"Whisky is for drinking; water is for fighting over."

-- Quote attributed to Mark Twain

Lets just forget the possibility of a water rate increase for a minute and take the time to reflect on what water really means to all of us.

Once the importance of water is honestly assessed, we'll be more equipped to objectively address the rates necessary to deliver the water to our homes and businesses.

We all know from basic science classes that our bodies are actually about 97 percent water! Water is a basic building block of life. Without drinking water none of us survive very long. The majority of the world's population lives near or depends upon freshwater environments.

My brother recently retired from a career working with the World Health Organization to improve the public health of people living in developing countries. He does not hesitate to volunteer that the biggest threat to the populations of those countries is simply the lack of clean drinking water.

We drink, bathe, cook, clean, flush and play in and around water. Our crops and animals of all kinds need and consume water. We depend on water to put out fires in our forests and buildings. Water runs all manner of machinery and provides power to our industrialized world.

Here in California it is not unusual to hear about "water wars" between special interest groups, and between populations in Northern and Southern California. Dams and reservoirs are constructed, and complex, expensive delivery systems developed.

Environmental concerns and property rights are argued while currently consideration is being given to flooding part of the Sacramento Delta as a component of a comprehensive state water plan.

We are fortunate that in Del Norte we can avoid the fray. We have a simple but effective water system.

Unfortunately, much of the system was built in the 1950s and needs to be updated and maintained. If we fail to do so, the eventual bill will be upwards of $60 million! Even without pursuing the maintenance plans, our water system is currently significantly underfunded and our reserves are projected to be depleted by June 2014.

When I ran for election I promised not to kick things down the road. It has been over 10 years since our last water increase, and it would be irresponsible to defer action any longer.

Yes, the increase is 60 percent in the first year, but remember, for an average residential customer, this only represents an increase of (at most) $6.16 per month. Even with the increases, we will enjoy the least expensive water rates in the region.

Water is a precious resource and I hope all of us agree that, at the end of the day, the delivery of water is a priority and is worthy of our appreciation and support.

For more information on water rates go

Richard Holley is a member of the Crescent City Council.