Home Letter To The Editor A Reader Writes The Local Paper – About Shills, And Rats, And...

A Reader Writes The Local Paper – About Shills, And Rats, And Liquid Gold


I submitted this letter to our pals at Lamorinda Weekly nearly seven weeks ago and hey, presto! It remains unpublished. I guess it’s time for the author to take a hint.

Leave it to me to offer a rant to a local paper during the fevered period leading up to election day. Yes, I can only imagine that their Letters page priorities lay with citizens shilling for local candidates. Heck, local elections are important! I’m not sure who actually read any of those endorsement letters, but I’m sure the missives made the writers (and the celebrated politicians) feel better. Who am I to second-guess the letter-selection process of our fine local paper publications?

Oh. Wait. I just did. Never mind.

Anyway, since my non-candidate-related letter wasn’t given a forum in the publication that originally, um, provoked me, I offer it for a public airing here. Thanks for reading.


I find it necessary to take issue with two recent front-page pieces in the Lamorinda Weekly “Our Homes” supplement.

In the “Poolside Living’ article that ran during the week of September 5, many factors were invoked in the decision-making process of whether to install a pool — safety, heating, cleaning, maintenance, electricity, construction, landscaping, etc — yet nowhere in this article can be found the word “water,” let alone “water use.”

A 15 by 35 foot pool, as described in the article, with an average depth of four feet, requires about 15 to 20,000 gallons of water to fill, according to online calculations on sites such as swimmingpool.com.

On average, swimming pools lose about a quarter of an inch of water each day to evaporation, and variations in wind intensity, humidity and sunlight can drastically change water loss rates. “Topping off” a pool throughout the year adds a significant amount of water use on a daily basis.

In 2016, California’s average family used 85 gallons of water per person per day. Let’s say the average California family consists of 4 people.

That’s 85 x 4 = 340 gallons daily. 340 gallons x 30 days a month = 10,200 gallons.

Therefore, filling a newly-installed pool means an average household is using about *six to eight weeks’ worth* of water just for the initial fill — to say nothing of the not-insignificant amount it takes to top off the pool throughout the year.

This may not seem like a whole lot to one family, but multiply it by all the families in Lamorinda who desire a pool — then all those in Contra Costa County, and in the entire state — who feel they are entitled to this kind of excessive water use.

It’s the responsibility of publications as Lamorinda Weekly to, at very least, pay lip service to the serious water issues faced by California, as well as the western states, and the US at large. Such profiles (read: fluff pieces) that present pools as attractive lifestyle accessories are throwbacks to the fifties and sixties, and these need to be re-examined with a critical eye — especially in the timely context of reduced snowpack and reservoir levels, and increased population density due to uncontrolled development.

To do anything less is a disservice to California, its environment, and its citizens.

Similarly, your “Oh…Rats!” article on the front page of the August 22nd installment of “Our Homes” features a serious omission. Nowhere in the piece can be found mention of the problems presented by rat poison.

Many other options are given, yes, but by failing to mention the drawbacks of rodenticide — which many local homeowners still rely upon — your publication drops the ball when it comes to informing and educating our neighbors on the environmental impacts of rat poison. Secondary poisoning of owls, hawks, coyotes, raccoons, and, yes, domestic dogs and cats who eaten poisoned rodents is a real problem with significant impacts to our citizens, their pets, and our ecosystem — yet it’s not even found worthy of discussion in the piece.

My wish is that the “Our Homes” portion of your publication is not used merely to sell houses and services and fancy accessories. I hope that Lamorinda Weekly can also utilize this forum to ensure that its readers are up to speed on the impacts their choices have on their neighbors and our environment.

Paul Ashby
Dobie Meadows landscaping


  1. “Swimming pools, movie stars”, or moneyball estates with ultra green grass carpets. It’s what money buys in a relatively free market. And, if it’s not a free market, if the divide between the rich and the rest of us continues to expand, good luck with that public shaming because the police and the regulators ultimately don’t work for us. We are capitalists, after all, and sadly, capitalists are not team players. Those billionaire philanthropists who give away tons of stuff…Sorry, they are not on our team. The fix requires fixing capitalism. TR attempted it. FDR attempted it. It is time for another assault on the castle! They have the money; we have the votes. Oh, wait! I forgot that voting is Soooo hard. 100 million just couldn’t do it in 2016. So hard! So…nevermind. We will submit!

  2. I once used about 50 gals of tomato juice, tomato sauce, and tap water to try to ease MY discomfort after my dog’s encounter with a skunk. I am not proud of it, but I have no regrets, and I confess I could afford it!
    In short, I think the LMW is a secondary or tertiary target, at best. Our democracy is broken. How else can anyone explain climate change denial by our leadership in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence??

  3. Excellent points. We would be wise to reconsider a lot of the things we currently do without a second thought as the repercussions are fast approaching. Mechanical spring traps also need to be reconfigured as they take a heavy toll on local birds.

  4. Responsible homeowners (and pool owners) use a pool cover. A pool cover will keep 90-95 percent of water from evaporating. Also – responsible pool owners know how to “cut back” elsewhere. There is no reason to include “water use” because responsible pool owners have already educated themselves. Maybe Lamorinda Weekly is well aware of this.

  5. The secondary poisoning side effect is rarely talked about but it is true. We have seen predatory animals get sick after eating poisoned rodents. There are mechanical traps on the market that target specific rodents groups and don’t have additional impact on other animals. They are cheaper too.

  6. Preach! Had them remove the pool before we bought but we do have a hot tub – which comes with issues of its own but is manageable.

  7. my replies rant-Pools aren’t just a wealthy person’s thing. There’s many more ‘doughboy’ type pools in the US by far. Pools replace lawn and plants so there’s an exchange of water use. Pools replace lawn and plants so there is an exchange of water use. Sure, being careful with all our resources is wise. But government loves to approve development of houses because of all the taxes it generates. Yet they have not been wise or responsible; not providing adequate water resources and transportation improvements to keep up with the increasing population. Those that like big government love to keep that tax money to grow it even bigger. More government employees and benefits, but they don’t spend the tax dollars on what it was intended for. Then they tell us we we’re being wasteful. We just need to tighten our belt, use less water, and pay more taxes. One related thought, Why do they forbid swimming/recreational use of our water reservoirs? Other places do; the water is purified leaving the reservoir!

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