I moved to Cambria in 2002 because I adore this area, love the climate and was so impressed with the kindness that Cambrians showed me as a visitor. I was aware that Cambria had a water problem. In my opinion, that was a small price to pay for living in paradise. I think I always knew that there was a possibility that a drought could throw things into a tailspin. But I had faith in Cambrians resolve to overcome hurdles.
Recently, however, I have been seeing a different side of this community. The finger-pointing and blame game threatens to destroy the best things about Cambria. So many letters I have read address the idea that businesses are doing nothing to help mitigate the water problems. After all, we residents have suffered through turning off our sprinklers, shutting off the faucet when brushing our teeth and, in a lot of cases, have joined the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow" bandwagon. What have the businesses done?
More than you think. A couple of months ago the Cambria Chamber of Commerce held a forum for business owners so they could share ideas on water conservation. It is unfortunate that this meeting did not get any coverage because, I truly believe that, if people had heard all these business owners had to share, they would be thanking them rather than scorning them.
Long before the stage 3 declaration, most if not all of the lodging facilities installed low-flow shower heads, had plumbers check their water pressure to see if it could be lessened, and, despite accusations to the contrary, have not been washing sheets and towels on a daily basis. One of the hotel managers even had porta-potties installed so his employees would not be using the inside plumbing.
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Restaurants have switched to plastic plates and glasses so they could reduce the amount of water that was previously used to wash dishes. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Information was shared at this meeting about sources for obtaining compostable plates and glasses. At least one restaurant purchased new dishwashers that clean using chemicals rather than water, while another replaced all the urinals with water-less versions. Some have torn out their landscaping and replaced it with succulents to reduce water usage. Many of these measures came with a hefty cost to the business owner.
And these kinds of things were done BEFORE the residents were told to restrict water usage. The reason they were so proactive was because their business is their livelihood. Most small business owners cannot just shut down during this crisis and still pay the mortgage on their home and put food on their table. And, there are the employees. In a tourist area such as this, scores of people depend on jobs in the service industry to feed and care for their families.
I do not know a single business owner who would cherish telling the single waitress who is supporting herself and a disabled child that the restaurant is shutting down and she is on her own.
We find ourselves on the verge of a real crisis. I truly believe if we band together, we can get through this. All the name-calling in the world is not going to produce water. It is a precious resource that we are all learning to value, residents and business owners alike.