February 1, 2023

Town Needs to Act Responsibly In Addressing Water Problem

To the Editor:

Lately, the news has been full of stories about the Colorado River running dry, and water shortages in Arizona. Climate change is partly to blame, of course, but these stories leave little doubt that a lot of the trouble is due to overdevelopment, promoted by a toxic alliance of greedy developers and corrupt politicians. Yet, in its own way, New Jersey (and the Princeton area in particular) is a mirror image of Arizona.

There are differences, of course. Arizona has too little water; we have too much underground water. Arizona is becoming a desert again; Princeton is becoming a swamp. Arizona has mainly Republican politicians, and New Jersey has mainly Democratic politicians, but in both states too many of them represent the interests of developers rather than the interests of ordinary citizens.

What causes water levels to rise? Climate change (and increased precipitation) is a factor of course. So is overdevelopment. It takes roughly two forms. The first involves rainwater, and it happens when a new development is built over a wider surface. A common example is when a Cape Cod cottage is replaced by a McMansion. There is less space where rainfall can be absorbed, and the resulting excess will tend to flow into someone’s basement. The second involves groundwater, and often it is even more destructive. It happens when a developer is allowed to dig deep into previously untouched earth, and groundwater is released (and will be continuously released) into neighboring buildings. A classic (and toxic) example is a multi-tiered underground garage.

There’s an urgent need for responsible action (and for more transparency) from the town and especially from the Planning Committee. If this does not happen, the water problem will soon become almost impossible to control. We might be better off in Arizona.

Betsy Brown
Edgehill Street