Thursday, November 14, 2013

Brockton Water Update

When I first moved to southeastern Massachusetts, I started learning about my local watershed, that of the Taunton River. I also began to learn about the critical water shortages in the nearby city of Brockton. Water shortages were a topic of modest concern in Bridgewater, but how could they be of such critical concern in a city so close by that it was once known as North Bridgewater?
This is a geographic question, of course. I was pleased to have the chance to explore the question at the 2006 annual meeting of the D.W. Field Park Association, leading me to offer an entire course on the geography of Brockton in 2007 and 2008.

In preparing to offer an honors section of that course in the Fall 2014 semester, I found an interesting article about the desalination plant in Boston magazine. Amy Crawford's Tapped Out explains how the desal plant that went from "pie-in-the-sky" to "under construction" in the period leading up to my first course now appears to be in the "albatross" category. She explains several factors that have converged to turn the ambitious project on the lower Taunton River into a very expensive backup plan.

Among these reasons are better-than-expected results from conservation efforts -- extraordinary among U.S. cities -- and the fact that neighboring towns have proved unwilling to participate, so that fixed costs are borne entirely by Brockton. Assuming the plant remains operable, a rapidly changing climate might very well change some of those calculations, but for now Brockton's only hopes lie in very dubious legal strategies.


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