Clearly Stating the Sierra Club's Position

RECEIVED Fri., June 10, 2011

Dear Editor,
    It's discouraging that the Chronicle and Randi Shade continue to mischaracterize the Austin Sierra Club water policy position, particularly regarding Water Treatment Plant No. 4 [“'An Independent Person,'” News, June 3]. It is unclear if this is through intent or misunderstanding. If Council Member Shade had been truly listening the last three years, she should know that the Austin Sierra Club is not a "no growth" organization. To say our policy is based on, "If you don't build it, they won't come," is a blatant misrepresentation. We know that people are coming to Austin and Central Texas, in fact that is what guides our position. Increased density in appropriate areas (which we do support) will further the already downward trend of usage reported by Austin Water.
    We cannot "treat" our way out of the water shortage problems, WTP4 does not manufacture water. It will not give an additional supply of water. We must work on conservation now while we have the existing treatment capacity. The issue is not about treatment capacity but the resource itself … the dwindling supply of water. We are now experiencing the most severe drought in years. This cycle is projected to become the norm by most climatologists. We must have a complete shift in our approaches and methods to solve our new water challenges – 20th century solutions will not solve 21st century problems.
    What we do advocate is rebuilding our water infrastructure, i.e., pipe lines and delivery systems, i.e., pump stations (projects that have to be done anyway) in the same way we've updated and modernized our current treatment facilities. This in conjunction with expanding our water conservation programs, including onsite wastewater capture and reuse in new construction, will save water; create hundreds of new, permanent jobs; keep the community safe; and the money will stay in the community. Sure, the money may go to different contractors than those supporting Shade, but the economic benefits will be the same for Austin. Meanwhile ratepayers don't have to watch their bills go out of sight.
    We can put off WTP4 for years this way. Will we still need it later? Maybe. I might need knee replacement surgery in 20 years, but I'm not going to do it now no matter what kind of "special" they're trying to sell me.
Roy Waley
Vice chair, Sierra Club-Austin Regional Group
Co-chair Conservation Committee
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