Things To Act
Thursday, June 10, 2004
 
The Drought Explained
This article clears up how we can still be in a drought despite having the wettest winter I've ever seen. It's quite simple--the water conservation people can't do math!

""On average, Utahns over-water their lawn [sic] by 50 percent," Julander said. "Cut the water in half and your lawn will get exactly what it needs, and we'll save a whole bunch of water. Your lawn won't know the difference.""

Of course, if what Julander says is true, his advice would lead to watering one's lawn at 75% of what it needs. Perhaps the rest of the drought math is similarly fuzzy.

In any event, I've found it hard to take the drought warnings too seriously when I've seen the city of Provo, the BYU, and average Utah residents all egregiously waste water (watering sidewalks, watering during daylight, etc).

But one thing I've wondered about U.S. water policy generally is why the incentives are so out of whack--consumers, if billed by the amount they use, generally still don't pay prices that reflect the actual cost of the water they use. If water is really a scarce resource, simply charging market prices would do much to allocating it efficiently. At the moment, none of my utility bills reflect how much water I use--and so, while I don't go out of my way to waste water, I don't try particularly hard to conserve it either, compared to, say, electricity (which I am billed for). [One could argue that I'm a selfish jerk who should be more considerate even if he likely won't be around in ten years or whenever when the reservoirs finally do run dry, except that A) permanent residents don't care either (see above), B) the conservation people have cried wolf enough times that I'm disinclined to belief them without seeing an actual disaster, and C) if faith really does have that much of an effect on rainfall (as the periodic fasting-for-rain letters from SLC would indicate), my moving from the state may be an enormous contribution to the water situation, as it will allow the remaining Saints to pray for rain unfettered by my unrighteousness in their midst diluting their petitions. Oh, and D) it's probably their own fault for praying for 'moisture' instead of 'rain.']

In any event, that wasn't quite where I was going with this, which was to anticipate the standard critique of such heartlessly economic ideas, which is that poor people have it hard enough without charging them more for water. But a simple way around that is to simply have your Central Economic Planning Board (or reasonable equivalent in our socially liberal model) figure out the minimum allotment of potable water that it is each individual's divine birthright to receive, and start charging once one hits that mark. Which should satisfy everyone, as the Deserving Poor suddenly join the ranks of us Heartless Jerks once they start wasting water, and are thus no longer deserving of quite so much sympathy.

I'll close by noting that one of my professors was quite amused to note that the local water conservation people have their local office (up on University Parkway near UVSC) surrounded by acres of lush green lawn.

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