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To The Editor:
There are many reasons for voting for the proposed water and wastewater projects in Waitsfield. Most have been well articulated by others, including:
• the availability of several million dollars in grant funds;
• low borrowing and favorable construction costs;
• the ability to coordinate the installation of pipes for the systems with the Route 100 reconstruction and sidewalk projects; and
• an opportunity to establish a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) District to help fund a portion of the cost (resulting in lower debt service than has been estimated, but only if the town can secure one of only 10 authorized districts).
Combined, these create a window of opportunity that may soon be closed. This is especially true for the water system and Phase 1 of the wastewater system. If we let that happen, future generations of Waitsfield residents will regret our shortsightedness.
There is another reason to support these projects; however, that goes beyond the impact on property taxes or costs to potential users of the infrastructure. Access to abundant fresh water is something that Vermonters take for granted at our own peril.
The World Bank reports that 80 countries have water shortages that threaten health and economies while 40 percent of the world -- more than 2 billion people -- have no access to clean water or sanitation. Climate change, desertification, pollution, industrial agriculture, resource depletion, war and population growth will exacerbate that situation. Transnational corporations have responded to this "opportunity" by striking deals with governments to privatize water supplies and turn clean water into a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder.
Long considered part of our common heritage, to be protected and shared, the private control of groundwater is an increasingly important issue in Vermont as the market for bottled water grows. The Vermont Legislature is debating whether to protect groundwater under the public trust doctrine but faces opposition from Governor Douglass and the privatized water industry.
Waitsfield voters have an opportunity to ensure that a substantial portion of our shared water resources remain under the control of the community for the purpose of meeting our current and future needs. As the world shifts from an age of consumption and waste to an age of resource scarcity, this could prove to be the most important question we face for many years to come.