The politics of water

Published 10:42 am Friday, November 30, 2012

Elected leaders often speak of their visions for our future in an attempt to garner our votes.  Typically they speak of things that they have little or no control over. Such things as the economy, morality issues and constitutional issues are often the focus of their attention.

This is primarily because we are generally uninformed. As an electorate, we respond to these issues based on beliefs we have formed or on ideologies that help us discount the real need to solve problems. But there are aspects of our lives that do have impact where we need to invest our interest and time to be informed.

Local politics need to focus on local issues where we can have a direct impact on the quality of our common future. Anytime a politician strays from infrastructure and governance, I become suspicious of their qualifications to lead. Infrastructure is the foundation of our economy and it is more so now in our globally driven economy than it has ever been. It provides an efficient means to move people, goods and products. It provides the basics for our work force to become more productive and efficient, and it is the building blocks for the quality of life for current and future generations.

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It is also the exclusive domain of government investments. Private enterprise plays an important part in providing resources and can do so effectively, but private industry is not capable of providing long-term vision, direction or investment without good governance.  Private industry responds to market forces that are short-term phenomena. Infrastructure is a long-term investment phenomena.

Now let’s talk about something that deserves the serious attention of responsible governance – water. Have you seen how the politics of water in Asheville has moved from a local struggle to one that involves our state legislature? A total of 85 percent of Asheville citizens voted to retain local control of their water and sewer system but Representative Tim Moffitt is using his legislative power to dictate a merger of the Asheville system and the county system. It seems that the “state knows best.” Under the surface this is a “power play” for the control of water in Asheville and Buncombe County. There are politics and power issues, privatization and corporate money issues and it is all being played as the best solution to a localized issue.  Well, not so fast. The power play is much bigger than that.

This battle will soon extend itself to Polk County. Yeah, I hear you skeptics – but control of water is a battleground. The more you control, the more you control – so to speak. A major capital improvement to Saluda, Columbus and Tryon’s water systems has recently been completed.  The improvements were funded as part of a statewide effort to help us better manage water supply during droughts. The result is that there is now a major waterline connection via Saluda that connects us all to the Hendersonville system. And guess what?