Time to seriously look at the problems in our water systems. The problems that show up in the press like Flint, or the Cali drought are only the tip of the iceberg. Systemic improvements and infrastructure upgrades are needed.
Like fossil fuels, water is another case where we are not paying the true price of the resource we’re consuming. We need to price continual improvements and upgrades into the cost to users.
These problems are compounded by an antiquated system of regulations, dysfunctional water markets, policies that encourage overpumping, and contracts that discourage conservation by requiring customers to pay for water they don’t use. These approaches depress investment and inhibit innovation.
Regulations can ensure that the first few gallons per person per day are cheap or free, with escalating costs beyond that. Water for necessities such as drinking, cooking and hygiene should be affordable. Beyond that, water for lawns, filling swimming pools, washing cars and other uses should be more expensive.
The water industry’s risk-averse culture has resisted innovation. Higher prices and government-backed research and development could help prompt a wave of innovation and investment. This is what happened with hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, two technologies advanced through government research that kicked off the shale boom.
The water problem is daunting. But putting a sensible price on water to invite investment and encourage conservation, increasing the availability of information and doubling down on innovation can go a long way toward solving it.
Our Water System: What a Waste http://nyti.ms/22Bnqv3