5 Mar 2010

Free water and Father Christmas

Loved this post. Here's an excerpt:
This sense of a “water crisis” is really about the political realisation in many parts of the world that we cannot continue to live as if water availability were not a restraint on our activities. It is a bit like coming to terms with the fact that Santa Claus does not exist. For years, politicians and engineers have worked to create the illusion that abundant water is part of nature’s bounty, wherever in the world it is required. It was easier to maintain the pretence of plentiful water in the past. In the US, for example, large dams and water transfer projects could be financed through federal government borrowing, paid off through taxation over the decades, and hardly noticed by the general populace. In the Middle East, governments turned to thermal desalination plants, but generally avoided passing on the cost to the customer. In India, the illusion of cheap and plentiful water was created by the provision of free electricity to pump groundwater.


  1. We could play a game by inserting various words or phrases into the sentence:
    "This sense of a “________ crisis” is really about the political realisation in many parts of the world that we cannot continue to live as if __________ availability were not a restraint on our activities."

    Just about every resource I can think of would slot in there pretty well.

  2. Albionwood,

    True ! The object of the "game" is to come up with viable ways ... conservation, recycling, reducing demand and increasing supply without unintended consequences to the environment and a sustainable population. Politicians seldom have any real solutions and are deaf to those that do.

  3. @ WaterSource: Our customers too much water in the summertime. I suggested we could solve both of our water resource problems and program goals (as well as chip away the city's budget deficit)--

    1)provide an incentive for customers to use less water for seasonal outdoor watering and

    2)reduce pumpage by 20% despite growth over the aquifer by 2014--by simply raising the rates . The reply: We'd have a totally new City Council after the next election.

    This why government is ineffective at making necessary changes to conserve resources, and why the US Congress isn't addressing Climate Change, the root of the Health Care Crisis (Private for profit Insurance), energy issues, transportation, crumbling infrastructure, or other vital challenges.

  4. Totalitarianism works fine to control water usage and its good for the environment (e.g., Aral Sea). And once you start using high taxation to ration water you will induce parasites to live off the water taxes (e.g., regulators, inspectors, politicians, etc.) who will set water quality standards higher and higher to squeeze more and more money out of water. But it will be called a "market" system. And it will eventually collapse because it will be economically unsustainable (e.g., California). Good luck.


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