

I don’t want to know how much it would cost to drain all the water out of a person.

With the precious liquid sitting at such a premium in some municipalities these days, water-parched community services districts might be tempted to start eyeing their constituents as two-legged aquifers.

Think of it as Soylent Clear.

It’s people, but it’s not far fetched. Thirsty parties have been known to resort to some desperate measures.

I’d be worried about Nipomo going that route if it weren’t for the new pipeline under construction. Of course, that new pipeline is costing a fair amount. It’s good for Nipomo, and the district is certainly taking necessary strides into a bright future, but the road to this point—getting what’s being called a lifeline to the mesa installed—has been a bumpy one.

Hindsight being what it is, it’s easy to look back on Nipomo’s voters in the 1990s and wonder what they were thinking when they decided to pass on tapping into the California State Water Project. Sure, the town was just a flash on the Santa Maria-to-San Luis Obispo commute back then, and the not-exactly-bustling berg wasn’t looking to get very bustling anytime soon, but this is California. It says it on the map and everything. Water will never not be an issue here in this state. Neither will growth, I believe. Sure, it’s cheaper to live elsewhere (I think I could buy a five-bedroom lakefront home in Idaho for what I’d pay for a condo on the Central Coast—if I could afford one), but the Golden State has an undying allure, a draw that will ensure people will want to get themselves here no matter what.

And then they’ll need water. Water to drink. Water to bathe in. Water for their dishes and their laundry and their yards. Lots of water. It may not be great, but you can’t really stop it.

I made up a saying for leaders considering whether to get water for their communities in the future: “When in drought, work it out.” That means this edge of the country is dry, and water will always be worth the investment. As of Nov. 5, the bulk of California was listed on the U.S. Drought Monitor as suffering a severe drought—with a dark-red blotch on our specific area indicating extreme drought. This shouldn’t be a surprise.

And again, Nipomo is doing what it needs to do now, but not everyone’s happy with how it went down.

Nipomo Community Services District General Manager Michael LeBrun told Sun Managing Editor Amy Asman, “If I wanted to be snarky, I could say that the project wasn’t expensive enough back then.”

Well, I’m fine being snarky, and I agree. You’ve got to jump on water when you get the chance.

Which brings me back to the Soylent Clear idea. I’m not going to look into what it would cost—yet—but I did want to crunch some numbers so I can let you know if you should be worried.

Some quick research at chemistry websites and science pages revealed that while babies apparently are made up of about 75 percent water, that fluid three-quarters of yourself drops to 65 or even 50 percent as you grow into an adult.

Still, that’s a lot of water. We’re talking 60, 80, 100, or even more pounds per person. Figuring that a pound of water is about an eighth of a gallon, a 140-pound person would yield about 9 gallons, assuming they’re holding the bare minimum. If our theoretical source is well hydrated, he or she could yield up to 11 gallons.

According to the U.S. Census, Nipomo has about 16,000 people. Yes, some of those are babies and some of those are dried-up nonagenarians, but many are also healthy, big, water-carrying people. So, for the sake of this little thought exercise, we’re just going to use 16,000.

With 16,000 people at 9 gallons a person, that’s 144,000 gallons.

Nipomo is court-ordered to provide 2,500 acre-feet of supplemental water each year to its residents—which is why the pipeline project is happening now—so let me convert 144,000 gallons into acre-feet to see what sort of a dent that number would make.

It’s … let’s see … oh.

It’s less than one acre-foot of water. Less than half an acre-foot of water, actually.

People of Nipomo, breathe easy. If your community services district didn’t think desalination was worth the time or money, they’re certainly not going to invest in pulping you down into refreshing water. Not even to sell you to Paso Robles.

I did forget, however, to factor in some changing values, since more people converted into water means fewer people requiring the water in the first pace.

I’m sure there’s an equilibrium in there. Let me just check my formula again. OK. Let me get my pencil. One gallon is 3.06888328 × 106 acre-feet. Yeah. Now carry the 1 …

You might want to go do something else for a while. This is going to take me a bit, so don’t breathe easy just yet.


The Canary says, “You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah—oh, wait. Wrong movie.” Send comments to

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