19 Mar 2009

Not Getting It

I wanted to post two articles from the American Water Works Association (AWWA) magazine.

In the first, Meyer et al. give a thorough overview of how to set water budgets (as is done in Irvine Ranch and other places). That system is en vogue with water managers but inferior to my simpler idea of a cheap base tier that depends on the number of people in the house and MUCH more expensive tier for extra use. Water budgets are good, but they often include allowances for lot size and/or temperature, which defies my "water is for people, not lawns" maxim.

In the second, Reinhardt and Hoag discuss how to get the public to accept rate increases. The key appears to be constant communication, adjusting to feedback and delivering value for money.

So, I can't post them because the AWWA only allows members to download PDFs of the articles. After they asked me to take down a PDF, I sent this email:
I've taken the PDF down.

Unfortunately, my readers are NOT AWWA subscribers and summaries do not work for people who want to read the whole thing.

Since you guys get zero $$ from selling PDFs, let me suggest that you put all your stuff in the open. More readers, more information, right?

(I, for example, will not cancel my membership since I use AWWA for other reasons...)

That's the way the NYT, economist, et al. have gone....
I got this reply:
We are very happy to have “won the battle” and opened access to all abstracts from WATERNET and the full-texts of Journal AWWA’s articles to all 59,000 AWWA members in 2008. Maybe we’ll have the same success with Opflow this year. We do receive revenue from PDF downloads through The Water Library—these revenues help support the development of new initiatives like The Water Library, which are, unfortunately, not cheap.

Another option you might consider if you don’t want to place a link from your site to AWWA’s Water Library, is to request permission to post the article on your site. You can understand that our members do want to receive special benefit for their dues; however, we are free to grant permission for the use of an occasional single article. If you’re interested, let me know.
That reply was excellent. I saw "open access" and "permission" and then asked to post the articles described above. I got this reply:
You can link directly to [no longer works] and [no longer works] at which point logon is required to buy the article (free for AWWA individual members!)
To this, I replied:
That's not going to work. My readers will NOT pay (who pays for "open access"?) ...

Thus, I will not blog/link to AWWA articles.

That's a pity, since we are ALL on a mission to educate...

ps/The pay for access model is broken, and it doesn't reflect economics (marginal cost to AWWA is zero), so AWWA may as well move in that direction. As I noted before, the Economist has free access b/c its subscriber base pays the fixed cost of content. AWWA's subscriber base is the same --- the journals are a perk of membership. Nobody joins AWWA to get access to the journals!
Fine. Email me [here] for the Meyer PDF and [here] for the Reinhardt PDF. I'll send the PDFs as a personal favor from one AWWA member to his colleagues.

Bottom Line: Cost-accounting (price = average cost) results in poor economic outcomes. For example, urban sprawl is encouraged when the price of water = average cost of conveyance, which is less than the marginal cost of supply to outlying areas. Another example is charging the general public for articles that have a marginal cost of ZERO, that they are NOT prepared to buy, and that have ZERO impact on other revenues. (BTW, AWWA's revenue to the Water Library is probably from sales to people using company money.)

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