A defining standard of life in the First World is the ability to safely drink the water directly from the faucet. You can drink the water directly from the faucet in Laguna Beach. This act is so routine that folks take it for granted.
It isn’t quite that simple. In the early days, when Laguna Beach was a village, water didn’t come out of the faucet at all. It came out of the barrel, from the rain gutters, or up the hand pump from a well. About a 100 years ago some developers dug water wells out by El Toro Road and Laguna Canyon Road. They piped that water to vacant lots in North Laguna.
This was the first time Laguna had piped water. Folks were so pleased they promptly used it all up. The pumps started sucking up silt and salt water. This was the first time Laguna’s water supply started failing.
Then, through a story best told on its own, Laguna Beach formed The Laguna Beach County Water District and began to import our water from wells in the Santa Ana River Basin. It wasn’t long before those wells became polluted with silt and salt water. This was the second time Laguna’s water supply started failing.
Our salvation from this crisis was the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California with an aqueduct full of Colorado River water. This supply lasted for decades, until the combination of burgeoning populations through out the Southwest and the effects of interminable drought reduced each state’s allocation. This was the third time Laguna’s water supply started failing.
This threat was slower developing than the previous well failures. For the past 20 years, the district has been working to resume obtaining its water from the Santa Ana River Basin. An aquifer that is now one of the best managed in the state.
It took the unrelenting and often solitary efforts of the district’s general manager, Ms. Renae Hinchey, to secure an agreement for water from that basin. This was a result that seemed unlikely for years. One can only imagine how many times Ms. Hinchey had to hear no before she finally heard yes.
Now that she is retiring, it isn’t clear that we have properly acknowledged this stellar achievement. Perhaps this unassuming civil servant made an impossible task look too easy. In this age of performance bonuses for merely participating, you’d think securing our water supply for generations to come is an accomplishment deserving permanent recognition. It would be fitting for the Laguna Beach County Water District to dedicate a facility in her honor.
J.J. Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11 years old. He has loved it ever since.