The Santa Fe Rain Barrel Polka

Roll out the taxpayers

July 6, 2003 in New Mexico Politics | Comments (0)

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The Santa Fe City Council appropriated $100,000 to buy rain barrells from a New England firm at a wholesale price of $75 each to resell to Santa Fe residents at $40 each. Local rain barrell vendors materialized and protested. The Council reconsidered and is now entertaining the idea of using the $100,000 to reduce water bills by $30 for rain barrells purchased locally. Is the Council thinking this out?

Not the economics— subsidizing politically correct purchases is Santa Fe economics in action. The problem that needs rethinking is environmental. Has anybody done an impact statement?.

Sometimes eco-gratifying ideas have unintended consequences. Someone, for example, started a rooftop garden in downtown Santa Fe. Good idea, except the moist straw and eco-friendly compost caught fire by spontaneous combustion.

The Santa Fe City Council’s idea of fighting drought with 1250 rain barrels might have unintended consequences too.This is not your granddad’s whiskey barrel by the downspout. This is a product of the latest plastic molding technology. The modern rain barrel is shapely and colorful. It retails at over $100 for the 75-gallon model that Santa Fe will resell at a loss..

Any wealthy eco-minded Santa Fe transplant will need several — one under each picturesque canale. Depending on roof area,
a rain barrel will fill up with as little as 1/10th inch of rain (based on the fact that 1 inch of rain on 1000 square feet roof area equals about 625 gallons of water).

Plants thrive on natural rain water – no chlorine, ammonia, fluoride, or other chemicals added to municipal water systems.

But what do they do next. Do these things come with owner’s manuals? There is no Santa Fe program to tell people how to use their rain barrells, not yet, although it is a good job-creating idea.
You have to wonder about unintended consequences. Are these things child-proof? Do they have impossible lids, like emergency pill bottles, that no one can figure out except children?

Are these things sanitary? Do roof chemicals harm gardens? What do you do with your plastic rain barrel in the winter?

Oh. . . And what about malaria-spreading mosquitos? Their larvae develop in standing pools. Some traditional backward cities even have spray programs. The literature of the rain barrel industry indicates not to worry: the engineers have designed covers and screens. But still. . . .

There are larger examples of unintended consequences of eco friendly political ideas. In the case of the silvery minnow — political consequences. The federal circuit court decision has all the politicians up in arms. It affirms a preference of fish before farmers, at a cost of millions. The science behind it seems to be based on the presumption that the minnow is unadapted to drought. So the experts use water, siphoned from an entirely different river system, to compensate for the Rio running dry.

The appelate court decision could result in a gutting of the endangered species act. Those who opposed it any way now have the perfect pretext. It seems to me that focus on a little fish trivialized the larger issue, that was preservation of natural habitat. Because of the tight focus, compromise became impossible. Unintended consequence. . .

The decision even affects the water supply to drought-compensating Santa Fe. But wait. . . Here’s an idea. Until this drought is over, why not store the silvery minnows in the Santa Fe rain barrels? They might even eat the mosquitos. Just an idea. . .