How I Spent My Christmas Vacation

In the Dec. 11 Clockwork, we mentioned that the Orange County Water District and Orange County Sanitation District are going to treat sewage and then pump it into the ground-water basin from which north and central OC water agencies draw their tap water. We ended with this advice: "Make damn sure that you don't do with the newly treated water whatever Costa Mesa's doing to make brown water come out of our taps."

It was an innocent remark, we thought. After all, we didn't insinuate Costa Mesa's brown water-which folks have talked about for years-is bad. We just thought that if you're in the business of selling treated shit water, brown might not be the best color for your product.

But that little packaging tip for our friends at the Orange County Water and Sanitation districts did not escape the notice of the fine folks at the Mesa Consolidated Water District. Public-information coordinator Lynnette Round phoned us on Dec. 29 to find out where we got off calling Costa Mesa's water brown. We told her we had inside information: personal experience with our north Costa Mesa hovel's kitchen faucet, which emits brown water every morning like-heh-clockwork.

Confronted with hard evidence from an actual customer, Round pleasantly explained that colored water-sounds '60s Southern; looks like weak tea-is really softer, higher-quality water that originated from deep aquifers and may get its hue from ancient redwood forests. She agreed to send along some information and-14 fax pages later-we had in our mitts all the poop on Mesa Consolidated's brown water.

End of story, right? Wrong, chestnut-puddle chugger. A few hours later, we received a frantic call from Mrs. Clockwork, who screamed about driving up to said north Costa Mesa hovel and finding a water-district guy in our front yard, investigating a "complaint" based on "some newspaper article in, uh . . ."

"OC Weekly?" the missus correctly interjected.

"What in the hell did you write now?" she barked to us on the phone.

(Her tone harked back to an incident from our previous life at another local publication. Seems our kid's second-grade teacher mentioned at a parent-teacher conference something about there being no money for her to get the reading books she wanted for her class, but the school district was replacing her wall clock. We innocently used that information-and its origins-as a brief aside buried in an article on an entirely different matter, but it somehow managed to catch the attention of a school-board member, who called to get to the bottom of this gurgling controversy; the principal, who phoned at least twice to investigate our complaint and mention that we could call him directly-any time-with any other concerns we had about the quality of our children's education; and our other kid's fourth-grade teacher, who was apparently grilled under the hot lights to determine if she was the one who blabbed about the clock.)

Meanwhile, back in our front yard, Mr. H2O reported that he looked at our pipes, checked 'em twice, and determined that our brown water probably was not from deep aquifers and ancient redwood forests but residue from old galvanized pipes under the kitchen sink we'd recently replaced with copper.

Mystery solved. End of story, right? Wrong, oh mahogany-liquid-mustached one. We then received a phone call from another Mesa Consolidated Water District official the next morning about our "complaint." She wanted us to know that after a thorough investigation, the district had determined that our brown water most likely originated from old galvanized pipes we'd recently replaced under our kitchen sink with copper ones. However, if we did not agree with those findings, we could have the district come out and do more thorough tests to find out why our water is brown.

Actually, now we want them to run tests to figure out how we can tap into the good brown water from the deep aquifers and ancient redwood forests.


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