30 Jul 2008

Developer Indulgences

Pressure to stop development in San Diego is growing. Citizens are unhappy to be told that there is a water shortage at the same time as new development is approved. The city is trying to address this hypocrisy:
Water Department officials say they want to offer developers the chance to pay a fee that the city would use to develop new water sources. Instead of the developer making changes on site, the city could use the money itself to increase conservation and efficiency efforts elsewhere...

The idea met with skepticism at a City Council committee meeting today. Councilwoman Toni Atkins said the city should put incentives in place to encourage developers to build efficiently -- not rely on the city to make improvements elsewhere.
I can see that developers will LOVE this program. They pay a fee for "improvements" elsewhere and then do whatever they want. This system of indulgences will not work (to save water -- or souls), since the value of wasting water (and not having to pay for it) will far exceed any fee. (Otherwise, the developers will protest, and they get what they want.)

Bottom Line: You cannot let people pay to avoid water use restrictions. First, water is too cheap. Second, they may pay but then use "too much." When there's no water left, no amount of money to make it "reappear." Better to reduce demand to equal supply -- charge more for using more.

hattip to DW