Cost of irrigation | Staff/guest columns

It’s amazing how quickly things can change. Like when you have 45 minutes to get to a meeting, you decide to check your email and find yourself 15 minutes late.

Land use planning is like that. Twenty years ago there was a traffic light on York Road at Walmart in the York Road shopping district east of Gettysburg Borough. A few years later, they were six. The Giant had moved from the city, where it was within walking distance of many residents, to out of town, where it was not.

In the early years of the 21st century, water was not an issue, although we were plagued by peripheral drought. Despite the drop in the water table, we continued to have sufficient flow when we turned on the kitchen tap.

Across Fairfield Road from Gettysburg Times building, construction had begun for a residential development on what still appeared to be a potential hillside pasture. An existing roadside house was being rehabilitated, with a paved driveway – which made sense as it seemed the people who lived there owned the paving business advertised on the sides of the dump trucks often parked there the night.

Now the whole hill is covered with houses and paved roads, walkways and lawns. Above them, where most residents who weren’t the buyers of these first new homes can’t easily see, service connections stick out of the ground, outlining the locations of a few hundred new homes that line the streets with names like Partridge, Nuthatch, Nighthawk, Swift and Covey (probably for the quails that don’t live here anymore).

Cannon Ridge, supposedly, it is assumed, because long-forgotten cannons once roared nearby, has been a source of water shortage complaints since new home sales began. Now, in a social atmosphere regularly beset by cries of “affordable housing”, a sign proclaims to come “New luxury rentals”.

Beneath this panel, where the hill turns into a ravine, embankment and brick walls form terraces to prevent the new “townhouses” from sliding in a heap during a heavy rain. Penstock Lane labels a strip of sidewalk raising the ambient temperature, the name of a memorial to an earlier penstock that controlled hydraulic power from the Old Mill Road intersection’s namesake.

Now, water is needed to service residences that should never have been built in the first place. A planned 160-foot water tower will soon erupt above the trees of Red Oak Lane, bathing the entire area in the warm glow of its anti-aircraft anti-collision flashing red light, about 60 feet above the existing canopy.

The tower is needed for “fire protection,” according to the Gettysburg City Authority, which will own the facility. Regardless of the officially stated purpose, the truth is that there is not enough water for all new homes.

We have a cultural belief that all open land should be built on. Developers are telling city and county government – ​​and through them, residents – that the development and resulting new buyers will bring untold wealth to local government coffers.

It has been said that there will never be a shortage of water as long as there are pipes and customers to pay for its installation. Ask people in California and several other southwestern states how it works for them.

It’s illegal for a government to show a profit, but luckily for those who encourage wild developments they won’t have to face that minor hurdle by the time the money starts rolling in, the government will have come up with a ton of new spending – schools, firefighters and police – and water towers.

The land was fruitful. Next comes the cost of irrigation.

John Messeder is an award-winning environmental columnist and social anthropologist and lives in Gettysburg. He can be contacted at [email protected]