At one time, people drank out of almost any stream in OC. No filter was required! They also pooped outside. This was when tribal people, grizzlies, steelhead trout, condors, pronghorn, and wolves populated the coastal bluffs, valleys, foothills, and mountains of California. Toilets, modern plumbing, water districts, sewage treatment facilities, and aqueducts had not been invented yet.
Now, you'd be crazy to drink water from a gutter or concrete flood ditch behind a neighborhood in Santa Ana. But, I ask you, is it crazy to pollute and degrade our natural streams so they become health hazards?
Is it crazy to sit on a ceramic bowl and flush down our poop and pee with pure filtered drinking water? Is it crazy to slurry all our concentrated poop and pee to a giant treatment facility next to the Santa Ana River? Is it crazy that drinking water is pumped into decorative fountains at office complexes? Are we up Shit Creek with a turd for a paddle?
Where do we get our seemingly endless supply of drinking and toilet water in the first place? With our limited rainfall and ever expanding population, how do we sustain over three million thirsty, poopy people in OC? The answer lies in the ground.
“Orange County Water District is responsible for managing the vast groundwater basin that provides approximately 70 percent of northern and central Orange County's drinking water. As part of our groundwater management, OCWD maintains one of the world's most advanced managed aquifer recharge systems to replace the water that is pumped from about 400 wells belonging to local water agencies, cities and other groundwater users.”
It is expensive and technically challenging to treat and filter our severely polluted water, so it can be recharged into our groundwater basin and pumped out for drinking and pooping. Disposable plastics, pharmaceuticals, soaps, fossil fuels, human waste, and fertilizers are just a few of the pollutants that must be removed before we can drink, poop, and pee in it again and again. If we can't get all of our drinking water from the ground, then we have to import from the Colorado River, Sacramento River Delta, or somewhere further away. Is it crazy to take water from other regions, states, and countries, so we can poop in it?
Considering we are in a drought and many of our wildlife species are endangered or extinct, I believe it is time to prioritize our water use. It may be crazy to pollute our streams, but isn't it crazier to flush down our poop and pee with filtered drinkable water?
Don't despair. There are still places where you can find naturally clean drinking water. The wild and scenic Santa Ana Mountains have managed to escape much of our urban pollution, so there are still natural streams and springs that sustain a tremendous diversity of wildlife, plants, and us! Back in the late 1800s, our federal government recognized that the Santa Ana Mountains were like a giant sponge, which soaked up precious rainwater and slowly released it into our valley's groundwater basin. Turns out the mountains aren't just pretty; they actually give us free drinking water!
Cleveland National Forest: History and Culture notes
“…the Forest Reserve Act was passed in 1891. Although the Act was meant to slow wasteful and illegal timber cutting, the problem was different in southern California. It was to protect their watersheds that Californians immediately began demanding Forest Reserves. Cleveland National Forest became one of the first in the new system and had its basis in the 50,000 acre Trabuco Cañon Forest Reserve (in the Santa Ana Mountains), created by President Harrison in February 1893.”
Call me crazy, but I believe that we should restore our urban streams to a natural state and save our drinking water for drinking and farmland irrigation. That is why I drink from natural creeks and poop and pee in a bucket outside. When I poop, I get to watch the sunrise and listen to the birds sing. I get to watch an occasional lizard or wren hunt for insects right next to me! When a bucket is full of green waste and poop, I set it aside for composting. Eventually, my poop becomes perfect soil for gardening. Toxic concrete flood control channels and stinky bathrooms are for real crazy people.
To squat or not to squat? That is the question. Besides, Slate says “the ideal posture for defecation is the squatting position.” If you want to conserve water, fertilize your garden, and avoid hemorrhoids, read The Humanure Handbook.
If you want to see where natural streams still exist, RSVP for one of our tours in the Santa Ana Mountains. And don't forget: don't swim or drink where you poop!