20 May 2008

Central Planning for Lawns

Down in the desert, they grow grass and look at it, but that practice, which is starting to look has always been stupid, is about to change:
Incentives could soon be in store for La Quinta residents who do away with their lush, grassy lawns in favor of more water-saving landscapes.

City officials say they're working with the Coachella Valley Water District to finalize plans for the incentives, which could include $1,000 rebates.


this is the first partnership of its kind where residents will personally benefit from going green.


"The majority of water usage in the valley is for outside landscaping, as much as 60 to 80 percent," Parks said. "The focus of this conservation plan with the city is to reach the individual homeowner and change people's perspective of what is desirous in landscaping."
There are two things that I disagree with in this article. First, homeowners are not going to "personally benefit from going green" -- they are going to have the option of getting paid to replace their grass lawn with something desert-friendly. Although some may have replaced their lawns without the incentive money, the ones who are switching in exchange for the money are giving up a personal benefit (lawns) for the money -- they are NOT getting money for nothing. (It's like saying that prostitutes are getting a "personal benefit" from being prostitutes. A crude analogy but apt.) Second, this scheme is ALL wrong. It seems that the residents of La Quinta have some sort of Right to Lawns in the Desert (RLD!) that has to be bought out with money. If I was the water manager down there, I'd just raise water prices for "excessive" use and then let people decide if they wanted to pay $200/month to have a lawn. (But, then again, I am a meany economist who thinks that people should pay the full price for the resources that they use.)

Bottom Line: The easiest way to get people to understand that something is scarce is to charge more for it. Water managers need to do the same thing if they want customers to use less water.